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A New Way to Assess Test Results?

I came across an interesting read by a professor at Union College on how their tenure process is run. Basically it consisted of student reviews/interviews, assessments by fellow teachers, class sit-in assessments, and lots of paperwork from every class syllabus, lecture note, published work, teaching method statements, and so on. His point was that this intensive method of assessment, while thorough and effective, is too expensive to do regularly.  Admittedly, I don’t know much about what it’s like to apply for tenure, or what the process entails at other levels, but this method seems to be on the right track with regards to how to make proper assessments in general.

This led me to wonder, why can’t we invest more time/money into important education-based aspects like testing to get more thorough results?

Most teacher evaluations are limited to just end-of-term student reviews (which should still hold some weight in the decision making process since it is the students benefit in the end), but including peer reviews is another way of taking assessments to a new level. While a calculus teacher may not know the best methods of teaching Shakespeare, and vice versa, it’s good to see if one’s teaching methods can translate to different realms in order to see if the students who take those classes are getting anything out of it. They say that you only fully understand a concept when you can explain it in the simplest of terms, as if to your grandmother, right?  Plus, including examples of  class assignments and lecture notes is a good way to help explain what actually happens in the classroom.

Now say there was a budget provided by the government that allowed for this kind of multi-departmental cross-checking. The government itself has (on paper) its own system of checks and balances to make decisions, so why can’t the same principal be applied to education assessments?

My point being that using this kind of multifaceted checking system might be beneficial for standardized testing too, like it is with tenure evaluations. Having students sit in a room and fill out hundreds of multiple test questions which then go to corporate employees to grade as quickly as possible is antiquated and stressful as we’ve touched on several times.  But we do still need some kind of common assessment to gauge where students stand in their education at certain developmental levels.  So instead, there could be a system where students are given an assessment test appropriate to their education level, both teachers and students can give feedback to the test makers (hopefully not run by big businesses at that point) on whether or not they felt the test accurately captured what they were taught, and were allowed some anonymous part in the grading process of their peers to see if they could understand other students’ thought processes. Finally, test makers could take this kind of feedback to revise their tests as needed to better suit what everyone can agree to as a common standard of understanding for each subject.

I think this kind of back and forth communication is key to better evaluations when it comes to showcasing what we know. And while it may seem expensive and time consuming, in the end it also adds to the whole education experience in a real-world scenario. Learning to work with others on a larger project, and providing constructive feedback is a valuable skill that doesn’t get the kind of practical execution it needs while students are still young.

This method, I realize, is still pretty reliant on testing as a whole to make assessments, but I think this system is on the right path toward education and testing reform.

What do you think? Is this a valid method of assessing test results, or is it too time consuming to make it worthwhile?

Tracey Woodard
Tracey Woodard
tracey.woodard@franklinfound.org

<p>Our Senior contributor Tracey Woodard graduated in 2010 from Bucknell University with a BA in English – Creative Writing and Theater. An advid believer in the importance of public school education, she uses a mix of personal and learned experiences to express her thoughts on today’s most pressing education issues. She currently resides just outside of Philadelphia, PA.</p>

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