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Assessing the Assessment

The requirements of No Child Left Behind have placed an even greater emphasis on standardized testing in recent years. These high-stakes assessments have value, but there is more we can and should do for our students when it comes to assessment. National assessment expert Dr. Rick Stiggins was recently in DuPage County to talk about testing. He worked with a large team of educators to serve as leaders in the development of sound assessment practices for the classroom. He also presented at a day-long Administrator Academy and spoke at a breakfast attended by district superintendents, business leaders and legislators. Senators Carole Pankau and Dan Cronin and Representative Paul Froehlich were on hand to hear Dr. Stiggins presentation. Mary Beth Marshall of the DuPage Workforce Board said, This message has huge implications for the world of work. We are looking for employees who are willing to learn and take on the responsibility for learning. Getting our legislators, business leaders and education experts together to have a conversation about the importance and value of assessment is a big step toward infusing assessment literacy into this county, said Regional Superintendent Dr. Darlene Ruscitti. Im gratified to see how each of these groups is embracing this concept. We want DuPage County to help lead the way toward assessment practices that have an impact on the continued learning and success of our students. Click here for a brief summary of Dr. Stiggins presentation. According to Dr. Stiggins, our current assessment practices are designed to place students on a continuum. They separate those who are meeting standards from those who are not. All students must meet standards for our society to evolve productively. Assessment in its current form sustains this gap, but assessment used properly can be a powerful narrower of the gap. State-wide standardized testing has its place. But, Dr. Stiggins asserts that the true power of assessment comes in balancing state-wide with district-wide and classroom measures. Assessments at the local level are what need to be used to support continued learning. Testing must be much more than a verification of learning; it must the next step of the learning process. Districts need to begin with clear learning targets that are explained in a way that students and their parents can understand. When teachers and students have a

clear understanding of the targets, it is much easier to achieve them. This clarity promotes hope for the learner. If assessment of a target only shows a student that he hasnt achieved, his likely response is to give up. Classroom assessment needs to provide descriptive feedback that shows a student how far he has come and what he needs to do to improve. Success motivates all students. If all students are to meet standards, they must believe they can. A students emotional reaction to results will determine what they will do in response. If they dont understand the assessment results and have no idea what to do next, they are likely to give up. If they understand the results and know what to do next, they will choose to keep trying. The next step in this process is to train teachers how to develop assessments that deliver these essential elements. Current teacher education programs offer little in the development of assessments. Through the Regional Office of Education, Dr. Stiggins is preparing a large team of educators around the county to serve as leaders in the development of sound assessment practices for the classroom. Our job is not done until all students have achieved. Our assessments are a powerful tool that, when used for learning, can help all students be successful.