Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The States' Role in Ensuring Assessment Competence - There Is Strong Research Evidence Connecting Sound Assessment Practice to Student Success, Mr. Trevisan Notes. by Requiring Competence in Assessment for Licensure, States Enhance Their Role in Fostering This Critical Connection. in Turn, They Are Able to Exercise Some Control over One More Variable in the Student Achievement Equation

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The States' Role in Ensuring Assessment Competence - There Is Strong Research Evidence Connecting Sound Assessment Practice to Student Success, Mr. Trevisan Notes. by Requiring Competence in Assessment for Licensure, States Enhance Their Role in Fostering This Critical Connection. in Turn, They Are Able to Exercise Some Control over One More Variable in the Student Achievement Equation

Article excerpt

THE NATIONAL drive for increased student achievement has sharpened the national focus on the competency with which educators develop and use assessments. And for good reason. Richard Stiggins made a powerful connection between student achievement and the assessment literacy of teachers more than a decade ago. He argued that the majority of assessments occur in the classroom, tend to be the assessments of greatest concern to students, and hold the greatest promise for increasing student achievement.1 A recent literature review of empirical studies across grade levels, subjects, and countries by Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam provides compelling, if not overwhelming, evidence that classroom assessment conducted regularly and in a sound manner has a positive impact on student achievement and well-being.2 Thus calls for sound assessment practices cannot be easily dismissed as mere reform rhetoric.

Some observers have called for assessment competence for all school personnel, including building principals, school counselors, and district administrators. These individuals argue that unsound assessment conducted anywhere in the system carries risks for students.3 Note that these calls for assessment competence make no reference to externally mandated, large-scale tests (although interpreting scores from these tests, for example, could be a skill that educators need). Instead, these calls for competence refer to the assessments developed, used, and controlled by school-level educators, sometimes every school day.

Despite national recognition of the need for assessment-competent school personnel, the level of assessment literacy of school staff members remains lower than hoped for. Studies examining teachers' grading practices and their comfort with and beliefs about a variety of assessment strategies continue to show a lack of understanding coupled with a great deal of confusion. Unfortunately, the picture for administrators is much the same.4

There are exceptions, of course. I have conducted inservice training on assessment for many teachers, administrators, and school counselors over the last 10 years, and I continually meet educators with a broad and deep understanding of the assessment process and a commitment to excellence in assessment. I'm encouraged by meeting and working with these educators. In an age of education reform when cheap rhetoric is often used to disparage the entire teaching force, I think it is important to recognize the good work and competence of many educators throughout the country. Yet my experience has also shown me that the number of educators with a clear understanding of the role of assessment is small. My experiences in working with educators on assessment matters are in line with national studies detailing the general misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of many educators with regard to assessment.

But given what we know about the positive effects of sound assessment and the detrimental effects on students when assessment is done poorly, we have to ask ourselves why more educators don't make an effort to conduct assessment in a sound manner, with student achievement and well-being in mind. Some have argued that a lack of training opportunities in preservice programs is the reason for the poor quality of assessment practice in our schools. William Schafer and Robert Lissitz sought evidence to support this argument in their research on preservice and graduate programs across the country. They asked what, if any, coursework in measurement and assessment is offered by these programs and whether any is required.5 They found that only a small number of programs required any assessment training for licensure.

When I meet educators who clearly have a strong understanding of assessment, I ask them where they got their training. The usual answer is that they are self-taught through reading, attending workshops, and trying various strategies in their classrooms to determine what works. …

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