More on Assessment: Revolution not Evolution

“We need assessment revolution not evolution, not the annual release changes that are typical of large scale state assessment.” I spent the morning interviewing state assessment directors.  They agreed, “there is little doubt that essays can be machine scored as well or better than human” but ”the short constructed response are a challenge.”
There is an opportunity for better items. Most online assessment is just paper items ported to digital format.  An exception is the Minnesota science assessment which includes scenario-based, computer-delivered, realistic representations of experiments and real-world phenomena.
State assessment directors have it tough.  They feel the pressure of fulfilling the testing components of a series of education policy compromises.  They’ve had a series of budget cuts that don’t allow them to administer the kinds of tests they would like to.  Testing directors get few professional learning opportunities.
The pressure to deliver low cost reliability has driven down assessment validity and instructional alignment.  The Common Core is an opportunity to do better—at scale.  More than 60 education leaders signed an Innosight Institute letter released last week urging the consortia to embrace innovation instead.
Interest in adopting online assessment is further complicated by the need for 1:1 computing or high access environments.   Online assessment will save money compared to paper-based tests but not enough to justify 1:1 computing by itself.  That will require a shift to online instructional materials and personal digital learning.  It’s a transition with great potential educational and financial return, but it will require investment, planning, and statewide coordination.
State assessment directors and consortia leaders are thoughtful and capable professionals.  But they are in a box of our creation and will need some help thinking outside the box.  Guides like Pearson’s Next Gen Assessment Roadmap are helpful.  Capabilities demonstrations and prizes may also be part of the solution.  Perhaps most importantly, our governors and elected and appointed chiefs will need to demonstrate leadership if we want our students to demonstrate deeper learning.
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[discl: Learn Capital has a commercial relationship with Pearson]

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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