- Jessica Smith, an English teacher at Keene High School in New Hampshire, takes an alternative approach to testing. Instead of exams, she has students find creative ways to show what they’ve learned by giving them some guidelines and an “active role," she wrote in an Edutopia article.
- A recent assignment around “To Kill a Mockingbird,” had students working in teams, collaborating and designing presentations together from rap songs to dioramas.
- After all projects are completed, students reflect on the process, which Smith calls a “debriefing,” letting them examine what they learned from each other.
With the Every Student Succeeds Act allowing some flexibility over testing, schools are increasingly looking for multiple models of assessment. In addition, not all students perform well in such a high-stakes environment, a reality that the college arena is growing to accept. Even the University of Chicago has dropped the SAT and ACT tests from its college application process.
There’s no question, however, that administrators need to measure student learning, and districts are eagerly searching for alternatives. Intrepid teachers may launch project-based learning options, but these can be time intensive and there is a risk factor for burnout.
At the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Teaching & Learning there are a wide-array of suggested testing alternatives from annotated portfolios to written op-eds that can illustrate what students have learned, without making them sharpen a No. 2 pencil and fill in the bubbles during a timed test.