Why I Remain Committed to Educational Measurement

Gene V. Glass’s name appears dozens of times in my EndNotes library. I bought his latest book the day it came out and will slow my skim to a read when I see his name, or that of his colleague Audrey Amrein Beardsley in my RSS feed. Like many whose day job involves the messy world of assessment and curriculum, I respect his thinking and value his take on events. His recent decision to shift his title and focus out of educational measurement was likely not an easy one, but it was likely the inevitable next step in his journey.

He, more so than most, know the boondoogle that is trying to quantify learning and his voice against large-scale testing used for accountability purposes will hopefully be listened to by those who set policy. His points, though, haven’t influenced my commitment to educational measurement.

When I begin working with a new group of teachers, I share a part of my educational philosophy so they know where I am coming from: I believe we can talk about, describe, evaluate, measure, and learn about student learning without using numbers. I believe assessment is at its best when it is indistinguishable from learning.

This, I believe, is the next level of educational measurement and why I remain committed to the field.

My EndNote entries that included Glass were from a time when I was studying classic test design, cut score setting, and tests designed to evaluate the system from 10,000 feet.  My career when in a different direction and I spend more time working alongside teachers than designing tests from far away. My focus now is on assessments that are more learner-centered, dynamic, and useful to teachers and students and as a result, my citations switched to researchers like Linda Darling-Hammond, Grant Wiggins, Giselle Martin-Kniep, and others.

It is my firm belief that through the efforts like New Hampshire‘s teacher designed accountability measures, NY’s Performance Consortium, California’s exit portfolios, we’re learning from the authentic assessment experiences of the 90’s and creating a new approach to measurement in which the walls between curriculum, assessment, and instruction are blurred or non-existent; that all that remains is the learning.

Our job as curriculum writers, assessment designers, sages, guides, teachers, and/or facilitators to create the conditions for learning and then get out of the way. The video below was created to talk about measuring learning in moocs but I nearly stood up and applauded at the two minute mark when Gardner Campbell makes the important – albeit simple sounding point: Why is measuring learning so hard? It depends on what you mean by measuring.


One thought on “Why I Remain Committed to Educational Measurement”

  1. Thank you, Jennifer. I don't question your commitments at all. It's the co-opting of measurement by politicians and other union busters in the name of accountability that has too often perverted the goals of measurement.

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