The new federal K-12 education law is opening the door for invisible assessment, giving teachers and districts access to a multiplicity of tools to gather data about student performance.
BETHESDA, Md. (February 19, 2017) – Are great teaching and assessment fundamentally at odds? One might think so because, unfortunately, the words “test” and “assessment” are often used interchangeably. When we think about testing, we sometimes visualize sharpened pencils and Scantron machines. Worse yet are expectations that teachers teach to the test—cogs in a feedback loop that is anemic and detached from the purpose of teaching and learning.
What often gets lost in the mix is that while teachers loathe testing, they love assessment. And there’s a clear difference. Great teachers are keen observers of student behavior, and rabid, systematic consumers of the data that observation generates. They ask students to raise hands to share what they know. They use exit tickets to test for content mastery. They watch and listen for collaboration and communication skills as students work in small groups. Great teachers use data to group and regroup, students to deliver and tackle meaningful challenges that they will remember for years to come. Done well, assessment is ongoing, constant and invisible.
Ten years ago, invisible assessment was a concept long on potential but limited by the realities of the classroom. Although observation-based assessments have been used for decades to track the progress of young students, the process was cumbersome, highly variable, and hard to scale. If upper-grade teachers were lucky, they had access to limited benchmark data. But little by little, invisible assessment is becoming a reality. Here’s why:
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