Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Assessments 2.0

As Minnesota students complete their year-end Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments and Northwest Evaluation Assessments (aka MAP diagnostic exams), it is important to celebrate the success of the 2011-12 school year.

But since endings often leave voids as to "what's next", readers of this blog would likely appreciate hearing of what the future of educational assessments holds.

A good synopsis of that direction is:

Beyond the Bubble Tests: The Next Generation of Assessments -- Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks 

Should you lack the time to go there, here are the main points of the linked US Department of Education page above.

A. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cited September 2, 2010 as the day marking the beginning of the development of a new and much-improved generation of assessments for America's schoolchildren-- Assessments 2.0.

B. There are two primary educational consortia-- the  PARCC consortium, or Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, that have been working with states to develop more comprehensive sets of student assessments.

C. By the 2014-2015 school year, the assessments developed by these two winning state consortia will be in use in any state that chooses to use them-- EVEN STATES NOT PARTICIPATING IN A CONSORTIUM ARE FREE TO USE THE ASSESSMENTS.   These are not pilot projects. These are not discrete tests, cobbled together. The winning consortia will be designing and implementing comprehensive assessment systems in math and English language arts.

D. This new generation of mathematics and English language arts assessments will cover all students in grades 3-8 and be used at least once in high school in every state that chooses to use them.

E. All English language learners and students with disabilities will take the new assessments, with the exception of the one percent of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

F. In Secretary Duncan's view, these assessments will:

(1) help millions of schoolchildren, parents, and teachers will know if students are on-track for colleges and careers--and if they are ready to enter college without the need for remedial instruction.

(2) give teachers the state assessments they have longed for-- tests of critical thinking skills and complex student learning that are not just fill-in-the-bubble tests of basic skills but support good teaching in the classroom.

(3) help set a consistent , high bar for success nationwide-- instead of misleading students, parents, and school leaders into thinking students are ready for college, when they are not even close.

(4) provide teachers with timely, high-quality formative assessments that are instructionally useful and document student growth—rather than just relying on after-the-fact, year-end tests used for accountability purposes.

(5) make widespread use of smart technology, and  provide students with realistic, complex performance tasks, immediate feedback, computer adaptive testing.

(6) better measure the higher-order thinking skills so vital to success in the global economy of the 21st century and the future of American prosperity. To be on track today for college and careers, students need to show that they can analyze and solve complex problems, communicate clearly, synthesize information, apply knowledge, and generalize learning to other settings.

Secretary Duncan called the transformation occurring in assessments a "sea-change" from where things are today, and he noted that the "quiet revolution" known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative is largely responsible for ushering the testing transition in.

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