I can’t believe we’re already on Spring Break (whatever “break” means for either of us). With only a few weeks left for New York State’s assessments in English and math, teachers all over my state have mixed feelings about this break. On the one end, it’s probably the most important break we get because we’re so spent from this “crunch time.” On the other end, we’re hoping that our students come back ready to do well on their exams and at least retain enough information so we can just “refresh” them on topics instead of re-teaching them. This is the present mentality we have in New York, all across the nation. In general, the trend towards holding everyone accountable for tests that may or may not measure our students’ actual learning is imprudent at best, yet, because of the environment we live in, we still fall back into this mode of teaching even as we hold these ideals about what testing should look like.
Your piece about iPads in the young classroom reminds me of the power in having technology available to us in the classroom, and having access to such tech is vital for this fast-paced world. It should also shake anyone who believes that they can be the center for all knowledge. It also reminds me that, because of the sheer depth, breadth, and speed of the sources by which students can accumulate [true and false] information, we too have to change the way we see assessment as a direct reflection of the teacher, and more as a reflection of the ecosystem of learning developed for the children.
That is to say, we become so enhanced in our systems thinking, we use assessments less as indications of how one specific teacher influenced their ability to pass a test and more as an indication of the skills and values that teacher actually taught a student. Does the student think more abstractly now? Does the student have more stamina and focus on problems? Do they inquire and ask good questions more? (Yes, there ARE such things as good questions.) Can the student struggle with problems and use the tools they have to solve the issue? Can they connect discussions they have in the classroom with other things they’ve learned in their own lives?
As teachers, we won’t always need to be Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade, the high-scoring, high-flying NBA champions. We can be Shane Battier and still contribute very effectively to any team we drop into. The stats may not show our impact immediately, but the team does better as a result with people like us on board.
Personally, I prefer to be judged on my own growth as a professional, and whether students actually believe in the things I do. At my best, I deliver consistent, effective instruction and have a system in my class in place that leads to concrete class discussion. I make them believe that they can do any math problem given the proper push. I set guidelines for expected behaviors, least of which is sit quietly and do exactly what I say. I’ll assess them weekly, but unbeknownst to them, every assessment I’m giving is all formative, and only when I’m satisfied with their progress do I consider it summative.
Few of us live in a world where our entire lives depend on one solid hour of bubble sheets and white spaces to fill in. We live in a world where we get assessed in our motions, our work ethic, our personality, and our ability to create and innovate. We need people who understand that and prepare teachers to teach the future generation for that future.
This is an assessment we simply can’t skip.