Facts and FAQs

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THE ROOTS OF ASSESSMENT

A search for the origin of the word assessment shows that it comes from the Latin word assidere that combines the word “sedere” meaning to sit and “ad” meaning beside. Over the years, the word assessor has expanded to mean one who fixes the worth of something for taxation and also one who estimates the value of something. In education, assessment has evolved to mean a measure of knowledge and skills that is used to evaluate individuals, classrooms, schools, districts, and the educational system as a whole.

Students have been sitting for tests for centuries, but rarely do teachers sit beside them to coach and guide their work. Perhaps it is time to return to our roots. Rather than using assessment interchangeably with the word measurement (the assignment of a numerical value) it would be better used to describe teachers and students working together to determine and guide the student’s growth towards mastery.

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NOTEWORTHY FACTS

  • About 56 million students are enrolled in approximately 99,000 public elementary and secondary schools in the U.S. The number is 76 million if you include pre-K to college.
  • Before the school year is out, an estimated $543 billion will be spent on education.
  • About 3 million students are expected to graduate from high school annually.
    http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/
  • There are over 7 million teachers in the U.S. from pre-K to 12th grade.
  • In 1920 8,000 students took the SAT; today 1.5 million students take it annually.
  • Each student takes over 15, 000 tests and assessments during their school years.
  • In 1995 the U.S. ranked #1 in the world in college graduation rates, in 2006 it was 15th. Out of 30 developed countries, U.S. students ranked 25th in math and 21st in science. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • The equivalent of 37,000 libraries of congress of new information is produced each year. (Lyman and Varian, 2003) How can it be possible to include all that knowledge into standardized tests?

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF ASSESSMENT

1900: The College Entrance Exam Board creates a common exam for all entrants
1918: Alfred Binet creates the first intelligence tests
1957: Sputnik is launched.
1965: President Lyndon Johnson signs into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
1969: NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) begins
1983: A Nation at Risk is published
2000: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) begins PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment)
2002: ESEA is renewed as “No Child Left Behind”
2014: Common Core testing begins

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The PROCRUSTES Effect

A Procrustean bed means an arbitrary standard to which everyone is forced to conform.
Procrustes was a character in Greek mythology who offered hospitality to weary travelers passing by his home. He invited them to join him for a meal and stay for a night’s rest. He promised his bed would fit the visitor perfectly. What he failed to tell them was that if the guest was too tall for the bed, he would cut off his feet and if he was too short, he would stretch them until they fit.

PROVOCATIVE QUOTES

“It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction and assessment have not yet entirely strangled the curiosity and inquiry.”
~ Albert Einstein

“Assessment efforts should not be concerned about valuing what can be measured but, instead, about measuring that which is valued.”
~ T.W. Banta

“Believing we can improve schooling with more tests is like believing you can make yourself grow taller by measuring your height.”
~ Robert Schaeffer

“Anyone can confirm how little the grading that results from examinations corresponds to the final useful work of people in life.”
~ Jean Piaget

“If more testing were the answer to the problems in our schools, testing would have solved them a long time ago.”
~ Bill Goodling

“Life is a process of measuring. The lasting measure of good teaching is what the individual student learns and carries away. “
~ Stanford Erickson

Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.”
~ Albert Einstein

“All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.”
~ Leonardo da Vinci