Multiple Measures: The Tests That Won’t Go Away

How many hours does a teacher spend preparing students for “multiple assessments”? According to the first of a two-part report from the ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development; Part 2 will be released tomorrow), the answer depends on what you mean by the term assessments: if you’re talking about everything from pop quizzes to standardized tests, many teachers might answer that they spend all their time teaching, if not to the tests, then with the tests in mind. Over the past 10 years, particularly with the advent of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), school culture has become a testing culture. Some educators lament that prepping for tests means taking time away from deeper learning. Marge Scherer, editor-in-chief of ASCD’s Educational Leadership says that teachers should understand the various assessments and try to raise understanding, not just student scores. David Heistad, executive director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment for Minneapolis Public Schools, says that test preparation in large amounts is “counterproductive.” He strongly discourages teachers from doing too much. “The best way to learn [reading comprehension] is to read a diversity of books. For math, keep up with daily assignments,” Heistad said in an interview for “ThreeSixty” magazine, a publication by the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.

As assessment experts Stephen Chappuis, Jan Chappuis, and Rick Stiggins write (p. 15), “NCLB has exposed students to an unprecedented overflow of testing. But do all these multiple measures really lead us to achieve the three most often cited goals of testing: Building proficiency in basic skills, closing achievement gaps, and fostering the top-notch knowledge and skills that students will need in a competitive global society?”

Other questions to consider:

Now that the United States is poised to enter a new testing era: All but two states have agreed to work toward creating common academic standards, with the eventual goal of establishing common assessments. What will become of tests like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)?

With these common standards, what might be a better way to construct assessment systems, and what tools can be implemented to help students develop their critical and creative thinking skills to solve real-world problems?

Educational Leadership
by Marge Scherer
How many hours of classroom time do you typically spend administering standardized tests to students each school year? In my search for that statistic, I found one high school teacher estimating he spent 40 school days each year administering and prepping students for “bubble tests.”

Perhaps an even more important question is, How many hours does a teacher spend preparing students for “multiple assessments”?

That answer depends on the interpretation of the term assessment—are you counting pop quizzes and spelling bees, essays and multimedia projects, teacher-made and standardized tests, entrance and exit tests, pre-tests and post-tests, interim and benchmark assessments, statewide and national tests, and preparation for the AP exam, SAT, and ACT? Are you adding in daily, minute-by-minute checks for understanding? If all answers apply, many teachers might answer that they spend all their time teaching, if not to the tests, then with the tests in mind.

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One Response to “Multiple Measures: The Tests That Won’t Go Away”

  1. Laura says:

    hi Carol, Thanks for blogging regularly on Ed Leadership content! This question doesn’t exactly fit your post . . . but . . . when considering the steady move toward standardized curriculum, I was wondering what you thought about the recent Deloitte survey on the supposed disconnect between what parents & students see as the main goal of a high school education, and what teachers see as their #1 job. Is the disconnect real or is it just a problem of survey semantics? And why are content mastery and life skills getting such a bad rap? Here’s ASCD’s post on the Deloitte survey.

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