I agree with many of the comments saying that our students are over-tested. Yes, 16 days of testing each year is far too many, and too many resources are devoted to testing at the expense of more important ones in elementary school.
However, I have to disagree with the position that we discard assessment altogether. I view my students’ reading and math abilities as their human rights—and my job is to empower them to be productive changemakers in their communities by accessing these rights. Without assessment, I would not know if my teaching strategies were effective. I want to be clear that I am not dismissing reading assessments altogether—nor do I place much value in most of them. Instead, I would like meaningful assessments for monitoring students’ learning through the year to formally indicate progress in the eyes of D.C. Public Schools and the rest of the country.
For example, at the beginning of the year we test our students’ reading ability using DIBELS (fluency; how many words a student can read in one minute) and TRC (a combination of fluency and comprehension), which results in a reading level based on Fountas and Pinnell’s system. We continue to collect these data throughout the school year—more frequently for the students below grade level, less so for those who are at or above grade level—and use this information to plan our teaching with guided reading groups and lessons based on the Continuum of Literacy Learning. My students celebrate their progress—and they make great progress—but unfortunately none of it “counts” outside of our classroom.
A far more helpful reading-assessment method would be a measure of progress from beginning to end of year, such as the TRC tests, or a test I’ve heard about (but never seen in person) called the MAP: Measures of Academic Progress. Similar to the GRE, the MAP is computerized and adapts to a student’s answers as they take the test by giving harder questions as the student answers correctly and easier ones if the student answers incorrectly.
If our children are to be considered leaders in their community, country, and throughout the rest of the world, we educators have a critical job to ensure they are developing literacy and numeracy skills and knowledge. We can’t waste our time (or our students’) with meaningless assessment.
The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.