Construction Versus Choice in Cognitive Measurement: Issues in Constructed Response, Performance Testing, and Portfolio Assessment

By Randy Elliot Bennett; William C. Ward | Go to book overview

students in general math, bilingual students, or dyslexic individuals can participate without either being handicapped or being allowed to slip through the cracks. Incipient in this proposal is the possibility that evaluators will be confronted with a wider range of work that varies in values, outlook, or rhetorical approach. This range will raise the challenge of scoring systems that can acknowledge varieties of excellence, rather than a homogenized high standard.

Such assessment also challenges the conventional psychometrics that we have come to rely on for recording, presenting, and aggregating information on student or school performances. For instance, the history task described here requires multidimensional or profile scoring to capture differences in students' control of relevant historical information, their capacity to formulate arguments, and the power of their presentations. Such tasks also carry the obligation to think about models that include individual and group performance, as well as differences in students' unsupported and supported performances.

Finally, we are running at odds with the urge to stay with machine-storable, single-sitting assessments for the sake of efficiency, cost, and apparent objectivity. The new assessment forms are costly and require a level of teacher judgment that we have systematically tried to circumvent. The wager is that once we internalize the costs and demands of such assessments, they will prove their worth: They will enhance student performance, they will act as a form of professional development for teachers, and they will promote renewed confidence in public schools as institutions where standards can be promulgated and pursued.


CONCLUSION

Despite a decade of educational reform leading to many statutes and considerable mandatory statewide testing in 47 states, little has changed in schools. There are stricter attendance rules, minimum grades required for participation in extracurricular activities, stricter conduct rules, longer school days, more competency testing, more homework, better teacher pay, and a longer school year. At the same time, there are no gains in reading proficiency, little improvement in mathematics, no improvement in civics, and no progress in writing skills ( Hechinger, 1990). Thus, one resounding lesson of this early wave of efforts is that regulation is not the same as deep reform.

If genuine school reform is to take root, working lasting changes in student achievement, it must reach the most fundamental constituents of education. We will have to move from a curriculum of basic skills to one that privileges thoughtfulness and values. We must develop a corps of professionally skilled teachers sensitive to the potentials of a diverse school population.

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