Turning of the Tide
Education is always evolving; however, recently there have been some major changes that will radically shape education for the upcoming decade and potentially for generations to come.
First and foremost is the idea of changing assessment design to be more aligned with the 21st century, which is being funded and spurred on by the federal Race to the Top Grant. Ed Week did a great job of laying out what most states are considering in a recent article. In New York, where we are from, is part of the PARCC group. If we do get the funds, in two years time, our assessment plan will look much different. Next year, we would institute a more rigorous exam than what we currently have. The following year in grades 3-8, at least, we would implement a national assessement, which would be aligned to national standards. In addition to those changes, we also might adopt short performance-based assessments two or three times a year.
Another piece that would be affected is the New York State Regents at the 9-12 level. Currently, in grades 9-12 (and some accelerated 8th graders) take Regents exams at the end of the school year. The Regents exam is an end of course assessment and graduation requirement. It is a challenging exam that is in several subject areas: Science (4 different exams), Mathematics (4 different exams), ELA (1 Exam) Social Studies (2 exams) and Foreign Language (1 exam for each language NYS recognizes). Each exam is administered every year with new questions which costs tax payers millions of dollars due to the psychometrics involved. The state , however, may also be drastically cut these to ELA and Math only. This would be a radical shift for NYS and might create opportunities for curriculum change.
This change in assessment may be the canary in the coal mine that would allow us to re-examine several areas in education. We could look at 21st century skills and build them into the performance based assessment that is coming. People refer to these skills as 21st century, but what it really comes down to is assessing the higher levels of Blooms taxonomy with a dash of technology skills thrown in.
So why would this all potentially change a generation? The reasons are numerous, but the one I find most intriguing is that we would actually be able to reverse the stigma of "teaching to the test." The tests would be seen as something that proves what a child really needs to know. We would fall into line with a lot the educational theory of giving a child more than one shot at proving what they know and are able to do. Also with the performance based assessments, we can honestly say that they are just not good "bubblers" but can demonstrate content knowledge.
A great side effect as well is that we might be able to investigate other changes that need to be address in every state like the way the school year is calendered. ---Look for this to be written about more next month.
James Yap and Teresa Ivey