Thinking about What if we assessed more and graded less? 60-60-60 #22 and reflecting…

“Could it be less destination and more calibration for traveling interesting bends?”

Ultimately it’s about how we are defining learning. And if we’re defining learning by more/better grades, then we’re in trouble. It’s about whether we’re using the word for or of. Assessment for learning? Assessment of learning? Or both? At different times. Not always at the end. Scores on standardized assessments can no longer define learning.

Take what our Secretary of Education said during a recent interview on NPR:

If anyone thinks 100 percent of a teacher evaluation should be based on test score, I will always fight that.  But I will also say that a piece of a teacher’s evaluation has to be upon whether those students are learning or not.

Will Richardson reflects on this part of Duncan’s interview in a compelling way in his Test Scores = Learning blog post. I’ll let Richardson’s words be my riff on Bo’s 60-60-60 post today:

And there you have it, in those last two sentences, the huge problem that we are facing when it comes to changing the conversation around reform. The Secretary doesn’t understand that learning is much more than what is indicated on the test, and that learning is a much more complex interaction that is not easy to test for in a standardized, common way.

Equally problematic is how he defends the idea that waivers are providing flexibility. True, it’s not just “an absolute test score” that’s used to grade schools or teachers or custodial services. (Joke.) It’s “growth and gain” and “improvement”…as measured by the absolute test score year to year. So now instead of just focusing on test scores, states can focus on test scores. There’s a switch.

I know it’s a huge undertaking to try to get politicians and parents to unlearn and relearn what learning is and the ways it can most effectively be assessed. That it’s different from “knowing” in the sense that we know the answer to the test. That it’s more about learning dispositions and practices than anything else. But I think we have to continue to push back against those who are trying to simplify it for the sake of efficiency and economics. Test scores do not equal learning.


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