Delighted today to have the opportunity to share these slides and thoughts with folks here at OESIS today.  I continue to think that using technologies, current and emerging, to reinvent testing and assessment is among the primary projects for 21st century K-12 learning in the current decade, and I’m going to continue to do my best to support this reinvention.

As I explained at some length in the opening of my session, and I realize I may stand a bit alone here, I still love tests– of all kinds, including the “test” that is asking students to demonstrate their learning in challenging ways– and a huge part of my personal mission is to make testing more engaging and meaningful for students: let’s improve the way we use assessment as, for, and of learning! 

[slides shared with permission of the authors]

The presentation above, by Doug Lyons and Andrew Niblock, is from a session which was a highlight of last spring’s NAIS Annual Conference, a session which sadly I was unable to attend, but about which I heard great things– and the slides carry much of that value.

This presentation covers terrain that I too spend a lot of time examining.  (for comparison, see my presentation to the Canadian Heads at their annual meeting last year.)

I am very well aware that there are many fine minds and outstanding educators who are arguing against measurement in education– or for dramatically reducing the measurement we do of learning– or that much of what we most value is hard or effectively impossible to measure.

And certainly, there is a somewhat appalling misuse and abuse of student learning measurement data in the US today– of course there is.

But, my ongoing approach, aligned exactly with this high quality presentation, is that we seek diligently to improve and correct the way we use learning measurement, but not abandon or reject evaluating and measuring learning.   Indeed, to best change education from its current course and to bring it to a far more student centered, 21st century oriented, technology accelerated, and innovative place, we have to have data to support our campaign and change current policies.

Among the things I appreciate about this presentation is its breadth, looking at both internal and qualitative ways we assess learning AND external/quantifiable ways.   We have to look at this topic broadly– what gets measured gets done, what gets measured gets valued, we can’t manage what we can’t measure: these mantras are compelling and significant, and if we want to transform learning we have to transform what we assess and measure.

It is good too that it is built in part upon Criterion 13 of the Commission on Accreditation standards, which is essential to framing the issue of assessment in independent schools:

The Standards require the school to provide evidence of a thoughtful process, respectful of its mission, for the collection and use in school decision-making of data, both external and internal, about student learning.

This evidence is required for the accreditation of all independent schools in coming years, , as, I believe, it should be.

Some thoughts, comments, and observations on this presentation.

1.  I love the citation from Ted McCain’s Teaching for Tomorrow–a highly valuable, but, I fear, highly under-valued, book on the topic.  As they quote McCain:

“we need to invert the conventional classroom dynamic: instead of teaching information and content first, and then asking students to answer questions about it second, we should put the question/problem first, and then facilitate students with information and guidance as they seek the answer and hold them accountable for the excellence of their solutions and of their presentation of their results”.

In my own 2008 research visiting 21 schools and shadowing students at each, I found McCain proven right– that putting problems first made a huge difference. (more…)

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  • Far more detailed institutional reports–
  • student level scoring validity
  • possibility of improved student test-taking motivation
  • available for 8th graders now
  • flexible scheduling
  • Lower price– $38
  • Special trial price this spring only $22

Regular readers here know of my interest in, and on balance enthusiasm for, the CWRA– the College Work Readiness Assessment, which I have administered as a school head over the course of three years, presented on about half a dozen times and written about about here a dozen times.

Run, don’t walk, to register for the 30 minute free webinar CAE, CWRA’s parent, is offering this week and next about the forthcoming changes in the CWRA.   If you can’t attend one of these sessions, you’ll do pretty well as an alternate reviewing the five page overview of CWRA changes I’ve embedded at the bottom of this post.  (Be sure to click “more” to see it if you are interested).

As enthusiastic as I’ve been, I’ve also been a gentle critic on the following fronts.

  • The institutional reporting lacks detail and specificity for use in identifying program gaps and targeting institutional improvement.
  • It is too expensive.
  • Students lack motivation to perform because they have no stake in the game– there is no student-level report.
  • There are enough or pertinent norm groups for comparison– particularly in the lack of independent school comps.
  • It doesn’t have enough possible purposes beyond an institutional check on student learning.
  • It isn’t available for middle school students.
  • Is automated scoring of essays proven and reliable enough?

And now, here it is: the new CWRA plus addresses nearly all of these issues.  I feel almost as if they were listening to me.  (Smile) (more…)

The Innovation Portal - Online Collaboration for the Creation of Engineering Portfolios   Online Collaboration for the Creation of Engineering Portfolios-100957

Two of my great interests and enthusiasms regarding 21st century learning have, until now, felt a bit divorced from and at odds with each other.   Yesterday, however, I learned more about a fascinating bridge developing for them.

The first is high quality, authentic 21st century assessment: if we are going to make new pathways in learning that is more meaningful for students, more preparatory for the futures they are inheriting and more engaging for the people they are today, we need to have tools that allow us to evaluate effectively their learning, both to provide meaningful endorsements of these learning paths for the skeptical and, more importantly, to correct our courses to keep doing so more effectively.

The second is the joyful messiness of open-ended and unstructured project-based learning that is found in Fab labs, design-build studios, design thinking centers, and maker-faire type spaces.   These places ought to be free from tight strictures– they should celebrate experimentation, learning by doing, trial and error, fast-failure, and never be stifled by narrow or miserable “testing.”

It might be cruel to introduce assessment to these labs and studios, but I want those teachers and students who want to find a way to build in more structure, such that they can better evaluate their own progress, get external feedback, and meaningfully improve their work to have quality ways to do so.

Clearly I am not the only one to think this (and I never am).

The Innovation Portal was launched in the last year or so, (with strong support from Project-Lead-the Way, itself also a valuable resource),and as you view the site you can see it is still developing and rounding out.  It provides a platform for

students to create, maintain and share digital portfolios. The portfolios can be used to meet a class requirement or they can be used to submit the portfolio to a scholarship or open contest. The contest owners – or anyone else invited by the student – can evaluate a student’s portfolio. (more…)

The Fall issue of the Secondary School Admissions Test Board member newsletter, Memberanda, was just published, with my article introducing its new think tank.   Click here to read the full article; below is the top section.

—–

“Sure she’s smart, but I wish I could tell how creative she is: can she think out of the box?”

“His scores are middling, but he seems pretty motivated and persevering: too bad there isn’t a way to measure that.”

“You know, she had some difficulties on the test, but this teacher says she is a leader in her class – will the committee trust this one recommendation?”

Gather any group of admission directors together and before long, the conversation invariably turns to the issue of testing. While testing is useful and does tell us something about how a student will perform, there is so much more that we want to know about our applicants and so much more that is important about what they can bring to our school. How can we capture more information about our applicants?

SSATB recognizes that in the 21st century the nature of testing and assessment is changing and that its member schools are seeking new ways to assess diverse applicants’ readiness for their academic programs and educational settings. In response, SSATB has convened a Think Tank on innovation in assessment…. Read more. 

One of my main projects this year is serving as a member and consultant/writer for the Secondary School Admissions Testing Board (SSATB) Think Tank on the Future of Admissions Assessment.   More information on the Think Tank is here;  it’s charge is here. As part of my work I am posting a monthly column for the Think Tank; below is a “teaser” that post.  Click the link here or at bottom to read it in full. 

“Creativity,” Dr. Sternberg replied, when asked what addition to admissions assessment he would recommend if he had to limit himself to just one. Coming from the SSATB 2012 Annual Meeting’s keynote speaker, the former President of American Psychological Association, and arguably the world’s foremost scholar of – and experimental practitioner in – expanded admissions assessment, this is compelling counsel for our Think Tank’s work.

Using Sternberg as a framer and guide for the work of the Think Tank on the Future of Admissions Assessment is a no-brainer, and our time with him in Chicago was enormously valuable. In this post, we’ll take a deeper dive into assessing creativity; in future posts we’ll look at other Sternberg recommendations and many other aspects of expanded assessment for admissions.

Sternberg’s recommendation to prioritize creativity is both narrowly pragmatic and broadly idealistic.  Read on….

Creativity and Ethical Mindset: These are what we should be assessing in learning, PK-16, in addition to analytic intelligence. So says renowned author and academic, and former President of the American Psychological Association Robert Sternberg.

Important: All slides above are Sternberg’s, from his presentation today at SSATB.

Sternberg matters, and deserves even wider and deeper appreciation and influence in PK-12 education than he already has, and I am sometimes surprised about why he is not more frequently a reference point in 21st century learning. It may be that his work has been primarily in post-secondary that K-12 folks overlook him, but as he said today and as I believe firmly, in almost every way his works is entirely suited for applications in our domain.

Ray Diffley, the trailblazing Director of Admissions for Choate-Rosemary Hall, introduced Sternberg, and labeled him the single most important thinker on expanding and revamping educational assessment in the nation today.

Sternberg, who is in his sixties and has 20 month old triplets (!), couldn’t actually attend in person, due to his airplane’s equipment failure, but his virtual contribution worked just fine.

A few observations about Sternberg, but before you read any further, be sure to view the slides, all of them, if you haven’t seen him present. This session was a very valuable and sweeping overview of his essential themes and thoughts, and the slides convey a very high proportion of what he said in this session.

1. He clearly deeply cares about kids, his own kids and all others, and works always from a foundation of personal experience, his own learning journey.

2. He has walked this talk– he doesn’t just research how assessment can change, or theories of what it could be, but again and again at different universities and schools he has been implementing these assessments. Rarely do you find someone who has done more to blend theorizing and implementation.

3. Expanding assessment is both practical and idealistic.
(more…)