Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

When Mega-Trends Converge: What Do Technology and Testing Have to Do with One Another? (21St Century Assessment)

Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

When Mega-Trends Converge: What Do Technology and Testing Have to Do with One Another? (21St Century Assessment)

Article excerpt

If you had to pick the two driving forces that shape today's schools--that make education in the 21st century different from what went before--you'd be on safe ground if you chose assessment and technology.

TESTING, TESTING, 123 ... More and more, going to school in America is an experience defined by tests, a trend recently given top spin by the new president's education bill. Testing is where the education reform rubber meets reality road, with standardized achievement tests providing the one broadly understood measure of whether kids are actually learning anything in schools that seem like alien planets to most outside of education.

Some states have successfully plowed through the hard work of first setting standards, then aligning curriculum to those standards, and then developing tests that measure student learning against those standards. Other states haven't quite gotten to the alignment part. But virtually all of them have implemented achievement tests in several grades, with stakes attached: without passing the test, there's no moving from fourth to fifth grade, no graduating from high school, no assurance that your superintendent, principal or teacher will keep his or her job for long.

The Bush education program would make the testing routine an every year kind of thing for everybody. Meanwhile, parents in some communities (often the kind with the very best test scores) are organizing against mandatory annual high-stakes testing, while assessment experts warn against making these tests the main gauge--much less the sole gauge--of student achievement. And every teacher facing that looming test date inevitably makes some thankless choices about what to teach, and what to leave out, in the quest for better scores.

THE TECHNOLOGY INFUSION Running parallel in time to the testing track--but often diverging wildly from it in substance--has been educational technology. The infusion of infrastructure, hardware and software into American schools since the early 1990s has been staggering. It's hard to find a school these days that doesn't have Internet access, or one that doesn't make computer time available to kids on a fairly regular basis. Many school leaders are pressing fast forward into wireless networks, broadband, laptops, handhelds, Web based software: all the cutting-edge stuff. …

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