Standards Letter to the Editor

Much Like Students, ESSA Needs Freedom To Fail, and Then Improve

January 12, 2016 1 min read

To the Editor:

In response to the article “ESSA’s Flexibility on Assessment Elicits Qualms From Testing Experts,” I would like to encourage administrators to think outside the box when it comes to applying the increased freedoms allowed by the Every Student Succeeds Act to shape learning standards and performance measures.

When standardized high-stakes testing defines which teacher, district, or state is deemed a success, the process of learning is not valued in the classroom. We must remember that the final answer to a question on a standardized test is not always the last word on a subject. We know that a student’s road to successful mastery of a topic is not linear—the process involves taking risks, discovering how to pivot and regroup, and accepting failure as a learning tool.

This reboot of the law that guides education in America allows school districts to rethink how students learn and are evaluated. When students work through mistakes or disappointments, they gain the confidence and maturity that will allow them to become more mindful and successful in their lives to come. If we give students room to fail, we give them room to grow.

The same is true for the evaluation of students’ knowledge: The process of creating successful assessment tools should be valued as much as—and sometimes more than—the end results of single assessments.

Antonio Viva

Head of School

Walnut Hill School for the Arts

Natick, Mass.

A version of this article appeared in the January 13, 2016 edition of Education Week as Much Like Students, ESSA Needs Freedom To Fail, and Then Improve


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