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Brian Pelosi

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I propose we abandon traditional forms of assessment in schools to focus on a more creative learning environment.

We need to implement new ideas in our education system. Creative teaching may be a challenge for some teachers due to the heavy emphasis on state testing that we see today. As educators, to ensure the success of our students on the state tests, we must teach to the test. This could hinder the opportunity for teachers to be creative. How can we turn our classrooms into a more creative environment and a more enjoyable learning experience? It is my belief that students should find a way to prove their knowledge to the teachers. Seeing as how students all learn in different ways given Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory, they should be assessed in ways that adhere to their learning styles. Give your students the option to show you what they learned.

Today, in most professions, you get basic training or education before you start but most of your learning will occur in the field. Our job as educators is to prepare our students for the real world; so shouldn't most of our teaching occur in the real world? In order to learn life's lessons, students will most likely not be answering with a pen and a piece of paper. Life's lessons require action or demonstrations, so what are we preparing them for by relying so heavily on written tests?

We need to place less emphasis on the numbers that our students get out of our teachers and more about the experience our students receive. Education isn’t about which student is getting the best grades; education is about which student gets the most out of the experiences that our teachers provide. Almost every year, a teacher can probably pick out which student is their “smartest” student within the first two weeks of school. However, a teacher can almost never pick out which student will learn the most from them until the end of the year.

By solving this problem, we can also improve students’ opinions of school and change it from a place they HAVE to go to everyday to a place they WANT to go to everyday to learn new things.

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  • May 6 2013: As long as the states and national government mandate that teachers do standardized testing, the schools will be tied to teaching to the test. That is a simple fact of education where the test drives all. The public likes to cite other countries as being "more academically successful" based on their, you guessed it, test scores, so policymakers follow that lead and demand improvement on test scores. No other measure really matters to those people at the top.

    As I read your direction of special education, alternative assessment will be your life. Not standardized testing for the most part. Which is a benefit and a curse you will find in your field where individual education is the highest priority. I do sincerely wish you the best in your field of study and I do truly admire anyone going into SPED.

    Formative assessments are the easiest, but also the least reliable. Simply checking in with kids is easy. Asking the basic questions of "explain this to me" can provide a lot of feedback on the students knowledge, and good educators do that all the time. There are also a wide variety of project based assessments out there that teachers use for their students. They do take more time to prep and the results can vary on these projects. These are the types of assessments that do matter and should be given the most time. But, when the principal wants data right now, these don't provide it. So, system wide changes do need to be made.
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      May 6 2013: At this point, Everett, wouldn't you say that checking in with students while they work, asking them to explain back, noting the quality of their discourse while working with peers, and project-based assessments would need to be called "traditional?" All of these ways of assessing students' learning have been in widespread use, I believe, for at least half a century, even in giant public school districts.

      There were annual standardized tests also half a century ago, much worse ones than there are now, but they were much less the focus of state or national level examination at that time. I remember needing to carry around the little report of standardized test stanines in the sixties.

      What I have seen more in the last decade is choice for students in showing what they know. For example, my son in high school last week needed to show in some visual way how well he understood protein synthesis. He chose to design a game, while other students may have done multi-media presentations, made comic books, and so forth. I expect there was also a conventional exam as well as homework and lab write-ups.
      • May 7 2013: I would tend to agree with these statements, though I would disagree on one point. The different types of assessment are very much in the "traditional" realm just because we have done them so much. The use of authentic assessments, even though they are the goal, have gone by the wayside just because they are time-consuming and don't provide enough data to satisfy parents and administrators. Mostly due to the fact that they are higher stakes and provide fewer opportunities to "pass" the subject than other assessment types. The project your son completed is a great example of what should be done more. But, as you most likely know, it was a time consuming piece that, those who could commit the time and were interested, were very successful. Others probably did not do as well due to lack of commitment or various other reasons. But I digress...

        My one point of disagreement is the "stakes" of the testing. I have not see the stress level of state testing at such a high level as it is now. The emphasis, in some states, on high stakes testing, is causing kids to get sick, not sleep, and causing panic attacks, then the teachers are also feeling that pressure because they are considered "failing" if their kids don't do well. Now everything is also online so everyone can see how your district and school are doing. It increases the stress on the entire school population in the effort to "see how kids are doing".
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          May 7 2013: I definitely know it increases stress on the school population, other than students who know they would always pass such a test. In my state, though, no one actually fails to move forward because of performance on a test, as there is always an alternate route offered.
      • May 7 2013: This whole reply thing is just plain weird in this....

        I agree with you on the issue of increased stress. As well as the fact that the tests really don't mean anything to the students other than they might not get into a class they want or they just have low test scores. The direct impact though is on the schools who are told that they are "failing", or have been, because a certain segment of the population is not "meeting standard". The teachers feel the most stress because their kids "have to improve" at a level that the state expects over last years kids. Doesn't matter that those kids have moved on and this is a whole new batch with a whole new set of strengths and challenges.
    • May 7 2013: It is just like you said, "the principal wants data right now," and unfortunately, the testing is the quickest fix. It doesn't matter if the students are not good test takers. Perhaps they may be able to demonstrate their abilities in a different way, but we will rarely get the opportunity to see those demonstrations.

      Although, similarly to Fritzie, in my senior year of high school, we were given the opportunity to do our senior project on anything we wanted to, and present it in anyway we wanted to. This was an excellent project and as students we were able to show off our abilities and it provided a very interesting selection of presentations.

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