- Many educators express a dislike for standardized tests, but only two states so far have opted into a new assessment pilot, which came without extra funding and tougher requirements. Some state officials across the country, however, still believe that newer styles of tests may identify gaps in learning better than the assessments most commonly used today, wrote Education Week.
- Kentucky is one state that is trying a new kind of assessment in two of its districts. The tests measure the ability to communicate — a soft skill — alongside academics, including math and reading. Georgia is testing three different styles of assessments, all created by three different districts, that allows teachers to make teaching adjustments mid-year.
- The goal is to support students, who often learn at their own pace — and create tests that then assess their unique educational path and progress.
Cookie cutter-style assessments measure students on the same information, and are meant to be a level playing field. But because students don’t all learn the same way, at the same time, at the same pace, some schools are increasing their use of portfolio assessments. They're also measuring students progress along a learning path, rather than how they did for four hours on a single day in school while filling in bubbles on a computer sheet.
Creating tests that asses students on other competencies besides academics, like so-called soft skills, can also give educators a better picture of a pupil. As administrators weave social-emotional learning (SEL) skills, such as how students communicate, into curriculum, they’re also looking for ways to measure a child’s growth in this area. Few standardized assessments can currently do that, but some districts, schools and educational models are trying to change that.
Hanover Research took a look at three schools that are assessing soft-skills, while other educators are using methods, like digital badges, to reward students who reach certain social-emotional learning points. Catalina Foothills School District in Tucson, Arizona, for example, notes progress on soft skills on student report cards, evaluating not just reading fluency, for example, but also a child’s ability to self-direct his or her own work.
Adding more details to assessments, looking at soft skills and measuring students across a longer project, rather than a single moment in time, may help to create a better picture of students and their abilities. Broadening assessments doesn’t require sacrificing standardized testing mandates — it just means expanding how a student is evaluated. One caution for schools wanting to measure soft skills and SEL, however, is to provide educators professional development on rubrics or other measures to avoid subjective judgments and worsen what some say is already inconsistent and inequitable grading practices in schools.