Two roads diverged… and I blundered straight ahead

I am passionately, openly, and sometimes foolishly, in love with authentic assessment and portfolio assessment. I have seen working as a teacher, and now alongside them, the power that relevant and meaningful work holds for students. . . One of the amazing things I get to do for a living is help schools design performance-based assessments that ask students to do something with what they have learned, not just recall facts and provide a right answer. My job does not depend on the success or failure of state tests. I have no stake in testing itself, beyond that of a taxpayer and an educator privileged to work with teachers and schools. So my passionate belief in the craft of the teaching profession comes from my professional experience in classrooms and schools. I believe, adamantly, in using both the science of learning and the art of instruction to provide a quality public education to all of New York’s students.

I wrote the above paragraph last Spring in a column on standardized tests for Chalkbeat. (I can’t remember if I picked the post title. In hindsight, I think “A Primer on Standardized Tests” would have been better.) My passion for performance-based assessment hasn’t lessened. My commitment to supporting teachers as they design meaningful tasks for the 99% of the school year that isn’t devoted to state tests hasn’t changed. What has changed is the degree of assessment illiteracy I’m willing to tolerate when it comes to talking about assessment design of both the large-scale, standardized and the day to day classroom flavor. My understanding of measurement has deepened and expanded as I work to better understand how we take this messy, amazing thing called learning and work to capture evidence of it through artifacts and evidence in order to make decisions at the student, teacher, school, district, state, and national level. 

I sometimes joke that I feel a bit like a butcher who chimes in on vegetarian’s conversations. If I am so passionate about performance-based assessment, why do I care what word a columnist uses to describe student performance on state tests? If I would rather see students designing portfolios that tell the story of their learning than take yet another multiple choice test, why does it matter so much to me that educators understand the basic rules of large-scale standardized testing? For me, it about what it means to be members of a profession. I don’t expect parents to get how p-values work nor do I expect reporters and columnists to have a deep understanding of psychometric jargon. I’m frustrated and disconcerted when those columnists and authors who are also members of the education profession ignore the science of their profession in order to prove a point. And I’ve elected to speak up when I see that happening. I’ve chosen to speak up when a vegetarian is wandering around my kitchen complaining about the how unhealthy cow bacon is. 

This is a space Theresa and I created a few years ago to ramble, babble, reflect, and wrestle and I want to dust it off to have conversations that go beyond 280 character blurts. I’ve been perseverating on some of the same ideas since Day 1 of our blog. I’ve also revised some of the claims I’m willing to make. On my “things I want to write about” list are topics such as the NYS annotated items, issues around bias in teacher-designed assessments, challenging some commonly held beliefs around assessment design, and gender-related issues in education. 

So – I’m an assessment nerd. Ask me (almost) anything. 

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