We can’t forget that assessment is all about our students.
This year marks 30 seasons of my working in the education business. I could write 30 blog posts on what has changed in those three decades, but there is no doubt that assessment was viewed very differently when I began teaching in elementary/middle school in 1984.
We rarely thought of assessment as formative – as a tool to drive our instruction. Instead, summative quizzes or tests were given when we deemed it “time”. If a student didn’t do well on an assessment, the fault usually rested with the child, not the teacher.
The variety of assessments was sparse. Most schools gave a large standardized test such as the California Achievement Test, the Iowas, or perhaps the Stanford, but the test results took months to come in and even when they did, they were too old to be relevant. We often used these outcomes to determine Title 1 or Gifted and Talented eligibility, even if the results were four months old.
Now we have computer adaptive tests, (e.g. STAR, NWEA), many diagnostic tools (e.g. AIMSweb DIBELS), and literacy benchmark assessments (e.g. DRA, Fountas and Pinnell) that allow the teacher the advantage of standardization as well as one-on-one contact with a student.
Of course, when I began, there were no high stakes tests – no state assessments such as NHEIAP, NECAP, or Smarter Balanced.
I was reflecting recently on what how my fellow New Hampshire schools are implementing for school-wide assessment so I devised a Google Form survey, sent it out on our Principal’s Listserv and received responses from school leaders in 26 New Hampshire schools. Yesterday I sent the results to the same Listserv. While hardly scientific, there are some interesting results:
- A full quarter of schools surveyed are not using Curriculum Based Measures (CBMs) for reading or mathematics. Of schools that are utilizing CBMs, AIMSweb and DIBELS are the clear winners.
- About 1/5 of schools surveyed do not administer a benchmark assessment for literacy, but for those that do, the DRA and Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System are the clear winners – and are tied for percentage of use.
- Nearly all schools have bought into the Computer Adaptive Assessment bandwagon with NWEA leading STAR 4 to 1.
- Schools are primarily utilizing home grown assessments for writing, although three are aligning themselves with Lucy Calkins’ approach.
- The amount of school wide assessments given varies widely with nearly two-thirds administering three or less and a third giving four or five assessments.