"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Performance Assessments to Replace Standardized Tests?

Linda Darling-Hammond, George Wood, and Monty Neill have prepared a briefing document for members of Congress that makes the case that knowing, understanding, and doing are more important to children than memorizing, drilling, and bubbling. Here is a clip:
Performance assessments that are locally managed and involve multiple sources of evidence assist students in learning and teachers in teaching for higher order skills. These tools engage students in the demonstration of skills and knowledge through the performance of tasks that provide teachers with an understanding of student achievement and learning needs. Large scale examples involving the use of such performance-based assessments come from states such as Nebraska, Wyoming, Connecticut and New York, as well as nations such as Australia and Singapore. The evidence from research on these and other systems indicate that through using performance assessments schools can focus instruction on higher order skills, provide a more accurate measure of what students know and can do, engage students more deeply in learning, and provide for more timely feedback to teachers, parents, and students in order to monitor and alter instruction.

Research evidence suggests that in order for performance assessment systems to work, governments must make significant investments in both teacher development and the development of performance tasks. However, this investment is often no greater than the cost of standardized measures. More important, it strengthens teacher quality and student learning. Performance assessment systems can be reliable and valid, having both content and predictive validity when appropriately utilized.

Based on the evidence that performance based assessment better meets the federal agenda of teaching for higher-level skills, reauthorization of NCLB should support and encourage state and local education agencies in developing performance assessments. Congress can amend Section 1111 (b)(3) of NCLB with a new paragraph (D) that authorizes and encourages states to move to performance based assessments and multiple measures incorporated into a system combining state and local assessments. Authorization for adequate funding to support this move should be included in the legislation.

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