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 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 .

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