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College & Workforce Readiness

‘Authentic’ Assessment Shapes Learning at a New York City High School

By Catherine Gewertz — July 17, 2015 2 min read

Cross-posted from Curriculum Matters

Seems like it’s easier every day to trip over accounts of people campaigning against testing. If it’s not parents holding their kids out of tests, it’s one group or another arguing that tests don’t measure what we want them to, or that tests have come to dominate classroom instruction.

That’s why it’s a perfect time to read about schools that have tossed the standardized-testing framework out the window. They’re using what they view as more authentic ways of figuring out how well students have mastered the subjects they’ve been studying. I’ve written a story about one of those schools: East Side Community High School in New York City. My visit to the school, and my account of its approach to assessment, is posted today on edweek.org.

It’s tempting to say that schools like East Side are trying “new” kinds of assessment. But that would be wrong; East Side and

more than dozens of other schools in New York state have been using performance assessment instead of the state’s standardized tests for more 20 years. They did make one concession to the traditional testing world: Their students still take New York state’s Regents exam in English. But for the other core subjects, they demonstrate their mastery by making in-depth presentations to panels of teachers and fellow students. They have to explain and defend their ideas, and their graduation depends on their success.

This process doesn’t define only assessment at East Side; it defines learning, too. It’s an approach that seems to be paying off for the school with better graduation rates, and better college enrollment and college-retention rates.

Read about East Side’s approach to learning and assessment, and let us know what you think.

Photos: Top: Mikey Arcay, 13, an 8th-grader at East Side Community High, solves a math problem during the end-of-semester roundtable forum. Tiffany Mungin, a graduating student from East Side Community High School, presents a year-long research project about U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War to David Vazquez, principal at the Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists, left, and Ben Wides, a 12th grade history teacher at East Side Community High School in New York. -- Mark Abramson for Education Week


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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.