Fixation with Reliability

Compared to other OECD countries the US is fixated on reliability and cost in student assessment.  Our friends across the pond value validity more than we do–can you imagine oral exams being proposed in the US?
WaPo reviewed Todd Farley’s book My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry and points to the bizare reliance on cheap supposedly reliable measures.   Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of measurement, I just want better faster more valid measure of student progress.
As the world goes digital and more assessment becomes content embedded (the same way a game tracks every keystroke and adapts to your level and interests), we’ll soon (a relative term in edu) have the 1994 problem of abundance over scarcity.  Up and coming LMS like Angel make it a bit easier to consider multiple measures.  But we’ll soon has 10x performance data and will need to shift from grades and end of year exams to performance dashboards to guide instructional choices and student progress.
The digital shift (slowly) underway makes it a great time for USED to issue $350 for next gen assessment but makes it a very difficult assignment for program managers defining grant criteria.  If they screw it up, we’ll lock in credits and year end bubble sheet tests for another generation.  It will be important to leave room for innovation.  Could be a great application for a design prize allowing USED to signal a new direction.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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