Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Assessment for the Common Core

First and foremost, Common Core is neither a curriculum nor an assessment. Teachers and schools decide what they teach, and how, and when (curriculum), and the decide how to measure the effectiveness of these decisions (assessment).

(The sad reality is that both are too often delegated to publishers, and so teachers and schools become merely delivery vectors, but that is another subject.)

Assessing Common Core requires two things: an assessment philosophy and tasks which suit the standards. Unfortunately, assessment (a learning tool) is often replaced by evaluation (a learning judgment).

Assessment should consist of multiple tasks performed repeatedly over a period of time. By this I mean, using my 1 - 100 example standard, assessment occurs when a teacher considers whether a student can count 1 - 100 and so is ready to move on to 1 - 1000, or to addition and subtraction, or to times tables, and so on. Considering whether a student can count 1 - 10 and 21 - 100 but struggles 11 - 10 and so requires further and different practice is assessment. Considering whether a student can count 1 - 100 but not 100 - 1 is assessment. Teachers should perform multiple assessments of every student every lesson.

An evaluation by contrast is a single assessment designed to produce a single result, such as Pass / Fail or A - D or a percentage. Evaluations are useful such as for student and class rankings, or as school-leaving examinations like the AP or IB. However, single evaluations should never replace multiple assessments and they do not provide the information necessary for a teacher properly to plan teaching and learning. When NCLB effected this, we saw the entirely predictable result.

As Common Core is no more than a set of standards, any activity which leads to or practices a standard also provides an assessment. My exemplar lesson plans contain perhaps 100 activities. Each activity shows the teacher whether the student has achieved the standard consistently, or intermittently, or partially, or not at all.

In other words, a standard-based lesson plan in and of itself must provide teaching and learning feedback, and any one can be used to provide an evaluation. This is Common Core assessment. The teacher-planned activities to work towards and/or to achieve a standard, not the standard itself. Note that Common Core does not defined these activities.

Oh, and the best form of feedback? I believe the feedback should provide two results only: meets or exceeds the standard and so is ready to move to the next or does not yet meet the standard and so requires more practice, and the "yet" is critical. It is in fact exactly the same as the driving test.

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