Performance-Based Assessment and Teachers

By Stephen Sawchuk — August 06, 2009 1 min read

As I travel and talk to teachers, they consistently tell me that one of their biggest frustrations is the testing under the No Child Left Behind Act. Such testing is largely dominated by multiple-choice questions, and teachers feel under pressure to “teach to the test” or prep students for these kinds of questions.

As some of you know, in addition to covering teacher issues here at Education Week, I also track and write about the latest developments in student assessment. I just wrote a long story on researchers’ ideas about how to improve assessment.

The germ of this idea came out of the notion that some tests might be worth teaching to, if they reflected the kind of rich activities and critical problem-solving that we want students to engage in and teachers to foster.

Although none of the examples I wrote about gets into the realm of “portfolios” or extended research projects—which have been shown to be somewhat unreliable and not comparable across states as an overall measure of student learning—they are all examples of extended performance-based tasks that require students to use critical problem-solving skills. And they are standardized, which means that they might be adopted for use in an accountability context.

Some will protest that tests should be used only for informational purposes, not for accountability. I understand those arguments, but as it’s unlikely that test-based accountability is going away, I tried to tailor the story to what policymakers and researchers might be able to accomplish within the existing framework.

I hope you’ll check it out and post your thoughts below.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.