I wish I could attend the ASCD conference this year. As usual though, the conference blog is outstanding. Isn’t blogging great? We get so many inside views, timely posts and a cross-section of perspectives on issues. This post entitled Historical Knowledge: A Challenge to Standardized Testing is a story that needs to be told. It is a story that counteracts the prevailing stories of test scores that Dave Warlick speaks about so effectively. We need more stories like this.
We have become convinced that test scores indicate an effective school and a successfully educated student, and by extension, a citizen who will prosper, contribute, and be happy in their future. Itâ€™s a story that is pretty easy to swallow because it is simple, and it connects easily to our own education-experiences of 10, 20, or 40 years ago. Itâ€™s the reason why we need a new story that will be so compelling, that it will shatter the ideas of high-stakes testing, by showing it to be totally irrelevant to our childrenâ€™s future, and might I add, â€œour future.â€
Now an excerpt from the ASCD blog post:
If U.S. students perform poorly on tests that measure their grasp of things historical, blame it on the test, says Marc Turner, a lead teacher at Blythewood High School in Blythewood, South Carolina. Turner, named the 2005 Secondary Teacher of the Year by the National Council for the Social Studies, states that if you “look at 100 years of social studies testing, our kids have scored low,” but itâ€™s just the nature of the discipline, he says. Indeed, Turner just isnâ€™t persuaded that a history assessment tells anyone very much about what students know.
Wineburg has noted that, because of mediocre tests results, many Americans are convinced that students donâ€™t know history. The truth, Wineburg is quoted as saying, is that students havenâ€™t memorized the lists of facts that test makers have determined are important to know.
This is the best part:
So, have students write historical narratives instead of taking tests, says Turner. “We should be promoting history as an interpretive experience,” suggests Turner. “Thereâ€™s nothing wrong when kids reach potentially different conclusions about an event,” he observesâ€”historians disagree all the time. Whatâ€™s more, once students have written their narratives, they can “compare their interpretations to those of other scholars in the field,” making for a rich learning experience.
This is authentic assessment. I’d like to see a lot of these narratives on blogs where we could get lots of kids thinking about the different conclusions and adding to the ideas. The post notes that this will be a hot topic this year at the ASCD Annual Conference. I hope we will hear a lot more stories about these types of authentic assessments. Stories that will shatter the old stories Dave refers to “of seats in rows, nine-pound textbooks, lectures day-in and day-out, and the notion that we can measure success with a bubble sheet.”
There’s another interesting post on the ASCD blog, The Stakes Are High.
ASCD in 2004 issued a position statement calling high-stakes testing “an inappropriate use of assessment.”
The problem: High-stakes testing often fails to adequately measure what students know and are able to do. Even the best standardized tests often return results too late for educators to adapt classroom practices in ways that would help students.
They include an ASCD poll. This gives you the opportunity to give your opinion on the effect of high-stakes testing in schools. They also invite you to “tell us more about your experience with high-stakes tests.”
Share your opinions on the poll, then go blog about your challenges to high stakes testing. Here’s a couple of my previous posts on the subject: