Since the Nation At Risk report was presented to the American public
in 1983, there has been a combination of increasing demands for accountability
and the desire to measure a variety of complex educational outcomes in
elementary and secondary schools.
State standards, national standards, natural assessment, performance
assessment, authentic assessment, evaluation, standardized tests, norm-referenced
tests, and out comes based education are just a few of the euphemisms that
swirl around educators as they address the intricacies of school transformation
While many voices call for a variety of changes in education, the primary
challenges have been deciding what it is students should know and be able
to do and how should schools accurately assess what students know and are
able to do. If national, state, and/or local standards are to survive,
there must be a way to assess student performance.
A case in point is the Iowa effort to develop outcomes. Iowa is now
reconsidering its outcomes based education initiative after nearly two
years of study and development. While there were many reasons for this
decision, one of the major factors in designing new direction for the state
was that the "initiative left many to assume that the out comes were too
broad for appropriate testing or that such testing would be inappropriately
value-laden" (William Lepley, personal communication to State Board and
Educators in Iowa, May 5, 1993).
The State Board of Education and the Iowa Department of Education accepted
leadership for improving the performance of Iowa's students. To this end
the Board and Department engaged in specific steps including: (a) allocation
of resources to the development of assessment measures; (b) providing support
necessary for schools to implement local policies related to standards,
assessment, technology, and community-based planning processes; and (c)
recognition of new measures of performance such as performance examinations
and portfolio assessment (Lepley, 1993).
As the school transformation efforts in Iowa and across the nation intensify,
there is a need for a new philosophy of assessment that never loses sight
of the student (Wiggins, 1989). As noted by LaMahieu, Eresh, and Wallace
(1992), there must be:
. . . a better match between assessment content and form on
the one hand and desired classroom events on the other. The argument goes
that if efforts at school reforms are to take root and effect lasting change,
traditional forms of testing will have to yield to models of assessment
that can be subsumed genuinely as an integral part of the learning process.
This is not to suggest that student testing as we know it will become extinct
but it will have to be determined how it plays a more direct role in the
Further, the interest in student assessment has been fueled by accountability
issues. There is a critical need for student performance data to be organized
in such a way that it can be communicated to and comprehended by students,
teachers, parents, and the community. ,To do anything less will erode support
for education and short change student learning.
While these issues surrounding student assessment grow increasingly
more challenging for educators, there is not widespread understanding about
how they should be addressed. A recent survey jointly sponsored by the
American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Association
of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the National Association of Secondary
School Principals (NASSP), and the National Council on Measurement in Education
revealed a lack of confidence among school administrators about their own
knowledge and skills in designing assessments and using assessment data
to make decisions about students (AASA, 1993).
In an effort to assist PK-12 educators, teacher preparation faculty,
and Department of Education leaders in initiating dialogue, building understanding,
and resolving critical issues, 37 lowa PK-12 administrators and teachers,
college/university faculty members, intermediate education agency specialists
and research consultants were invited to the University of Northern lowa
campus. Individuals were selected based upon their keen interest in PK-12
student assessment, their skills as communicators, and their enthusiasm
for exploring the challenges facing student assessment in the interactive
environment characteristic of the working conference format.
Each conference participate selected 1 of 5 issue areas for indepth
- Performance-based, authentic assessment, and normative assessment: What
are the issues?
- Use of technology in assessment, monitoring, and reporting: What are
the implications of total learning management systems for classrooms and
- The impact of various assessment models on students, schools, and college
- Assessing readiness of students to start school: How do we know when
kids are ready to learn in a school setting?
- Improving accountability to the public: Can it be done? What are the
implications and potential abuses?
Each participant prioritized issue areas and was invited to write a
position paper on the area of greatest interest. Papers were submitted
prior to the conference, copied and sent to participants in the same issue
area. This monograph is a compilation of the position paper in each issue
area as well as the consensus reports developed by the five groups during
the three day conference and written by each group's facilitator. Because
time c onstraints prevented development of a conference report, these papers
represent the views of the participants within each issue area and are
not necessarily shared by all conference participants. While the reader
is encouraged to read the entire monograph to gain detail and understanding,
the following recommendations are presented to highlight the conference
Performance based, Authentic and Normative Assessment
Use of Technology in Assessment, Monitoring and Reporting
- To create quality student assessments which produce useful
information: (a) arrive at a mutual understanding of quality, (b) establish
what you want students to know and be able to do, and (c) establish
criteria and standards for reliability and validity.
- To make appropriate assessment to the intended purpose: (a) consider,
use, and select tests and assessments for evaluative purposes; and (b)
consider, use, and select tests for clinical purposes.
- To assure that participants in the educational process recognize
the dynamics of education including integration of instructional strategies,
learning strategies, student resources, and assessment: (a)
develop and articulate a framework for an integrated approach to the educational
process; (b) select and design appropriate models to achieve
integration; and (c) provide scaffolding for change using workshops, peer
coaching, and internalnetworks.
- To achieve a common understanding of terms and concepts relative
to student assessment: (a) create forums for on-going discussion so that everyone at the local level understands the meaning
of the terms and concepts used; and (b) work to extend forums to synthesize
varying points of view that are expressed by authors/researchers.
The Impact of Various Assessment Models on Students, Educators/Schools,
and the Colleges/Workplace.
- To fully utilize a comprehensive technology-based assessment
system which defines student achievement as an on-going, formative process
which results in increased student learning: make assessment
judgments at the classroom, departmental, building, and district levels;
develop an internal method for measuring student achievement based on
the taught curriculum; provide relevant assessment data to teachers and
assist them in making better decisions to guide student learning; give
students specific and immediate feedback that allows them to monitor their
own progress; and equip parents to assist in the educational process by
increasing their knowledge of their child's progress.
- To implement the comprehensive technology-based assessment system:
involve the community in making a philosophical commitment to the use of technology and financial support of the system;
reevaluate and redistribute the use of time in order to assimilate the
system; incorporate comprehensive staff development programs involving
readiness, training, implementation strategies, and maintenance for the
system; and reach agreement on ethical issues regarding confidentiality
and decisions about the use of student progress data.
Assessing Readiness of Students to Start School
- Communicate that assessment is a part of the curriculum
not separate from it.
- Ensure the development of well-rounded children and adults by placing
student needs at the apex of all decision-making.
- Provide a model environment where students see adults (teachers
and support staff) excited about learning and enjoying their vocations.
- Create a learning environment in which all audiences have knowledge
of the change process.
- Promote dialogue relative to student assessment between the academic
community and those outside of the community.
Improving Accountability to the Public
- Eliminate the use of assessment as a screen which impacts
the entry of students into school.
- Design an holistic state model for use in assessing the status of
children in their development, i.e., education, social and health.
- Provide specific training in developmentally appropriate practices
including assessment for: pre-service teachers, all building level practitioners, families and responsible caregivers, central office
administration, and boards of education.
- Consistently, constantly, and consummately infuse within the community
the symbols of valid assessment encapsulated within terms such as holistic, inclusive, and developmentally appropriate.
The challenge for all educators is to develop an assessment system that
effectively, efficiently, and fairly determines what students know and
are able to do. The feedback from such a system must enhance the teaching
and learning processes to stimulate further learning.
- To help society recognize its responsibility for being an
educated populace: take the initiative to build the commitment of the community
for being involved in and accountable for educating learners.
- To insure that information is interpreted within the context of
the school and external community: (a) develop a balance among the many
purposes of data collection; (b) ensure that important areas
of mutual accountability receive attention in the collection and reporting
process; (c) select and develop student assessments that reflect curriculum
and use them to improve teaching and learning; (d) consider issues of equity,
efficiency and effectiveness in accountability efforts; (e) integrate
all appropriate school and community data for reporting and planning; and
(f) format data reports to encourage usage that will guide improvement.
- To ensure that information used for documentation includes indicators
of student learning and achievement: (a) select and develop student assessments to inform and support the teaching and
learning process; (b) establish congruence between each need and its method
of data collection; (c) systematically use multiple, reliable and valid
data sources to obtain accurate information relevant to student outcomes;
(d) design an efficient and effective longitudinal data collection, analysis,
and reporting system; and (e) interpret and report data within the context
of the local and external community.
- To ensure the commitment and active involvement of all stakeholders
in two way communication essential for accountability: (a) initiate activities
for identifying and involving internal and external
stakeholders; (b) write and edit communications to be honest, non-patronizing,
and clear; (c) elicit reciprocal stakeholder communication that focuses
on improvement, not assigning blames; (d) design and implement a plan for
pre-service and inservice staff; (e) develop and implement a plan
for reciprocal education among all stakeholders; and (f) exchange information
through print and other media.
- American Association of School Administrators (AASA). (1993, April). Assessment issues baffle. AASA Leadership News, pp. 2-3.
- Biemer, L. (1993). Authentic assessment. Educational Leadership,
- LaMahieu, P., Eresh, J., & Wallace, R. (1992, December). Using
student portfolios for public accounting. The School Administrator,
- Lepley, W. (1993, Summer). From the director. Iowa Department
of Education Dispatch, 22(3), 2.
- Wiggins, G. (1989). A true test: Toward more authentic and
equitable assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 70(9), 10-20
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