To the Editor:
An Associated Press article that appeared on Edweek.org reported that President Barack Obama believes students should take fewer standardized tests and school performance should be based on other kinds of measurements (“Obama Says Too Much Testing Makes Education Boring,” March 28, 2011). While the White House advocates for occasional standardized tests to determine a “baseline” of student ability, what we should be striving for is greater use of assessments that are ongoing, and integrated into the learning process, as the most effective way to gauge student progress in real time.
On the day President Obama made his comments, an informal survey of administrators and educators at the 2011 ASCD conference revealed that one in three felt they spend too much time testing, and a quarter of the educators surveyed found it too difficult to obtain the data they need to affect classroom instruction. Clearly, educators are seeking a better way of gathering data without interrupting instruction.
Integrated assessment, which derives performance data from students’ ongoing classwork and skills practice, offers a more accurate and timely measure of student performance. This system of assessment without testing offers educators not just snapshots, but streaming video, of student performance. There are no false lows in terms of assessment data, since each student is evaluated by all of his or her responses given.
Using an integrated-assessment model not only focuses more time on learning, rather than testing, but also gives teachers the data they need to adjust instruction on a daily basis to meet state and national standards. The National Educational Technology Plan asserts that this kind of assessment “can collect much more, and much more detailed information about how students are learning than manual methods.”
I agree with President Obama that we must reduce our reliance on standardized tests. However, we need to be very clear about the kind of tools that will get us there and must be relentless in our efforts to implement more efficient assessments that serve the purpose of better learning and instruction.
President and Chief Executive Officer
A version of this article appeared in the April 20, 2011 edition of Education Week as Efficient Assessments Require Careful Thought