Monday, April 16, 2012

Student Achievement Best Practices vs. Standardized Tests

 A Post on Student Achievement Best Practices

by Kristin Garaas-Johnson, English Teacher

Search Description Student achievement best practices coupled with standardized testing is a widely debated issue.
image courtesy of
While the debate regarding the necessity for standardized assessments ensues for some school systems, many educators have voiced their support.  According to a poll conducted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Scholastic Inc., 92 percent of teachers believe frequent in-class assessments are essential in measuring students’ abilities (Listening to American Teachers, 2010, p. 6).

Fluckiger, J. Vigil, Y., Pasco, R., & Danielson, K. (2010) highlight the benefits of formative feedback for students and educators in secondary school systems, noting, “These techniques give feedback in time for revisions to occur, provide scaffolding for learners, inform instruction, and most importantly, involve students as partners in assessment” (“Formative Feedback: Involving Students as Partners in Assessment to Enhance Learning”, p. 140).  While the feedback need not necessarily be in the form of a standardized assessment, Fluckiger et al. acknowledge the inherent benefits of open communication between instructors and students in the learning process, in which students are afforded the opportunity to voice their opinions on the decisions that drive instruction.

Many educators estimate their personal success based on students’ performance on assessments.  While the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Scholastic Inc. found that a majority of teachers support classroom assessments, only 27 percent of teachers agreed that state-mandated standardized tests were essential (Listening to American Teachers, 2010, p. 6).

In his letter to the American people regarding educational reform (which is featured in “The Blueprint for Reform”), President Barack Obama writes:

"A world-class education is also a moral imperative – the key to securing a more equal, fair, and just society.  We will not remain true to our highest ideals unless we do a far better job of educating each one of our sons and daughters.  We will not be able to keep the American promise of equal opportunity if we fail to provide a world-class education to every child."

Researchers from both sides of the debate would agree with Obama’s statement, as the need for educational reform is not only an economic imperative, but also is a concern of human rights. In as much as research supports the US Department of Education’s guidelines for educational reform through assessment-directed curricula, research also supports the detriment to authentic learning environments when such assessments are designed to measure rote-concept recall.  With the Whole Child Movement gaining positive support, perhaps, school systems could foster a “happy-medium” by encouraging educators to continue to explore best practices through professional learning communities while continuing to monitor students’ progress in core curricula through a variety of formative and summative assessments.

Though research has yet to fully determine whether standardized tests, produced by national test-generating facilities, are an appropriate measurement of students’ proficiency and are culturally impartial, school administrators should continue to provide ample professional development opportunities for teachers to acquire the necessary skills—such as interpreting and implementing data attained through formative and summative assessments—as a means to properly educate our youth for the 21st century.

Meanwhile, teachers should have a keen awareness of students’ needs, whether formative and summative assessments are intuitively administered during classroom activities, or through formally administered through teacher-generated or test-bank generated multiple-choice or essay tests.  Research has shown that a greater awareness of students as individuals leads to the greater likelihood for academic success (Austin Buffum, Pyramid Response to Intervention, 2008).

Most educational leaders will readily accept that there is no one valid method of determining teacher accountability and student performance; however, we must learn to forage new applications, ideologies, and compromises in our own commitment to educating our nation for generations to come (Stiggins, 2002).

Kristin Garaas-Johnson is pursuing her doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of North Dakota. Currently, she teaches high school English at Thompson Public School in Thompson, ND.

No comments:

Post a Comment