A parent received a letter from faculty that accompanied her son Charlie’s standardized test scores. The letter moved the parent, Alison Owen, so much she took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook. The post immediately went viral. Even the folks in the Twitterverse caught wind of the letter and began commenting, the letter went viral on Twitter as well.
What moved people so much in the letter?
“…we are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you the way your teachers do, the way I hope to and certainly not the way your families do.”
The letter goes on and makes a direct case that the school faculty see each student in a different light:
“They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your best…the scores will tell you something but they will not tell you everything. So enjoy your results and be very proud of these but remember there are many ways of being smart.”
The letter strikes a cord in so many because of the regard for students (like Charlie shown above) as fellow human beings who possess individuality, dignity, and intelligence. But to make the message profound, there needs to exist a profoundly bad entity. The test makers wear the black hats according to the faculty of Barrowford Primary School. When the faculty wrote “They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your best.” The “they” in the previous sentence refers to test makers.
In an era of High Stakes Assessment it would seem students have only one role, to score well on tests. Such a role reduces students from people to just a number. And who wants their child, brother, sister, neighborhood kid that cuts your grass, to lose their uniqueness and value as a person?
And yet assessment and measurement form the cornerstone of any scientific procedure geared towards understanding subject matter. Clearly, in chemistry and physics scientists must impartially, but systematically measure particles, energy, and motion. When it comes to education, however, the science of measurement shifts to organisms who smile, cry, occasionally have accidents, and tell jokes. What to do?
The answer, collect data intelligently, individually, with the goal of meaningful performance improvement. Let’s look at the difference between a one time high stakes achievement test and an agile, learner focused system like Chartlytics:
Looking at the picture of Charlie above or thinking of any learner you know clearly reinforces one point: everyone deserves an insightful data monitoring/assessment/problem solving system focused on past, present. and future performance. Chartlytics offers metrics and analytics including growth milestones, positive learning achievements, learning struggles, attempts and solutions that remedy learning struggles, and the analysis of individually customized programs and interventions.
A nuanced approach to testing warrants we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. By examining what necessary function high stakes assessment possess, and how they may benefit students, parents, teachers, administrators, and society at large, a better system may emerge. But for the here and now, enriching and deepening public education, focusing on learning and performance excellence, all learners can win with a system rooted in the science of individual measurement.