Long ago (1999) I wrote my dissertation on Teacher Opinion of Student Assessment. In a survey of 253 K-12 public school teachers in New York State, performance assessments such as science experiments, portfolios, qualitative questioning, exhibitions, experiential learning, hands-on learning, debates, and in-person demonstrations of what students know and can do, teachers agreed that performance assessments would deliver more instructional benefits than standardized tests.
Teacher of the Year
One of the features of Performance Assessments is their ability to reveal student learning in a way that is more accurate of the student process. Working outside classrooms for example, building a garden around a school, is a common way that students are able to gain learning through hands-on experiences and that reveals to the teacher where each student is along their process of learning. When students are unable to plant, it shows us right away, and teachers are able to help guide each student more accurately to a successful learning moment around planting. As Juliana Urtubey—our teacher of the year—shows us so well, planting gardens can be great instruction for students while connecting the school with the community:
Juliana Urtubey, NBCT, a first-generation, bilingual immigrant, loved school. Drawn to teaching through a high school teacher leadership academy, she knew it would be important to be a bilingual teacher. Now the 2021 National Teacher of the Year, Juliana works to serve as a mirror for her school community, helping students to be proud of their identities and their families, and to acknowledge their strengths and contributions to the community.
Juliana, currently in her 11th year in the classroom, teaches at Kermit R. Booker, Sr. Innovative Elementary School in Las Vegas, where she serves as a co-teacher in pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade special education settings and as an instructional strategist developing supports to meet students’ differing academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs.
Known as “Ms. Earth” for her efforts to beautify schools and unify the community through murals and gardens, Urtubey has helped raise funds for garden programs at two Las Vegas schools. In one program, the garden was tended to by the student “Garden Gnomies” club and offered opportunities for innovative student learning and intergenerational learning and connections to the wider community, who could purchase produce on an as-able donation basis or with volunteer hours.—TEACHER OF THE YEAR
Moving Toward Assessment That Better Serves Teaching
We want to support teachers who connect their student’s learning to community. This example might be criticized for taking students away from the classroom, but I would argue that it is at the heart of why this teacher has been recognized as teacher of the year. Her garden curriculum shows students the connection between school and community and works on so many levels to grow the garden, strengthen student learning, and provide a real-world performance assessment opportunity for students to show what they know and can do by any standards. Standardized testing tend to not capture this type of curriculum and so has become less useful to teachers because it lacks instructional effectiveness. Teachers need assessments that help them measure student growth over time, and performance assessments like this one can deliver this more accurately than a standardized test.
Southworth, J. R. A. (1999). EVIDENCE OF STUDENT LEARNING AND IMPLICATIONS FOR ALTERNATIVE POLICIES THAT SUPPORT INSTRUCTIONAL USE OF ASSESSMENT: A SURVEY OF TEACHER OPINION AND REPORTED PRACTICE CONCERNING THE USE OF STUDENT ASSESSMENT (Vol. https://www.proquest.com/docview/304501443). Ann Arbor, MI: Bell and Howell.