This blog is primarily for content curation. Sharing what I find with others is important to me. That said, every once in a while something strikes me and I have a need to do more than curate. In light of the climate today regarding testing, teacher evaluation, Common Core Standards and other emotion-filled topics it feels like I may be commenting a little more in the future. Having just read John Tierney’s recent piece – The Coming Revolution in Public Education – in The Atlantic, it does feel like we need to be thoughtful and share our thinking about what is happening in education, and that includes assessment.
Brett Foley and team shared a documentary this week – Testing in the Movies and on Television – at the NCME (National Council of Measurement in Education) meeting in San Francisco. Having worked with assessments for years and having both taken and given a few in my lifetime, I was curious. I watched it all – almost 50 minutes. The trailer (~1 min) provides a clue as to the major topics of the documentary, which include testing consequences, criticisms of testing, test anxiety, studying and test prep, psychometricians and cheating. This documentary covers 40 years of movie and TV clips regarding tests and testing. It conveys the negativity about testing conveyed via the media and where and how public opinion sits with this topic of assessment in general.
Being the advocate of formative assessment that I am, many of these perspectives or concerns about testing disappear in the classrooms and schools where teachers and students are actively collecting evidence of learning on a minute-to-minute basis and using it to adapt both learning and teaching. The day-by-day use of formative assessment strategies integrated into the instructional process help establish a classroom culture where “test” is no longer viewed as a 4-letter word, but rather an opportunity to “show what I know. “
In classrooms where formative assessment is fully integrated, Leslie Lambert tells us it is difficult to tell when instruction stops and assessment begins. This is a far cry from clips in the documentary. And yet, how many of us had an experience or two just like those depicted in the film? What does it take to change public opinion and offer new opportunities and perspectives to the public?
The segment on cheating caught my attention because establishing a culture in classrooms where making mistakes is a part of learning – expected and OK, certainly helps eliminate the need to cheat, along with the pressure to remember. Wasn’t “phone-a-friend” really created for use in the classroom? (smile). And I do have to say that some of the psychometricians I have met are really nice folks, who can speak English and translate statics is such a way that a layperson can understand.
Purpose and use of assessment is always important to consider, along with what educators value and believe as compared to their current reality. There are times when the negativity in the documentary really gives faces to the disconnect between purpose of the assessment and how the data are used. How often are educators put in the situation of using the results of an assessment for a purpose other than was intended by the test developers?
The goal of the documentary is to start public dialogue about the appropriate use of tests. That goal is important for all of us. The dialogue has started on many fronts and it is time for additional voices to be added. Be part of the cacophony about assessment. What are your take-aways from this video? Come back here and let us know.
The blog for my day job focuses on formative assessment, if that is an area of interest for you.
You may also want to check out Raymond Yeagley’s comments on this topic.