Aligning Visions of Student Learning With the Tools To Measure It
I actually like our district-wide benchmark math tests for 1st grade. I think they are an example of an effective measurement tool. These tests measure student learning in a very complex, deep way. There are no multiple-choice questions. Students must explain their thinking. And most importantly, these tests ask students to show what they have learned in a variety of ways. The complexity of the benchmark tests holds me accountable for making sure that I am teaching my students in a rigorous way.
While my school does support me in and encourage me to measure student learning in all the ways I have described, they ultimately measure student learning in a very narrow way: the state's standardized test. Currently, our government values standardized testing as showing mastery and therefore so do our schools. I see the tension between what kids know and how they are asked to show it in my own 1st grade classroom. I believe that when my kids read authentic literature, and can summarize, infer, and draw conclusions about the text and its characters that they are showing growth. And I believe that measure of reading comprehension is more meaningful and complex than a series of questions about a decontextualized passage.
Do we need citizens who can answer questions about a passage or citizens who can think and talk critically about text and events? If we do value the latterif that's the kind of thinking that the 21st century begsthen we are prioritizing tests that don't align to that vision. If we want schools to change the way they measure learning, we as a government and a society need to change what we value about what students know and how they show it.
Jessica Hahn has taught elementary grade children for six years in Phoenix and New York City.