Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Evaluation is not Assessment

Every so often something appears on my Facebook page that makes me stop and think, and then think some more. Then there's something that makes me change my thinking or reminds me of something wonderful in Education that we have, perhaps, lost sight of

This letter from a UK primary school headmistress to one of her students is something I just cannot stop thinking about and reminds me of how we used to focus on the whole child in the assessment process and not just test results. 

This letter is so wonderful on so many levels. I can imagine this school Principal knows every student as well as she knows Charlie. She probably also knows every student's strengths and challenges and knows who they are as individuals. I can also imagine that this wonderful example of assessment runs deep in the school, that all the teachers and everyone else in the school shares this same level of caring for the well-being of each and every student.

The letter also implicitly acknowledges that while it's important to hold schools and teachers accountable there is great folly in using test scores as the only form of accountability. Tests, especially those scored externally, thousands of miles away, by people, or more likely machines, that do not know the students who completed them, give us a narrow band of information about a strudents level of knowledge or understanding relative to a specific predetermined piece of content. The soon-to-be-mandatory SBAC tests, for example, cannot distinguish between a student's knowledge and understanding of the test material and the students linguistic of technology skills required for completing the test.

And no matter what the folks at ETS say about the SBACS they are not assessments, they are evaluations and must remain a small part of the assessment process.

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