Are We Testing What We’re Teaching?
Every teacher gives tests to determine student mastery. But the important thing is that these assessments are (a) validly constructed and (b) actually reflect what has been taught. But since many colleges and universities no longer include test construction in teacher-preparation, the quality of classroom tests is highly suspect. Too many teachers rely on textbook tests - a practice that has led to an over-reliance on the textbook itself and its dictation of the curriculum. Worse, testing becomes a means to award grades without any particular regard for the level of student understanding.
If districts are actually data-driven - and not just SAY they are - their classroom assessments must be at two intervals: FORMATIVE (interim or short-cycle) tests to determine if and what re-teaching is needed and SUMMATIVE or end-of-unit assessments to determine final mastery.
In addition, a district’s assessment system must include BOTH traditional paper-pencil tests and authentic or performance assessments, all of which are criterion-referenced to the standards they purport to measure. Such a balanced approach to assessment enables districts to assess for mastery at the higher levels of functioning set forth in the new CORE content standards and the 21st Century skills.
The EdFOCUS training shows teachers how to construct -
- valid multiple choice items, including properly-constructed stems and parallel, diagnostic distractors;
- valid 2- and 4-point response items, including criteria for scoring; and
- valid authentic or performance assessments, including rubrics to guide the tasks and evaluate the quality of the product.
The EdFOCUS team provides sample performance assessments developed by teachers for use in actual classrooms. These include -
- Math: Given the purchase of a used boat for $20,000 and a depreciation factor of 15% per year, the student is to write an exponential “depreciation” model to represent the value of the boat after 3.5 years.
- English/Language Arts: Each student will present the pro and con of a position ( e.g., school uniforms), and present it as a 3-minute newscast to present on FOX or CNN as a “talking head.”
- Science: The student is to describe the activities of the cell process by creating graphic organizer to show how each activity in the cell process works together for the benefit of the individual cell as well as the overall organism.
- Social Studies: Each student will develop a lesson plan to teach younger children about the 1930s that includes (a) the Great Depression; (b) the Dust Bowl; (c) the New Deal; and (d) an impact or a lesson learned for our own times. Include a presentation ‘script,’ visuals, and at least one task sheet.