Bird Droppings January 15, 2012
Testing testing testing is it really needed
I was reading in some older National Educators newsletters several key articles both of which dealt with assessment. I have for many years tried to reflect on my own progression in terms of assessment. During the past ten years at two different colleges, while studying under and with a group of professors who very much exemplify the values of real education it is a rather interesting discourse. I have watched in my own views and attitude of what is effective and ineffective assessments grow and evolve especially in the past few months.
Trying to develop a concept of assessment and effective assessment has been in many ways an obsession. Since my first teaching experiences in 1970 I have been thinking about and planning how to assess and evaluate teachers effectively. I have been trying to develop an assessment tool that could effectively measure and quantify the ability of an individual to coordinate and assimilate material to a group of students. In a seminar I got into a discussion with Max Thompson of Learning Focused Schools fame he brought up the fact:
“In Georgia a teacher could teach to an empty room and still have an excellent score on GTAP, the Georgia assessment for teachers.” Max Thompson
Effectively in our current GTAP system you are only measuring delivery not affect or results of the teaching. Conversely in assessing students how often are we doing this?
In being a student as well as a teacher and currently looking at how I am assimilating information it is interesting to then apply that aspect to my own students. Many summers ago I would use mnemonics driving toAthensto memorize definitions for aReadingcourse. I never read the book, which I probally should not say and since I was teaching summer school 7:30 – 2:30 and in class in graduate school 5:00 – 9:30 each day I had little spare time. I would copy key words this was after knowing how the teacher tested and then write cards of definitions in mnemonics. On eight quizzes seven were prefect scores of one hundred percent, after doing mnemonics. Only one quiz was a lower a seventy five percent, which was the first quiz strictly from memory alone. Do I remember today that information probably not? So was the tool used to assess poor or were the students the issue in this case.
A good point in looking at assessment is: When is the student the issue? I have spent the better part of eleven years now in the classroom literally round the clock as a student and teacher. I have seen teacher’s assessments in all fields as I teach summer school and do some tutoring as well. As a teacher how do you blame the student for coming up with a good grade by innovative systems we actually teach them in class such as mnemonics? Are students the reason for problems in assessing? Students do not write the tests in at least in most cases so how can they be the issue. Students are an issue if the teacher is unaware of their particular needs and abilities.
“Many times teachers are unaware of abilities through lack of training or simply not interested in finding out and students then suffer. With current trends in education and such terms as Inclusion teachers need to investigate and try and understand the student population they are teaching.” Exceptional Children 69, Barriers and facilitators to inclusive education
I have seen teachers frustrated because they will not make an effort to know their students. Many teachers look at the class through a card board tissue tube. Their view is so narrow it loses focus for its own focus. Sadly this is many teachers. Conversely many students are looking back again through a card board tissue tube.
“Many teachers have lost their passion for teaching.” Robert Fried, The Passionate Teacher
I have discussed with teachers and have had teachers tell me they design tests for failure. That intrigued me. A serious teacher actually designing an assessment tool for failure, a tool to show how much of what wasn’t learned or taught as a test for a class you teach, the amazing logic somewhat eludes me in that case. Although in our Georgia State high school math test it was put out knowing the pass rate was less than failure rate and an enormous curve was factored in.
“The word assessment is a noun and goes back to 1534. It is defined as the act or instance of assessing or the amount assessed” Webster Dictionary
Defining the word assessment presents a similar issue to Thompson’s example of being evaluated for teaching on simply the process. Is assessment simply the act of assessing? Is the tool merely a process? Somewhere along the line I understood assessment a bit differently. Assessment is a tool a teaching tool. That tool can be used to show where weaknesses are in subject matter so far presented. It can be used to see what information has been exposed and evaluated and assimilated by students. It can be used as a tool to reinforce key ideas and information. Many years ago Mr. Frank E. Bird Jr., my father used the term FIDO as an anocronym in teaching a subject.
“The FIDO principle – Frequency, Intensity, Duration and Over again provides a simple tool for teaching a subject.” Frank E. Bird Jr. and George L. Germain
Current trends in schools are being focused around assessments and many schools are focusing on staff member simply on testing scores as Federal and State mandates become stricter and tougher with the federal law, labeled “No child left behind”. Within our own school system we have been trained in Learning Focused Schools, a research based program that when applied effectively does work.
Looking at assessment has become an interdependent aspect of each teachers planning. Developing a pre-test and post-test now is required. Georgia Graduation tests and even State mandated End of Course tests are a reality. Within local school systems federal and state authorities are labeling those systems poor schools that do not meet standards in assessments.
“Assessments are being developed to evaluate schools and schools effectiveness in providing for the educational well-being of students.” The United States Department of Education
Perhaps I am a bit overboard today as I sit and write. I was reading earlier an article about children in India, Chinaand US and a movie made about them, Two Million Minutes. The movie was focused on these seniors in high school and their differing views of life and reality. As I think further how can we compare students in India, China and US, with the tremendous differences in culture alone as a major factor. The apathy within theUS in regards to education and the approach used by government to try and play catch up, mandating all children will be at grade level by 2014. There is never a look at how our culture impacts motivation and learning. Perhaps that is an argument for another morning. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.