Thursday, February 12, 2009

Manifesto: Lean Standards (and SJR 19)

Working through Rick Stiggin’ s Assessment Manifesto, I've discussed how Stiggins defines assessment for learning, identifies different assessments for different levels of decisions, and and expects students and parents to be in on the classroom-level choices. Today, a look at the role of standards in unifying a balanced system.

What unifies a balanced system is that classroom work, periodic program checks, and annual accountability testing all look for the same clear, well-understood kinds of work from students. That means we’ve got to get our standards right.

Stiggins calls (on page 6) for standards to be:
  • Centered on the truly important learnings of the field of study
  • Clearly and completely integrated into learning progressions within and across grades
  • Precisely defined such that qualified educators consistently interpret them to mean the same thing
  • Within developmental reach of the students who are to master them
  • Manageable in number given the resources available to teach and learn them
  • Thoroughly mastered by those teachers charged with helping students master them
A short, clear list also allows annual accountability testing to report meaningful data for each student on each standard. If we have too many standards, the annual test must either be far too long or use a matrix approach that does not fully test all students on all standards for that grade.

The General Assembly is currently considering Senate Joint Resolution 19, calling for major revisions to our mathematics Core Content and testing. If SJR 19 leads to math standards that can work for classroom and program assessments as well as state accountability, that will be a great first step toward the balance—and the strong results—Stiggins recommends.

Manifesto point 4: In a balance of three levels of assessment, all three aim for the same short, tight list of standards. In a balanced system, there's no room for laundry lists: we have to choose and then focus.

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