What if we reduced testing, and focused on teacher created assessments?


The case for this (from three testing experts:

MT: What is your advice on the right balance between validity and reliability, especially if we want to embrace the goals implicit in the Common Core?
HE: I think the importance of reliability has been overblown.
BL: I agree it is less important than comparability and validity and fairness.  It would be highly desirable to go where the two state testing consortia want to go. They want to include, in addition to multiple-choice items, items where kids are required to do things, solve problems and show how they come up with solutions to the problems they are given.  But the realities of timing and cost are pushing them in a direction that will likely force them to come up short.

MT: Is this country getting ready to make a profound mistake?  We use grade-by-grade testing in grades 3-8 but no other country is doing it this way for accountability; instead they test 2 or 3 times in a students’ career.  If the United States did it that way, we could afford some of the best tests in the world without spending any more money.

BL: Raising the stakes for our test-based accountability systems so that there will be consequences for individual teachers will make matters even worse.  Cheating scandals will blossom.  I think this annual testing is unnecessary and is a big part of the problem.  What we should be doing is testing at two key points along the way in grades K-8, and then in high school using end-of-course tests.

HE: I am in the same place as Bob.  The multiple-choice paradigm first used in WWI and eventually used to satisfy the NCLB requirements has proven to be quite brittle, especially when applied in every grade 3-8 and used to make growth assumptions.  The quick and widespread adoption of multiple-choice testing was in hindsight a big mistake for this country, but—now — states will tell you it is all they can afford.

Linn and Everson on Testing, Standards and Accountability
via Tom Hoffmann on TuttleSVC: Finding Common Ground: Can We Agree That Testing All Students and Evaluating All Teachers Every Year is a Stupid Waste?

It would certainly make the price-tag a lot more reasonable, and allow the dollars spent on testing to go further. At the current price-point a lot of states are looking for cheaper alternatives which will lead to more multi-choice questions. But what to replace it with? I’m glad you asked! Let’s stroll down memory lane, and over to the heartland of our country, which had a radical notion (squashed by the Bush administration) — have teachers and districts design their own assessments and be flexible about the format.

Under Nebraska’s model, the state sets curriculum standards, but gives teachers free reign on instruction and lets local school districts design their own tests to measure how well students are meeting the grade-level norms. And unlike the vast majority of states, which rely solely on multiple choice exams to measure student achievement and determine yearly progress, Nebraska’s students also write essays as part of a unique statewide writing exam. Districts can also include student oral presentations, demonstrations and projects in their battery of assessments.

How Nebraska Leaves No Child Behind – TIME

For the past six years, Nebraska educators, led by Commissioner Doug Christensen, have waged a lonely battle to preserve the integrity of assessment in their schools. Their system survived challenge after challenge, but now, even as NCLB may be on the ropes, Nebraska is implementing standardized tests. As a result, Christensen has resigned his post as state Commissioner of Education. He recently responded to a series of questions I posed to him, and as you will see, he has some potent lessons for us as we weigh the alternatives facing us related to teacher empowerment, the Federal role in education and No Child Left Behind.

Living in Dialogue: Doug Christensen: He Fought the Law…

It could happen, but only if we make it…

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