I’m going to broach one of those taboo subjects in education.

It’s time to really talk about assessment.  Ugh.  Just the sound of the word makes me cringe.  All I can think about when I see it in print is my curriculum and assessment graduate course in school.  Let’s just say it wasn’t the most….exciting…class in my course of study.

Alas, assessment is the one thing in education that seems to NOT change with the shift of a breeze.  Our students (and our teachers for that matter) are being assessed the same way they’ve been assessed for the last 100 years.  Here’s my question: if our strategies and methods for teaching have changed in the last 100 years, why haven’t our assessments?

We need to start changing how, why and what we are assessing.

Not just for our students, but also for ourselves as educators.  It is our responsibility to design and implement assessments that truly reflect student learning and growth – not just how much they can cram and how well they can regurgitate it back.  Our course, assessment for makers, shares exactly how to do that with the tools and resources that empower you to make those assessments more meaningful.

It’s also our responsibility to design and implement assessments for teachers that show growth in knowledge and practice as a way of finally being able to track and attract great educators.  I know that’s scary – but our students deserve the very best.  I don’t know of a single quality educator out there who is afraid to show that they are a great educator.  But I certainly know a lot of mediocre educators scared of demonstrating their lack of knowledge.

I think the crux to both student and teacher assessment is WHO is doing the assessing and WHY they are being assessed.  You see, not only do we need to change the measurement tools, but also who is making the decisions as to whether the assessed person has passed or failed.  Without reform on both parts, 21st century assessment can’t and won’t happen.

Today, we’ll be exploring some different possibilities for assessment and how to make some of these changes.  It starts with US!  The biggest thing I have learned from my years of advocacy is that it doesn’t necessarily take a huge group with small goals.  It takes HUGE goals with a small group to accomplish great things.  By starting small and reforming assessment in our own classrooms and in our own schools, we can affect how assessment is used, perceived and valued at a larger level.

WHY do we assess ?

We have to figure out why we need to assess our students.  Is it just to gather information to see which schools are doing well?  If so, test scores have a long way to go until they can be used for this purpose.  Is it to understand where students are in their knowledge?  What kind of assessment would be best used for that?  Answering the “why” gives us a broader picture for the “how”.

I receive questions from teachers and administrators all the time in regards to how to assess an arts integration lesson.  Specifically, WHY should they assess the arts piece?  Isn’t that the art teacher’s job?  Well, yes and no.  The fine arts teachers can assess the quality and skill of students in their artform.  But in the classroom, the classroom teacher needs to assess both the content and the art.

Why?  Because both subjects are equally important.

Both areas were taught in and through each other, so both areas should be assessed for mastery.  This is simply best practices in education.  If you aren’t going into the lesson with the outcome of assessing for mastery, why include it in the objectives in the first place?  The whole intention is to teach content through the arts to increase engagement, activate prior knowledge and encourage student synthesis and connections.

All of that can be and should be assessed in both the artform chosen and the content area.  For instance, if the lesson objectives are teaching reading fluency and keeping steady beat, the assessment should measure that students can read at a certain rate of fluency AND can keep or demonstrate a steady beat while reading. This is measuring the connection, not just the skill.

I believe that by understanding why we are assessing, teachers and students have a clearer picture of the teaching process.  Continuing to assess for the sake of assessment only makes teachers and students feel as if they are a rat peddling in a wheel.  You go nowhere.  By connecting the assessment to the objectives and teaching with the goal of synthesis and growth in mind, assessments then become a logical and useful tool in measuring growth, not just skill mastery.

Let’s talk about assessment – how to change it and why it matters!