Last week I spoke at the US Education Department about three “next generation” assessments which I believe can really expand and improve the way we assess and improve learning in our schools; what I didn’t entirely realize is that only two weeks earlier, Secretary Duncan himself had also spoken about next-gen assessments, and our remarks are remarkably aligned.
I have criticized, and many, many of my friends in the Twitter/blogosphere have attacked, Secretary Duncan’s perpetuation of NCLB’s unwarranted, narrow, student soul-deadening, and distorting use and even abuse of fill-in-the bubble, standardized multiple choice tests of basic skills. I don’t think we should necessarily eliminate these tests altogether, but I very deeply believe they must be supplemented extensively by tests which far more authentically assess the development of the higher order thinking skills such as analytic reasoning and innovative problem-solving, things that a bubble test can never capture.
I also believe, and also spoke about at the Ed Department, that when and where we do use multiple choice tests to evaluate more basic skills in math and reading, we should do so in computer adapted methodologies that configure themselves quickly to students actual skill level, inform us far more acutely about students’ proficiencies, and provide that information to teachers immediately, in real-time.
These two points are almost exactly parallel to what Secretary Duncan called for in his Assessment 2.0 speech: Beyond the Bubble Test: Next Generation Assessments on September 2. It was also written about in the New York Times on September 4, US Asks Educators to Reinvent Tests, and How they are Given. (For the record, I published my first piece on this same topic on August 4.) I have been using already the term “next-generation” assessments, but I also appreciate the term Assessment 2.0, and I think readers here can expect to see it appear frequently in the future.
Duncan’s speech, which I extensively quote below, celebrates emphatically that we will in the future have authentic assessments which measure higher order thinking skills, and that we will have computer adapted testing which provides real-time assessments of basic skills. He calls upon us to celebrate these valuable, wonderful steps “beyond the bubble tests,” and I join his celebration in offering two cheers.
However, he also says again and again that these will be coming in the future “for the first time,” and that they will not be available until 2014. Hence my singular caveat and objection to his remarks, and I want to say this loudly (!), is that both these kinds of “next generation” assessments already exist, in the form of the CWRA and the MAP from NWEA. I should also point out that I believe St. Gregory is the only school in the country, (or if I am wrong, one of no more than a dozen at most), public or private, that is performing currently both of these assessments. (more…)