Multiple types of literacy assessments needed for a total picture
- Literacy assessments can be overly simplified, and several types of assessment must be properly utilized if educators want to best capture a picture of students’ proficiency and progress, according to a new brief from the International Literacy Association.
- Currently, assessment in schools is primarily focused on summative assessments with little emphasis on cumulative tracking, in terms of high-stakes accountability testing.
- The quality of both types of assessment depends on how they are done, and the ILA urges educators to employ them for the right purposes. An ongoing assessment by a teacher may not necessarily have the technical reliability of testing data, but it can lead to "productive consequences" for both teachers and students.
As the debate continues over whether summative assessment, which is valued by supporters of high-stakes testing, is a substantive barometer of students’ progress, new trends in literacy education may complicate schools which use that approach alone.
Particularly in schools in which students are chronically behind, a focus on summative assessment to gauge proficiency, instead of cumulative assessment to gauge progress, weighs unfairly on teacher effectiveness. If a student entered into the fifth grade reading at a first grade level, and that student's teacher managed to bring him up to a third grade level by the end of the school year, significant progress was made in the course of the year — but that progress will be missed by those only looking for proficiency data. And with proposals increasing to tie teacher pay and promotion to proficiency, this could have a detrimental effect on schools' ability to retain effective educators.
Personalized learning is very popular, and shows especially promising results with English learners and students from low-income backgrounds. As technological and classroom innovations steer towards more individualization in students’ education, administrators will be continuously challenged on how to address these new designs when there are still accountability mandates to meet.
It is hard to determine what the "new normal" for classroom learning will be, if there is to be such a thing. If a particular tech platform, accompanied by an adjusted manner of classroom instruction, takes shape, it may be easier for educators and school districts to formulate plans and approaches on how to build accountability into a personalized system of learning.
Autumn A. Arnett contributed to this piece.
- International Literacy Association Literacy Assessment: What everyone needs to know