Home > Uncategorized > Technology Fundamentalists Champion ESSA’s Flexibility in Testing… Flexibility that is Improbable at Best

Technology Fundamentalists Champion ESSA’s Flexibility in Testing… Flexibility that is Improbable at Best

Because I believe technology is a potential force for good when it comes to individualizing education I was drawn to the ideas presented several years ago in Clay Christensen’s book Disrupting Education and subscribe to his weekly newsletter which includes thought provoking articles that usually do NOT find their way into progressive blogs or the mainstream media. Today’s newsletter included an article by Thomas Arnett titled Channeling the Anti-Testing Fervor that offered several ways ESSA might open the door to alternative forms of assessment like computer adaptive tests or assessments that are embedded in the assignments. Arnett offer’s this rosy conclusion to his article:

…The current version of the bill allows new leeway for states to measure individual student growth, use multiple measures of student learning, move away from end-of-year assessments, use data from multiple points in time to calculate summative scores and growth, and use adaptive assessments that measure the student’s actual achievement level. Additionally, the bill establishes an Innovative Assessment Pilot program that will allow a handful of states to be forerunners in developing innovative approaches to assessment.

Hopefully, as education leaders and state policymakers continue their efforts to improve our education system, they will have the wisdom take advantage of the opportunities afforded in the ESEA reauthorization bill. This means they will need to see testing critiques not as justifications to back away from assessments and transparency, but instead as sources of impetus for progress and innovation in assessment. 

While I make an effort to be upbeat and optimistic about the possibility for changes, I am afraid Arnett’s faith in States leading the way in innovative assessments is misplaced. I wish I was confident that States will “…have the wisdom take advantage of the opportunities afforded in the ESEA reauthorization bill” and had robust enough staffing in their State Department’s assessment division (assuming they have such a thing) to avail themselves of the very good ideas included in this post… but the practical reality is that SOME states will be basing assessments on bogus scientific knowledge (e.g. excluding climate change and evolution) and MOST states will continue to rely on inexpensive bell-curve tests instead of the adaptive ones recommended in this post. Oh… and some states will continue to use these tests to implement some form of value added measure to identify the “bad teachers” who are causing 50% of teh students to score below average on a standardized test. 

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