Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Moving to Modern Assessments

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Moving to Modern Assessments

Article excerpt

It is, of course, gratifying to think that the piece on authentic assessment that I wrote so many years ago has had an influence in the world of education where "this, too, shall pass." How far have we come? In 1995, at a workshop I did on assessment sponsored by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the head and program officer of the foundation took me aside to say that "rubric" was an esoteric term that they feared few people understood!

So, one measure of how far we've come in reform in the past 20 years is that terms like authentic assessment, performance tasks, and rubrics have become part of the national dialogue in education. Indeed, in the recent federal award of funds on assessment to support the Common Core Standards, most consortia proposed plans for national performance assessments of the kind some of us have long championed.

The challenge ahead is to safeguard the integrity of the idea. Just asking students to "perform" doesn't mean that the assessment is authentic in the sense in which I originally used that term. Most constructed-response test questions are a long way from authentic tasks in realistic settings. My aim was always to alert educators to the fact that a psychometrically sound system is necessary but not sufficient. As the title of my book on assessment suggests--Educative Assessment ( Jossey-Bass, 1998)--the primary purpose of assessment in school should be to educate (and motivate) students about the real world of adult challenges. Assessment should better replicate or simulate what mathematicians, scientists, and historians do, not just what they know.

Thus, for me the term "authenticity" refers less to the particular challenge or question and more to the realism of the setting--audience, purpose, constraints, and opportunities. …

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