Trying to find the right formula for curriculum and assessments has been a balancing act for school systems since we began measuring student achievement. Standardized tests were put in place as a mechanism to capture those measurements. And while many people, including me, don’t believe standardized tests are the only answer, I do believe there has to be some type of accountability system in place in order for teachers to know and be able to plan around what they need to do to ensure the lessons they are teaching are actually being learned.
With that being said, the state of Maryland recently announced that it is dropping the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests. Actually, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said he never wanted to see another PARCC test. It seems the state is pulling out because data shows that less than half of students attending traditional public schools in the state can actually pass the PARCC test. And due to the amount of time that is dedicated to test prep, execution, assessing the data, and implementing changes – not passing is not an option.
However, there are other areas of concern when it comes to administering assessments, such as:
- Teachers feel that they don’t have enough time to teach because they are often administering a test to students.
- There have been scandals of teachers changing test scores because there is so much pressure for students to perform well. Due to the accountability piece, some teachers teach to the test to make sure students do well and turn a blind eye to other important instruction.
- Standardized tests also cause anxiety for students because they feel the pressure from teachers and administrators to do well.
I believe Maryland is making a step in the right direction. While I do agree that some sort of assessment needs to be available. It would be great if there were an adaptive assessment that measures the student’s growth. What matters is that students are growing and they are learning. An adaptive test would test kids at their level, and it would increase in difficulty as they gain more knowledge. By doing so, tests will be tailored to the student’s ability and not to a set of metrics that may or may not align with where the student currently is at the time of the test.
To some, growth is far more important than final numbers at the end of the school year.