Saturday, June 1, 2013

A thought about testing...

Luckily, we don't see these in kindergartens...yet

I have now come (almost) to the end of the final assessments of the kindergarten year. It takes a good deal of time to carry out these assessments—time I could more usefully spend teaching and learning with & from the students.

There's a strong tendency to use assessments to reduce student learning into numbers, you know, 93% is an A and so on. (My own schooling was full of such "measurements." I played that game well enough to get my fair share of A's. I even convinced myself that I had learned a lot and accomplished something important in classes where I was given an "A" grade. Now I know I was kidding myself.)

At this point in my teaching career I've taught long enough to know the folly of using numbers (or letters) to measure student learning. Learning is not something that can be captured by numbers. For example, does it make any sense at all to say, "I've gotten better at playing the ukulele. I used to be a 43 player, but now I'm a 65 player?" Of course not.

The best person to evaluate learning is the learner him or herself. This is why the kindergarten report card asks at least a few questions that the learner answers, like the question about what Toolbox tools are most useful to the learner.

I came across a quotation attributed to Albert Einstein today that I think aptly applies to the efforts afoot these days to measure student learning, teachers, and schools:

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."

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