Assessment Myths

I was fortunate enough to see Rick Stiggins present last week on Formative Assessments. For an evening workshop which lasted only two hours - he really packed a lot in. It was nice to have some confirmation of my own feelings about assessment - and to get some nuggets to chew on.

I'm excited too that he is planning and Education Week piece on Assessment Myths and their dire consequences. But we keep bemoaning the consequences and never doing anything about them. Here are the myths - and then my musings....

1. Standardized testing has improved schools. Well - we've seen some improvement in schooling but in schools? Is this the only way to improve schools? What about culture? Climate?

2. Our nation knows how to use tests to improve schools. See above!

3. Teachers and leaders are trained to use assessment to improve schools. We know this isn't true - yet have you seen any institutions doing anything about it? Where are the assessment courses in our pre-service education schedules? In graduate courses? In educational leadership courses? Heck - come to think of it, I can barely get a one day workshop on it to fly!

4. Assessment equals multiple choice test. Now - there is nothing wrong with having some carefully constructed, reliable and valid MC items on a test. Trick is - what teacher really knows how to write them? Publishers sure don't!! And do we really know why we are assessing something in the first place? Are we using the right measure to assess what it is we want to know?

5. Assessment for intimidation improves student learning. I argue that this same "assessment for intimidation" runs rampant throughout the system. Teachers - are you afraid those scores will be used against you? Principals? Superintendents? Real Estate brokers?

6. The most important data-based decisions are made by the adults in the system. I think the adults have a responsibility to look at data and then use that to help the kids see what they need to do to improve. Does simply knowing that you have a 73% in a class tell you what you need to do to improve? Nope! So why do we horde this data and not share with our students?

As you see - I was pretty fired up and energized by his presentation! I can't wait for the article!

Using Tech Tools for Collaboration

I've been experimenting with lots of Web 2.0 tools lately in an effort to make work more efficient.  Given that we have entered assessment season, it is difficult to be in the office and keeping up on things that need to be done.  So I've been searching for tech tools that won't be blocked (at least not yet!) and that will allow our team to get work done.

So far - we have become greatly enamored with GoogleDocs.  With various groups, we have created and edited Word documents in a much easier fashion than in the past.  No more losing the email attachments, needing to write in separate colors for editing/comments, or missing edits in passing emails.  Our Google docs experiments have allowed us to be online at the same time, editing the same document and then saving and printing the final version.  I am hooked and can't wait to experiment with an Excel file next!! (Thanks Jenn for the link!)

We've been working with blogs and wikis since this summer and are pretty happy with what we've done (of course we could always get better!) So I've moved on to trying Podcasting.  So far - I have been unsuccessful but I think that is because I don't have all the tools I need!!  My plan is to start with my adorable two-year old nephew reading aloud No! David!!  to post on my writing blog and then move on to study group conversations and samples of student work analysis.  If I get brave - I'll attempt the YouTube thing when we do the analysis of student work, but not if I'm on camera!!

 Finally - I am trying WriteToMyBlog as we speak.  It seems to be a bit easier to add some of the functions I want then in Blogger, but we'll see after I post.  (Of course, I just noticed that I should have opened it in Mozilla!!) I wish I had more time to play!!