Our Love, Hate, and Sometimes Hypocritical Relationship with Assessment Data

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Look at the following statements, and consider your level of agreement and whether or not a potential scenario exists where you would make such a statement. Think of each as it relates to the latest iteration of high-stakes testing in your context.

  • We assess only what matters.
  • We assess skills and knowledge that may or may not be highly relevant.
  • We assess all that matters.
  • There are a wide range of skills and knowledge that are left completely out of the assessment snapshot.
  • The assessments we use are valid and well-designed.
  • I do not have confidence that the scores are true reflections of learning, and I have concerns about test design.
  • I have complete confidence in the reliability of the scoring.
  • There seems to be fluctuations in scoring tendencies, and with tests being modified so regularly, it feels as if we’re constantly comparing apples to oranges.
  • Assessment data plays a disproportionately influential role in our society.
  • We need a tool to measure school effectiveness and standardized assessments give the best possible tool for evaluation.
  • A school with superior achievement scores is a better institution.
  • There are too many variables and myopic practices focused solely on raising test scores at the expense of other programming to allow us to make broad assumptions about the quality of a school.

I could go on with statements similar to those above, but this is a blog, not an authentic research survey!  We’ll stop there, as it should suffice for the purpose of conversation. As you looked at those statements, perhaps you felt strongly about each, some, or had mixed feelings more often than you would have liked. I will be circling back to these items in the second of two blogs that discuss the essence of their title and intent. Until then, I have some homework for you.

I just heard that groan, but it shouldn’t take long,  I promise.  Doing it in your head is fine.  Just give it some attention, and remember that, as Doug Reeves says, “Homework is practice,” so there’s no pressure; just give it your best.  Simply think about the questions below.

  • Do you believe your responses are common? Do other teachers feel the same way? To what degree?
  • Do you believe administration’s thought patterns are generally congruent with those of the teachers you considered above?
  • Is there a difference in thinking between district and building leadership?
  • What about policy-makers?
  • If there are differences in thought between groups, or within groups, what accounts for those differences?
  • Do views shift? If so, how often? What do you believe triggers these changes in perception?

As promised, I will be revisiting this topic in my next post. I know you’ll be waiting with baited breath, so that post will be coming soon. As always, feel free to post comments and thoughts below – either on this page, or on social media. Most importantly, remember that no opinion is necessarily right or wrong; we all are operating within different contexts and have had different experiences. I would expect thoughtful, but certainly differing opinions.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, as well as sharing mine in the sequel post.


Mike Lee

Mike Lee

Phoenix, Arizona

I am the Director of Outreach and Engagement for The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and certified as a Middle Childhood Generalist in 2004. In 2012, I received my doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University, however, I began my work in education serving as a para-educator in a special education program while still an undergraduate. My passions in the field include assessment and reporting strategies, the evolving role of technology, teacher leadership, and effective professional development that permanently impacts instruction. I consider myself a professional teacher first, as well as a professionally evolving lifelong learner, who is incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to impact the lives of children.

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