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CREATE Week: It is Time to Call Out Alternative-Facts-Based Evaluation Practice by John Fischetti

This is John Fischetti, Dean of Education/Head of School, at the University of Newcastle in Australia. We are one of Australia’s largest providers of new teachers and postgraduate degrees for current educators. We are committed to equity and social justice as pillars of practice, particularly in evaluation and assessment.

Hot Tips: We are in a climate of alternative evaluation facts and high stakes assessment schemes based on psychometric models not designed for their current use.

We need learning centers not testing centers.

In too many schools for months prior to testing dates, teachers — under strong pressure from leaders – guide their students in monotonous and ineffective repetition of key content, numbing those who have mastered the material and disenfranchising those who still need to be taught. Continuous test preparation minimizes teaching time and becomes a self-fulfilling destiny for children who are poor or who learn differently. And many of our most talented students are bored with school and not maximizing their potential. As John Dewey once noted:

Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked (Dewey, 2012, p. 169)

The great work of Tom Guskey can guide us in this area. As assessment specialists we should be pushing back on the alternative facts that permeate the data world where tools such as value-added measures are used inappropriately or conclusions about teacher quality drawn without merit.

Failed testing regimens.

The failed testing regimens that swept the UK and US show mostly negative results, particularly for those who learn differently, are gifted, have special needs, have an economic hardship or who come from minority groups.

What we know from research on the UK and US models after 20 years of failed policy is that children who are poor in the UK and US and who attend schools with other children who are poor, are less likely to do as well on state or national tests as those children who are wealthy and who go to school with other wealthy kids.

It is time for evaluation experts to stop capitulating to state and federal policy makers and call out failed assessment schemes and work for research-informed, equity-based models that are successful in providing formative data that guides instruction, improves differentiation and gives school leaders evidence to provide resources to support learning. We need to stop using evaluation models that inspect and punish teachers, particularly those in the most challenging situations. We need to triangulate multiple data sources to not only inform instruction, that also aid food distribution, health care, housing, adult education and multiple social policy initiatives that support the social fabric of basic human needs and create hope for children and the future.

Rad Resources:  Thomas Guskey’s work on Assessment for Learning (For example, his 2003 article How Classroom Assessments Improve Learning.  Also see Benjamin Bloom’s classic work on Mastery Learning that reminds about the importance and nature of differentiated instruction.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Consortium for Research on Educational Assessment and Teaching (CREATE) week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members of CREATE. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

3 thoughts on “CREATE Week: It is Time to Call Out Alternative-Facts-Based Evaluation Practice by John Fischetti”

  1. Hello John,
    I appreciate your approach around advocating for a need to establish a refined way to measure educational growth rather than looking at correct responses to questions on standardized tests.
    As educators, we know that a one size fits all approach does not account for students’ different learning styles and individual learning needs. In any given class, we might encounter students who are visual, kinaesthetic and auditory learners, as well as those who have specific modifications and accommodations. As you mentioned, educators are “committed equity and social justice as pillars of practice”. As educators, our goal is to accommodate and modify our teaching to meet students’ individual needs to better equip our students to reach their full potential. Based on this, I agree that standardized testing is not the optimal measure to propel students to reach their full pillar of potential. In fact, these tests may hinder students not only academically, but can also have emotional implications as well.
    As you highlighted, there is a strong need to stop using evaluation models. Rather, we should spotlight the need to triangulate multiple data sources to inform instruction. The question is, why continue with this form of assessment? Your inquiry helps reinforce my own teaching pedagogy and understanding when it comes to analyzing and adapting various assessment forms that are individualized per classroom needs.
    As an educator, I want to commend your efforts in highlighting the importance of different forms of assessment and to demolish the one size fits approach assessments for students in the education system.

  2. Hello John,

    Your blog really nailed a lot of the frustrations I find in modern day education. Testing is not the way to determine if education is working or not. If teacher’s jobs depend on test scores, then we are failing our students. As you said this culture of high stakes testing is “numbing those who have mastered the material and disenfranchising those who still need to be taught.”

    I think this highlights the importance of having someone who understands the industry evaluate it. If a business person comes in to evaluate an educational program they would have a very different perspective than a teacher evaluating it. Both perspectives may be valid but the teacher would have a much better understanding of the nuances of education. Whereas the businessperson would be more likely to look at a program based solely on its hard results.

    – Karri

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