About the time that the government is realizing that cutting back on this trend of over zealous testing is in the best interest of students. More and more parents are learning about the "opt out" movement and are taking their children out of not only federally mandated tests but also the endless state and district tests. This article had four alternatives to assess learning that was gleaned from the NEW book entitled, THE TEST Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing-But You Don't Have to Be by author Anya Kamenetz. The following is a quick overview of an NPR interview with brilliant Anya Kamenetz. I'm going to go buy this book first thing tomorrow morning!
Here is a skimmed version of what they reported:
1) Sampling. A simple approach. The same tests, just fewer of 'em. Accountability could be achieved at the district level by administering traditional standardized tests to a statistically representative sampling of students, rather than to every student every year.
That's how the "Nation's Report Card" works. Formally known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, it's one of the longest-running and most trusted tests in the U.S. education arsenal, even though it's not attached to high stakes. It's given to a different sample of students each year, in grades 4, 8 and 12. The widely respected international test PISA is given to a sample of students too.
2) Stealth assessment. Similar math and reading data, but collected differently.
The major textbook publishers, plus companies like Dreambox, Scholastic, and the non-profit Khan Academy, all sell software for students to practice math and English. These programs register every single answer a student gives.
Stealth assessment doesn't just show which skills a student has mastered at a given moment. The pattern of answers potentially offers insights into how quickly students learn, how diligent they are and other big-picture factors.
3) Multiple measures. Incorporate more, and different, kinds of data on student progress and school performance into accountability measures.
Statewide longitudinal data systems now track students in most states from pre-K all the way through high school (and in some states, college). That means accountability measures and interventions don't have to depend on the outcome of just one test. They could take a big-data approach, combining information from a number of different sources — graduation rates, discipline outcomes, demographic information, teacher-created assessments and, eventually, workforce outcomes. This information, in turn, could be used to gauge the performance of students, schools, and teachers over time.
As part of a multiple-measures approach, some districts are also collecting different kinds of information about students.
3a) Social and emotional skills surveys. Research shows that at least half of long-term chances of success are determined by non-academic qualities like grit, perseverance, and curiosity. As states expand access to pre-K, they are including social and emotional measures in their definitions of "high quality" preschool. As one component of a multiple-measures system, all schools could be held accountable for cultivating this half of the picture.
"Engagement" is basically a measure of how excited students are to be in the building. Last year, 875,000 students took the Gallup poll nationwide, in grades 5-12. According to one study, student hopes scores on this poll do a better job of predicting college persistence and GPA than do high school GPA, SATs or ACT scores.
3b) Game-based assessments.
Video-game-like assessments, such as those created by GlassLab and the AAA lab at Stanford, are designed to get at higher-order thinking skills. These games are designed to test things like systems thinking or the ability to take feedback — measures that traditional tests don't get at. Of course, they are still in their infancy.
3c) Performance or portfolio-based assessments.
Schools around the country are incorporating direct demonstrations of student learning into their assessment programs. These include projects, individual and group presentations, reports and papers and portfolios of work collected over time. The New York Performance Standards Consortium consists of 28 schools, grades 6-12, throughout New York State that rely on these teacher-created assessments to the exclusion of standardized tests. These public schools tend to show higher graduation rates and better college-retention rates while serving a population similar to that of other urban schools.
Scotland is a place where you can see many of the approaches above in action. Unlike the rest of the U.K., it has no specifically government-mandated school tests. Schools do administer a sampling survey of math and literacy, and there is a series of high-school-exit/college-entrance exams that are high stakes for students. But national education policy emphasizes a wide range of approaches to assessment, including presentations, performances, and reports. These are designed to measure higher-order skills like creativity, students' well-being, and technological literacy as well as traditional academics. Schools and teachers have a lot of control over the methods of evaluation.
READ the full report here NPR EdHOW LEARNING HAPPENS