Education must look beyond standardized tests to fully measure student growth
- Changing attitudes toward education and increased willingness to learn are not always reflected on standardized tests, but these elements do matter when it comes to evaluating student success, McClarin Success Academy (GA) 9th and 10th grade World, Multi, and American Literature teacher Farhat Ahmad writes for Ed Surge.
- Teachers need to find ways to encourage student success and to celebrate that progress even if does not show up in testing, because both students and teachers need to recognize the desire to improve as a victory.
- Gauging success by traditional means may crush some students, so teachers may need to find other ways to redesign curriculum for individual students, such as including reflective writings, so that students can see how their attitudes and expression has changed and can feel motivated to future growth.
Measures of student success are used for many purposes, including documenting fulfillment of graduation requirements, directing student learning, rewarding student performance, rewarding teacher performance, and indicating readiness for higher level learning. However, these measures should also reflect the student’s personal growth as a student and an individual, a measure that is difficult to adequately reflect through traditional testing methods. This is especially true for students who don’t perform well on these measures for a variety of social-emotional reasons ranging from lack of self-confidence to test anxiety.
Some school districts are either exploring or already implementing a number of alternative measures of student growth. Some of these include more “authentic assessments" like student portfolios that may more accurately reflect an individual student's progress and growth over time. Assessments of this type may be more encouraging to students, parents, and teachers, who can compare individual work and trace a clear path to progress. Some states and school districts allow these portfolios to be used in lieu of test scores in certain situations.
However assessments are done, administrators and policymakers need to be aware that all student progress is not measurable by traditional assessments and that teacher quality depends on far more than test scores. Teachers who are willing to go the extra mile with students to encourage their love of learning and to help them craft a vision for the future are more than just instructors: They are life-changers. And that is the purest motivation for teaching.