By Mark, Selle, Ph.D., Superintendent
What do educators and parents really think about K-12 assessments? Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) and Grunwald Associates LLC recently released a study answering this question. The title of the study, which also states one of its conclusions, really caught my eye: For Every Child, Multiple Measures: What Parents and Educators Want from K-12 Assessments.
Parents and educators are becoming increasingly frustrated with the push for standardized assessments at the state and national levels. I wear both hats and count myself among the frustrated. For many, me included, it seems uncomfortable to express frustration with these assessments because of all the “raising expectations” rhetoric that surrounds them. By expressing frustration, one may be perceived as coming out against high standards. Consequently, many of us remain silent. We shouldn’t.
Fortunately, leading educators and organizations are now speaking out. In addition to NWEA, Dr. Yong Zhao comes to mind. While we all want the best possible education for our children and citizens, government insistence on making education the same for everyone and measuring that sameness with standardized assessments may not be the best solution. Dr. Zhao points out that China has followed that program for over a thousand years and is only now beginning to change. He points out the irony that the Chinese government is moving away from the exact policy the U.S. government is pursuing. He convincingly demonstrates his case in Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization.
When such reputable individuals and organizations speak out, it helps all of us to more deeply explore our intuition that something is really wrong with the hyper focus on standardized testing that is sweeping our state and national governments. It helps us to research and articulate those intuitions. It just makes sense that a deeply human education, one that strengthens the soul and the powers with which it is gifted, must be measured in multiple ways. NWEA’s study also supports local decision-making about assessments. It just makes sense that those closest to each child, his or her parents, neighborhood teachers, and the local school board should be involved. Let’s get involved and ensure multiple measures of educational achievement, including those which are more conducive to the uniqueness of each child and less to standardization.