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TUESDAY, JULY 12, 2016
A review of a chapter on Assessment of Students from
"This we Believe: in Action" (2005, NMSA)


Assessment and Evaluation to promote Quality Learning
This We Believe: in Action (TWBiA)

The evaluation or estimation of the nature, quality, or ability of someone or something (OAD)
The process of estimating a child’s progress towards a specific objective and using that information to help students continue their learning (TWBiA, 127)

Form an idea of the amount, number, or value of; assess (OAD)
The process of using data and standards to judge the quality of that progress (TWBiA, 127)

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
Standardized testing undermines the core beliefs of middle school. One response is to abandon an interdisciplinary framework and revert to a departmentalized structure; this is of course counterproductive, given what we know about middle school learners,

- High Stakes associated with Standardized Testing make it difficult for administration to relinquish practices which groom students for these tests.
- Favor the Privileged, because any standardized test will be biased to favor students with a particular set of background knowledge.
- Disregards the social justice framework, where students are allowed to demonstrate achievement in a variety of ways, and schools are expected to adapt to student’s changing needs.
- Standardized needs drive departmental co-ordination and detract from interdisciplinary team co-operation; common prep time is redirected

NCLB focuses on accountability via testing
National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grade Reform focuses on helping students learn

Staying on the right Track
Standards are simply objectives, or goals that guide an educator’s progress.
Standardization is the destructive practice of taking away a child’s right to express his success in a method of his own choosing.

This is not to say that the National Middle School Association (NMSA) wants to avoid teacher accountability; the NMSA puts a greater emphasis on raising the achievement level of students. Assessment ought to be a tool for this latter objective.

Goal Setting
Students need to be involves in goal setting, establishing evaluation criteria, demonstration of learning, evaluation and reporting (TWBiA, 133)

Allowing students to participate in evaluation nurtures their reflective capacity, and grants them evaluative assets which become, in turn, developmental assets. Self reflection is key to personal development; the difference between someone studying science and a scientist is the latter’s capacity for reflection. By allowing youth to hone their reflective capability, we are creating scientists and mathematicians and historians right here in our classroom. Reflection is also crucially interconnected to critical thinking, another key skill for us to awaken in our students.

Student Led Conferences
Parent teacher conference nights tend to be slow at most high schools. A student led conference better entices parents to attend, and also puts the focus with the students rather than simply on the students: the spotlight is under their control.

Part and Parcel to this practice, however, is an increased need for teachers to communicate with parents. Educators need to exploit technology to better stay in touch with families.

Establishing Evaluation Criteria to Demonstrate Learning
All students should, at all times while engaged on a project, know what the evaluation criteria for that project’s quality is. A straightforward way to do this while engaging the kids is to allow the students to participate in rubric design. This way, students know ‘by doing’ what is expected of them.

Portfolios are a way to track student progress, but as they are student compiled, they allow the student to keep the focus on the areas of their progress they identify as crucial. Inherent in this practice is the idea that a teacher must work on guiding students to make the right decisions regarding what is and is not crucial in education.

Four criteria developed for cross-curricular portfolio generation in one district were Communication, Problem Solving, Academic Development in Integrated Studies and Personal and Social Awareness. To further empower the students, the evaluation of the last criterion, Personal and Social Awareness, was given to the students to evaluate. Again, this suggests that it is a teacher’s responsibility to educate the students as to what exactly good Personal and Social Awareness looks like.

Though some techniques (student involvement and student led conferencing) are offered for the positive assessment and evaluation of youth, this chapter mostly deconstructs the value of standardized testing.

For information regarding a thorough and positive alternative to standardization, see both Formative Assessment and Assessment for Learning, and also review the District 43 manual of Formative Assessment: Assessment as, for and of learning.

One final thought, regarding assessment:

“Punishment and reward are not opposites at all; they are two sides of the same coin. And it is a coin that does not buy very much” (Kohn, 1993)

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