Do we need an assessment overhaul?

Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins suggest a different approach to measuring pupils’ progress

THE ADAGE, “What gets measured signals what is important”, rings true in education. Pupils regularly ask their teachers, “Will this be on the test?” If the answer is “No”, they are less likely to pay attention. National assessments naturally hold even greater sway. Teachers and administrators pay close attention to national assessments since their results can have high stakes consequences, not only for pupils but for schools. If something is not assessed, it can receive less emphasis in the classroom. The result is often a de facto narrowing of the curriculum, and misguided or “test prep” interventions.

What we know
● Current standardised assessments do not adequately assess many of the most valued goals of schooling.
● A better “multiple measures” approach would include content-specific tests; a series of content-specific and interdisciplinary performance tasks; and a local assessment component.
● This would help schools to test what they teach, rather than teaching to the test.

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June 2011