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What Would a More Democratic Student Assessment Look Like?

Guest blogger Bryant Muldrew shows us some possibilities for a better, qualitative student assessment system, which doesn't rely on the increasingly-discredited regime of standardized tests. Have you participated in or seen compelling alternatives in your experience? Post in the comments below! -- Greg

What would a more democratic student assessment look like?

The expectation of all parents who place their children in any school is that their children learn useful knowledge by the time of their graduation. I believe that students, principals, teachers, and other administrators share this same expectation; however, we all have a disagreement on the terms of evaluation of learning process. More specifically, I believe the most significant difference of opinion pertains to the evaluation of student academic growth.

Some believe the most accurate assessment of growth is through testing, whether it is a general classroom test or standardized testing. After eight years of teaching and tutoring in mathematics, I think there are more efficient ways to evaluate academic growth. Before I give a specific example, I must say that students should be involved in the decision of how to evaluate their development.

In my teaching with the Baltimore Algebra Project, we used presentations as a means to evaluating our students. After each mathematical concept, students were responsible for presenting their understanding in front of the class. In addition, students in the audience are required to give substantive comments and ask questions. The results of these presentations are intimate discussions of math concepts. The other benefit of this process is the teachers get to clearly see which portions of concepts their students do not completely understand. I've also seen similar evaluation processes in other subjects.

There is a secondary evaluation process we use called Exhibitions. An exhibition is a larger scale presentation that includes the entire semester's material. Exhibitions are done in the presence of teachers, parents, and administers, giving them all an opportunity to see and assess the growth of students. I must say that this process has help teachers I've worked with tailor lessons to the understanding of their students increasing their ability to learn the concepts.

Truly such a design of assessment can be to the benefit of all students. The most important part is having a process that students can agree upon is helpful. In our classes, we believe students have the right to decide how things should be in the classroom. Through a democratic process we (students and teachers) voted several times on how to assess their growth. The teachers always lost the vote to the students. Interestingly enough, our students were initially against the presentation process; however, they appreciate the process after understanding the value of experience. This is the true key to assessment; making room at the decision making table for students.

The National Student Bill of Rights embodies the idea of student driven assessment and evaluation. Educators must make room for new innovative ideas, especially when it comes to student assessment.

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