In my work for the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), I have argued in a briefing paper (The Rise of Standards and the Need for Assessment Models in the Arts; A Briefing paper written for TCG’s TEAM meeting on May 9-10, 2006), that when standards are involved, the need for better assessments is paramount. In fact the quality of standards depends on the accountability provided by assessments. In this particular paper, I wrote that, in 1994, the second discipline to join the standards movement after Math was the Arts. The Consortium of National Arts Education Associations realized that:
There are few education systems around the world that are fine examples of the new way we want to reform the American Education system. The argument against using these examples being used in America is that they work with homogeneous populations and we work with heterogeneous populations. Although diversity of students is something to embrace here in America, it wouldn’t hurt us one bit to look for a more unified system of education based on trust, support and development instead of distrust and administrative control…
When parents and educators talk about their children/students, there is a commonly held understanding of the type of smarts they are talking about that loosely combines brain power with demonstration of brain power in school. For example, “Susan is so smart because she reads the assignment and then writes a great summary of the passage.”
However, when you ask teachers and parents for a more precise definition, the conversation breaks down, as the description of brain power and the description of demonstration of that brain power become particular to their conversations. For educators this break down in commonly understood definitions of smart students is observable but harder to measure in classrooms. Educators need a more nuanced, cause and effect definition that includes “students demonstrating their smarts.” Researchers need even a more nuanced, and really a more valid and reliable way to collect “evidence of student learning.”
Asking for Better Evidence of Student Learning
The theme that continues to come up across world education conferences is the need for more accurate ways to assess student skills. There are skills that current tests measure reasonably well and yet and there are emerging skills and knowledge that are not being well measured. New Common Core curricula will demand more precise assessments that ask for better evidence of student learning.
Common Core Reform
The Common Core Reform is this era’s major, country-wide, K-12 school reform effort. It has been underway for some number of years and is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA). It represents another installment of a standards-based education reform. These standards-based reforms started in the 1990’s as the Accountability Movement and have been codified in legislation through the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
Even before the earthquake, In 2009, Hope for Haiti built a five classroom school for the community of Grand Sable. The new Ecole du St. Espirit provides free education to 150 impoverished children. Although the new school has increased enrollment by nearly fivefold, over 100 children were not able to attend the school once it reached full capacity. In order to provide an education to these children an additional five classrooms will be added to the school accommodating 300 children in total. Support a child’s education by contributing to Hope for Haiti!. The SchoolWorks Lab invented EduCrate to help countries like Haiti. We are a mission-driven, caring organization whose primary concern is restoring education hope. We want to get educationally displaced children back into safe, comfortable, and appropriate learning environments – as quickly as possible, and we are ready to partner with organizations around the world to accomplish this goal.
Jesús is a third grade student in Bronx, NY. Jesús is quiet, lives with 10 brothers and sisters in two rooms and does not do well on his first standardized tests in an American elementary school. His school teacher vies for his attention and over the course of a year convinces him that he is smart. This teacher’s assessment launches Jesús on an upward trajectory of learning by alerting his mind to its own naturally developing powers. These powers are a quantum leap above the rote-memorizing and mind-numbing low-level of standardized, pre-packaged and teacher-proof curriculum he has encountered.
“I think all children are incredible learners,” says Rob Southworth, inventor of the portable classroom called EduCrate. “I have dedicated my life’s work to helping create circumstances where children can learn. When we create or restore learning environments that support success for every student, we are harnessing the power of learning to improve our world. EduCrate is one way that we can help make this possible for every child, in any circumstance. We must give them the power to learn and the power to make our world a better place.” (February 13, 2007).