The technical case made by testing expert Rick Stiggins is that we need "balanced assessment" with different tools to support three different kinds of decisions:
- Classroom learning decisions need evidence about individual students continuously.
- Program planning at the school and district level requires data on which standards are being mastered, looking at groups of students, on a “periodic but frequent” basis.
- Accountability testing must check, from outside, whether enough students are meeting the standards, annually.
The "sunlit vision" part is about what can happen when the three elements are properly balanced: teachers can show each student clear expectations, help each student make steady progress toward those standards, and (in the process) break the cycle of growing despair that currently leads many students to stop trying when the goals seem both mysterious and out of reach. Stiggins cites research evidence of powerful results when classrooms work that way:
When assessment for learning practices like these play out as a matter of routine in classrooms, as mentioned previously, evidence gathered from dozens of studies conducted around the world consistently reveals a half to a full standard deviation gain in student achievement attributable to the careful management of the classroom assessment process, with the largest gains accruing for struggling learners.My take is that balanced assessment is the testing element of the consistent high quality teaching nurtured in professional learning communities and in the world's top school systems.
For more on this valuable report, here are the links to my earlier posts:
- An assessment manifesto worth our attention (January 22)
- Manifesto: Engaged students, profound learning gains (February 9)
- Manifesto: Three decisions, three kinds of data (February 10)
- Manifesto: Students! Parents! Participating in decisions (February 11)
- Manifesto: Lean standards (and SJR 19) (February 12)
- Manifesto: Classroom implications (February 13)