Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Disconnect between College and Reality: With Formative Assessments, Teachers Can More Accurately Determine Student Interests and Aptitudes and Drive Achievement

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Disconnect between College and Reality: With Formative Assessments, Teachers Can More Accurately Determine Student Interests and Aptitudes and Drive Achievement

Article excerpt

K-12 teachers straddle the proverbial fence between idealistic and realistic when they try to apply what they learned in college to contemporary classrooms filled with high-stakes testing pressures. There's a disconnect between textbooks that espouse best practice and the reality facing K-12 teachers. The test-pressurized atmosphere smothers teacher creativity, stifles student interests, and perpetuates societal injustices on students of diverse backgrounds.

Novice teachers don't have an effective template to cope with the pressures they face in public school classrooms. The educational research community may support formative assessment, but, in schools across the nation, teachers hear a message that state and national assessments are far more important than classroom assessments or student-centered instruction, which often requires time-consuming investigations, such as field trips, hands-on activities, or problem-based learning. Understandably, many teachers relinquish the best practices they learned in preservice programs.

Real classrooms

Going forward, educators will need better preparation before entering classrooms, where school leaders and administrators expect every teacher to multitask in an overcrowded, diverse classroom where they must document increased student learning for state measures and teacher evaluations.

For example, in one year, students required to take the state assessment in math, science, social studies, or English in any typical high school in Virginia take up to seven major tests (three benchmarks, midterm and final exams, and pre and post tests), which leaves little time for creative formative assessments and student-centered instruction. A complicating factor is that students are routinely removed from a variety of classes for remediation and retesting in other subjects. Consequently, less-motivated students become discouraged by the system's preoccupation with standardized testing.

In contrast, formative assessments foster student-teacher interactions that have demonstrated significant learning. These measurements are based on relationships cultivated over time in the classroom and are far more accurate gauges of cognitive growth. Teachers are obligated to monitor students' individual learning based on a variety of factors never considered on a standardized test. …

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