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.
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