Has Assessment Destroyed the American Education System


The short answer is no, assessment is paramount to a successful teaching cycle.  When used correctly it helps to form the instructional decisions we make as educators.  The long answer is yes it has destroyed education and continues to be a prime cause of the United States sagging education system.

When I first became a teacher back in …. never mind the year.  I was given text books and thrown into the fire, I was fortunate because a teacher by the name of Diana Carlos took me under her proverbial wing and taught me that just teaching a concept to all did not tell me anything about what my students knew.  I would get a few hands raised and the cordial “yes, Mr. Segersten,” and I thought they had it.  Needless to say neither of us did.  Through the mentoring of Mrs. Carlos I realized that I needed to determine what my children did or did not understand about my lesson.  At that point I realized that I needed to “check for understanding” which was essentially assessing their knowledge on a given subject.  I would use everything from monitoring notes, exit tickets to yes the occasional “test”.  This enabled me to begin small reading and math groups to meet the needs of those not getting it as well as challenge those who had.    

As educators we have been legislated into believing that a state assessment is the most important thing.  Additionally the only way to view a teacher’s effectiveness is how well their students perform on a State Test.  A terrible result of this as our primary focus is our abysmal scores on national assessments.  There is nothing wrong with assessment for learning; I am not completely apposed to a state assessment.  In fact there is a big part of me that like some pieces of the Common Core PARCC Assessment. 

The point is that we should focus on the student and their learning of concepts.  The only way to ensure this occurs is to focus on application of learning.  Tied to real world experiences and higher order thinking skills. 

What are your thoughts on assessment in education?

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John Spencer

John Spencer is a teacher, author, speaker, and incessant doodler. He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard and the co-founder of Write About. He is passionate about helping students develop into better writers and deeper thinkers.

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2 comments:

  1. I am all for assessments that BENEFIT the student's learning. However, I teach in a state that is requiring educator's to give at least one more vendor-approved assessment/SLO in addition to the state test. Why? To determine how much I GET PAID THAT YEAR. Not "extra pay", but my salary. Nothing to do with guiding instruction for the students--just to determine if I am an effective teacher. My district has chosen to administer all three in addition to the quarterly assessments already given.
    The way I am seeing assessments being used is not only ruining education, but is also causing teachers who are passionate about what they do rethink their career choice.

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  2. YES, even if everyone denies it, teachers are expected to teach to the tests. What does one think pre- tests, quarterly assessments, state mandated assessments, and post- tests are. We are teaching our children how to take tests.
    Every good parent knows that children are works in progress, they mature at different rates, have different interests, talents, and capabilities.
    When was the last time you judged a meal by just looking at the raw ingredients and the recipe. Most people wait for the meal to be prepared before passing judgement.
    Of course we need to assess our children learning, but it is completely out of hand with testing companies raking in BILLIONS and of course lobbying for more.
    As a professional Artist and retired Art teacher I can' t begin to tell the damage the new standardized Art assessments will have.
    Most teachers can tell a parent how well their child understands a subject without the standardized test.
    My, oh my, however did we learn anything in our school days?

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