As I sat at my desk this morning catching up on recent news and views I couldn’t help but feel like I was swinging on the end of a pendulum. Not so much Edgar Allen Poe’s the Pit and the Pendulum where doom awaited the narrator but rather like a lab rat in an experiment where I never moved forward towards success but rather covered the same ground again and again. For decades educational assessment has been plagued by a pendulum of reforms and initiatives.
The swings have gone from linear learning to non-linear learning, from teacher led to student directed, from predetermined to emergent, from standardized to differentiated, and from differentiated to personalized. Yet, we still assess students by asking them to read regardless of whether they are learning through phonics, or whole language, or another emerging initiative. We argue about the value of standardized testing vs. performance assessment in a world where students need to do both well. One test cannot possibly hold all the answers. Assessing a narrow spectrum of knowledge is not acceptable if we aim to assess the whole child. A multi metric system is far superior.
Instructional opportunities are lost when teachers spend the better part of a year learning a new curriculum or preparing students for the latest test. Essential learning is lost when students spend time unlearning prior learning, such as double digit addition, and relearn it in a new way. Even Bill Gates said “We may not know for a decade if this stuff works” (Harvard Interview, 2013)