Where is our obsession with testing leading us?

A look at global STEM powerhouses shows that high-stakes testing doesn’t mean successful students

testing-obsessionWhenever vitally important goals hang in the balance, people want proof that progress is being made toward achieving those goals. It’s human nature—whether those objectives are building a skyscraper, eliminating disease or, perhaps most notably, educating our children.

Equitable, effective and high-quality public education is an essential goal not just here in the U.S., but in virtually every global society. The question is, is standardized testing a fair measure of progress? And what do we sacrifice in the pursuit of such testing?

The answers to those questions may lie in the situation now affecting many Asian nations. Children in that region are outperforming their global peers, and test scores are high. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s most recent PISA study, the Chinese—specifically children in Shanghai and Hong Kong—rank the highest in mathematics proficiency, a key measure of academic success. The United States, by contrast, ranks 36 out of the 65 countries and economic areas measured.…Read More

5 must-haves for online assessments

‘Good’ online assessments could bring much-needed credibility to online learning

online-assessments-schoolsAs K-12 schools across the country begin to implement online learning, issues of cheating and lack of credibility are some of the main reasons why skeptics hesitate in supporting online learning—especially MOOCs.

The answer to decreasing cheating, as well as giving more credibility to many less traditional forms of online learning, is in good assessments, say supporters.

“Assessments are the lynchpins of [online learning],” said David Smetters, CEO of Respondus, a Windows exam creation tool. “If you go to a [class], it’s certainly possible to learn things. But when you actually take the assessments designed for it, you can demonstrate mastery of the content. An instructor then feels comfortable providing a grade…or some type of badge.”…Read More

4 assessment questions every educator should ask

New report offers guidance, insight on important assessment features

assessment-questionsAs many states begin to implement online assessments to gauge student learning under the Common Core State Standards, administrators are faced with a number of important considerations that accompany implementation.

A new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) presents four important assessment questions that policy makers and educators should ask.

“College- and career-ready standards without high-quality assessments aligned to them to advance learning is like peanut butter without jelly,” said Bob Wise, AEE president and former governor of West Virginia. “Current tests are insufficient to measure these higher learning goals and fail to deliver the information that students, teachers, and parents need to ensure that students are on a trajectory to be ready for college and a career by the time they graduate from high school.”…Read More

8 key recommendations for Common Core online assessments

New toolkit for school districts offers crucial guidance on how to implement Common Core online assessments

online-assessments-common core Common Core online assessments are scheduled to begin in districts across the country in the spring of 2014 through 2015. However, many districts still struggle to implement these online assessments, thanks to inadequate bandwidth and lack of technology infrastructure. National consortia and multiple school districts have offered eight key recommendations to help districts in their implementation efforts.

“Online assessments are important for the future, regardless of participation in Common Core States Standards,” said Tom Ryan, CEO of eLearn Institute, Inc. “These assessments are substantially different from other current online assessments because of significant writing, simulations and higher-order thinking skills, and the requirement of new infrastructure and human capacity.”

The comprehensive toolkit, “Raising the BAR: Becoming Assessment Ready,” was developed by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), Education Networks of America (ENA), and the eLearn Institute as part of overall efforts to ensure all districts can make the transition to online assessments smoothly.…Read More

Ohio’s move toward embedded assessments

State officials say curriculum-embedded performance assessments help improve teaching and learning outcomes

curriculum-assessmentThe state of Ohio is taking steps to ensure that students enter college and the workforce with the ability to apply critical skills to real-world problems.

Through the Ohio Performance Assessment Pilot Project (OPAPP), Ohio educators are using curriculum-embedded performance assessments to help students learn and demonstrate deeper learning competencies.

State education leaders hope that this deeper understanding of content will give students the ability to use that knowledge to think critically and solve problems, said Mariana Haynes, a senior fellow at the Alliance for Excellent Education, during a webinar that spotlighted Ohio’s latest efforts.…Read More

Are states measuring students’ career readiness?

New report shows Common Core has “little impact” on states’ career and technical tests

career-assessmentsWith a nationwide emphasis on preparing students for the workplace, accompanied by a push to use the Common Core State Standards to buoy these skills, a new report sheds light on the varying ways in which states and school districts assess students’ career and technical skills.

The report, “Career Readiness Assessments Across the States: A Summary of Survey Findings,” from the Center on Education Policy (CEP), found that while most states give one or more assessments of career readiness, technical, or employability skills to high school students, the types of tests used vary considerably across states and are sometimes decided at the school district level.

Despite the fact that Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses are not always part of the required curriculum, 96 percent of students take at least one CTE course, and 38 percent take three or more, according to 2013 statistics from the U.S. Department of Education–thus, knowing how states assess course outcomes is critical, stakeholders say.…Read More

What will Common Core assessments cost states?

New report sheds light on how CCSS assessments are well within states’ budgets

assessments-statesMany states that once adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are now pressing the pause button on implementation, in light of the cost of CCSS-aligned assessments. State leaders and stakeholders wonder how assessments aligned to the Common Core compare to assessments currently in place, and are trying to decide to what extent cost factors into CCSS adoption.

“Common Core has become a political hot potato, despite early broad acceptance,” said Russ Whitehurst, the former director of the Institute of Education Sciences within the U.S. Department of Education, and current director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, during an Oct. 30 event.

The event centered around a recent report, “Standardized Testing and the Common Core Standards: You Get What You Pay For?” by Matthew Chingos, a fellow in the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.…Read More

What tech leaders need to know about online assessments

Experts say bandwidth, state guidelines crucial for online assessments implementation

online-assessments As part of Connected Educator Month, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) gathered together two expert district and state technology directors to discuss how their states successfully implemented 21st century online assessments.

The most interesting piece of advice: Without a basic technical foundation and statewide support, you can kiss online assessments goodbye.

“It’s a summary of parts that all work together,” said Patches Hill, technology systems manager of Delaware’s Indian River School District (IRSD). “You need your state-level infrastructure implementation, state assessment implementation [summative standardization], and personalized  learning [formative standardization]. This is a multistep process and it can’t be done instantly.”…Read More

How 4 states are gearing up for online assessments

Assessments will require adequate bandwidth, devices

online-assessmentsAs the 2014-2015 school year approaches, Common Core-adopting states are working to develop and implement the online assessments that go along with the new core standards. Along with implementation come concerns about whether schools have enough bandwidth, sufficient infrastructure, and enough devices to support students as they migrate to online assessments.

Two assessment consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, are developing the assessments aligned to the more rigorous standards. A State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) report examines four states’ experiences with implementing online assessments in advance of the deadline.

The SETDA report notes that during the 2014-2015 school year, roughly 40 states will use the online assessments from PARCC and Smarter Balanced, and ensuring that these assessments are ready for use will require not only an infrastructure evaluation and possible overhaul, but much human effort as well.…Read More