All across Charlotte public schools this is the time of year which generates the most stress for classroom teachers and their students. It is end of the year testing! This is the time when the high- stakes North Carolina state test, which will be used to measure the effectiveness of the school, is administered. There is still much debate regarding the best and most effective use of the data gained from these tests. In fact research challenges the current practices which make the incorrect assumption that assessment is what determines an effective school.
The problems with the lack of performance on the North Carolina high stakes assessment are wide and varied. Most districts, including CMS, impose quarterly assessments which are based on the pacing calendar and lessons plans that the district provides to teachers as the expected objectives that are to be covered in that time period. School sites and classroom teachers are not permitted to preview or to have any input on the material in the NC high stakes assessments. The district scans, scores, and provides the data analysis that accompanies the results. The single greatest hindrance to this process is the lack of time for feedback, remediation and/or enrichment based on student achievement.
Two of the foremost leading experts in education suggest that it is the educator or classroom teacher who is the ultimate ‘assessment tool’. The expectation is that the teacher will understand what Dr. Marzano describes as the difference in assessment “of” learning and “for” learning. . Marzano continues on to say that, “Good Instruction is Good Assessment (Laureate Education, 2004).”
This certainly sounds straightforward and manageable; but what about those students who are not motivated by the traditional system (high scores, good grades, promotion, credit, graduation, scholarships, college admission). The question then becomes, how do we motivate these students?
For these students, alternative methods of assessment need to be applied to ensure maximal representation of the student and their capabilities. Dr. Stiggins (2005) posits two standards of professional development centered on the effectiveness of the practice of teaching (1) gather accurate information about the achievement of students and (2) weave classroom assessment and its results into instruction which benefits students and enhances their desire to learn and their achievement. Stiggins emphasizes the monumental importance of students’ confidence level as a motivator for students. This is supported by the research and theory on reinforcing effort as a means of achieving success. Two successful strategies to use with students are targeted towards reading and test taking strategies. A vast majority of students associate very negative experiences with reading and writing as it is presented in an academic setting. A primary focus for teaching test taking strategies to students is to decrease the initial response of frustration and intimidation which students reading significantly below grade level will undoubtedly face. By providing students with multiple approaches to moving forward on the test, students can choose a strategy that best suits the task or question in front of them. Dr. Stiggins states without hesitation or apology that educators must rethink the relationship between assessment and student motivation.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2004). Program One: Assessment and student learning. Designing Assessment to promote learning. [Motion Picture]. Los Angeles, CA.
Stiggins, R. (2005). Student-involved assessment for learning. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.