by Andrew Foster
“Test, test, test. That’s all we ever do. These kids are overloaded with tests!” Ever heard that comment or a similar variation? Of course you have! Maybe the words came from your own mouth! One of the frustrations of teachers, principals, and coaches is the frequency and duration of assessment in the classroom.
One of the reasons testing has become ever-present is the fact that many tests have different purposes and different audiences. Some are mandated by the state for data collection and comparison, others are required by the district to provide data used for early intervention, and of course many assessments are used by the classroom teacher to adjust instruction and improve learning outcomes. Many of us have wondered, “Why can’t we develop some great assessments that could serve multiple purposes and reduce the number of tests given each school year?”
The answer has been: alignment, or lack thereof. In my school, we give two Benchmark assessments written by company X, required by our district, but aligned to our state standards only about 80% of the time. Then we take the Standards Based Assessment which is our NCLB accountability piece. Meanwhile, our school has devoloped quarterly assessments that help us determine how we are progressing toward our goals each nine weeks. Put it all together, and our students take SEVEN major assessments each year, not including classroom quizzes and unit tests.
Enter the Common Core State Standards and the need for assessments that provide actionable data and are 100% aligned to required instruction. There are two main Assessment Consortia to which state education departments are looking for CCSS-aligned assessments.
- The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Design Generally considered to be a more difficult, task-based assessment. SBAC is currently trying to design a system that would give local districts and schools the opportunity to tailor the tool to their assessment needs throughout the early parts of the school year, then all students would take a common summative assessment. SBAC is expected to be fully operational by 2015. Click the link for more details.
- Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Generally considered to include more traditional, item-based assessment, but with new task-based components. PARCC would prescribe a more structured set of early assessments with flexible timing followed by the summative accountability assessments at the end of the school year. Click the link for more details.