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7 Principles to Shift the Pendulum on Testing

November 12, 2014 | By | 3 Comments

PendulumThis NY Times article on testing pushback joins the growing litany of reports spotlighting parents’ dissatisfaction with tests. Conversations on testing have become more complicated because schools are scrambling to implement improved assessments aligned with new curriculum standards. Opposition to testing is now conflated with pushback on common core state standards.

The dominant thinking among education reformers is that testing pushback stems from faulty communication. “We just haven’t communicated the value of these assessments effectively. If parents understood how important tests are for improving schools, closing achievement gaps, and creating better teaching and learning, we wouldn’t have this opposition!” The problem must be a lack of understanding and so the solution is a better public relations campaign.

In fact, the PR approach is failing, and no amount of yelling “This is good for you!” is going to shift opinions on testing. Schools must go beyond explaining the purpose of tests, and focus on how parents and students can use testing and education data to understand and take ownership of their learning paths. Parents need to see testing as something that is done with them and not to them.

Making this shift will require evolutions in school technology, systems, and culture. To begin this evolution, schools should commit to these 7 Principles to Shift the Pendulum on Testing:

  1. Clearly explain the value of each test to students and parents before it is administered.
  2. Provide test results to students and parents in a timely manner and in a way that they can understand.
  3. Provide ongoing support to students and parents to help them use test results to advance future learning.
  4. Provide opportunities to students and their parents to contribute information to student records that goes beyond test results, including information on student interests, goals, accomplishments, social and emotional learning, and learning that happens during out-of-school time.
  5. Use testing and data to expand opportunities and raise expectations for students, not to limit opportunities or lower expectations.
  6. Provide ways for students and their parents to securely store, access, and share their education data with other schools, organizations, and individuals.
  7. Engage students and their parents in ongoing conversations and decision-making about testing and data use.

At Span Learning we are focused on these seven principles, and their intersection with digital learning and collaborative technology. Our discussions with the teams at the Data Quality Campaign and StriveTogether are an important influence on our thinking and work.

Do you know examples of schools collaborating with students and parents through testing and data? Where are students using test results to own and plan their future learning? Share your feedback with us in the comments or here.

Note: A parallel set of problems, failed responses, and solutions apply to pushback on common core—not to be solved unless/until parents and students are using curriculum standards as a tool to understand and advance their learning paths.