Hi evaluators, I’m Sheila Wilson, educator, school leader, adjunct professor and passionate enthusiast for amplifying learning. This is my first contribution to the AEA blog, and I am eager to speak to the need for equity with regard to the assessment of students.
The call for performance assessments did not come from concerns of equal access, rather the era of high stakes testing ushered in the demand for evidence that students could perform at a high level. However, our nation’s universities continue to serve an increasingly diverse population. As educators, we are bound (it is my belief) by a commitment to ensure that educational opportunities are equitable for all students.
This means moving beyond the ongoing talk of achievement gaps and the oftentimes-disingenuous conversation on the importance of equity in education. In other words, we must “walk the talk”. To provide clarity, this includes but is not limited to English Language learners, students of color, students with learning differences, and those who live beyond the poverty threshold. I believe by making assessment equity a priority; we can better ensure academic success for all groups and greater reliability in reporting student mastery.
Equitable assessment design characteristics:
1. Assessment alignment. Assessments should be clearly aligned with learning outcomes. When this alignment is in place, students are able to successfully demonstrate their mastery of content.
2. Assessments are culturally responsive. Consideration is given to the population being served. This includes using language that is appropriate for all students. When we know our students we can tailor assessments to gain a more accurate indicator of what they have learned.
3. Assessments provide multiple ways to demonstrate mastery. Instead of looking a one snapshot (assessment), the ongoing work of students provides a clearer picture of what they’ve learned. Also, students have flexibility in the method they use to show that they have learned the content.
Questions to consider
Should assessments be inclusive of our current student populations?
How can we ensure that assessments don’t benefit certain populations and exclude others?
Does overlooking issues of diversity and equity in assessments contribute to distorted outcomes?
If we truly want to dismantle the achievement gap and ensure equitable access for every student we must be more strategic in the area of assessment. The aforementioned design characteristics are critical to assessment equity. We must do a better job using our assessments to support equity, as contrasted with standardization, as in previous years. In this way, we will better ensure the authenticity of data to inform improved outcomes and next steps in planning, instruction, and assessment.
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