In the past two weeks, we have been discussing eight K-12 major educational issues related to instructional leadership at the macro level. The issues are: Alternative Assessment, Control of the US Department of Education on the Local Department of Education, What Does It Mean for Schools to be Placed on “Alert” Status?, Georgia and Value Added Measurement, Year Round Schools in Georgia and US in General: What Does the Research Says?, How Credible are the SLOs? Issues of Validity and Reliability, SLOs and Multiple Teacher: Who is Held Accountable?, and the CCRPI. In this reflection, due to a multitude of topic covered, I will only touch on one issue that stood out to me personally, the Alternative Testing issue. I will discuss on how I see this issue impacting me in my capacity as an instructional leader. In addition, I will offer my observations on how I may grow as an instructional leader while tackling this issue.
In the past decade, American schools have seen an increase in student assessment especially those in the form of multiple choice. This was brought about due mainly to the introduction of accountability measures after the introduction of the No Child Left Behind legislation in 2002 (Popham, 2010). However, currently there is a push to reduce the impact of high stakes tests on students and school resources (Ravitch, 2009). Popham argues that, one, multiple choice tests can only assess basic understanding and recall of information and therefore have no value in improving learning especially critical thinking and problem solving skills and two, schools spend a tremendous amount of money to conduct these tests, with money that could be used to otherwise improve learning in schools (Popham, 2010; Ravitch, 2009).
In response to the calls for alternative assessment in schools, many states have come up with some alternative to multiple choice tests. For example, the state of Georgia is introducing the milestone test this year. This test is considered to be much better than the previous ones as it offers students the opportunity to express their understanding of learned information through writing. However, in our discussion we found out that the majority of the test questions are in filling in the bubble format with a few open ended questions at the end. In addition, we also found out that at the elementary level, these tests will be offered on the computer while the majority of elementary students have no training in keyboarding skills and are still struggling with spelling. In my views this is an impending disaster. How can you test students in a platform that they have little to no knowledge of? This is something very dear to me as I have a daughter in an elementary school. My wife and I have been discussing this issue a lot lately. We are planning to hire someone to teach our daughter keyboarding skills so that she can be successful in these tests. However, I ask myself: Is this really necessary? What about those who may not be able to hire someone to teach their kids keyboarding skills? Should their kids fail? These are some of the questions I have been asking myself lately. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.
As an instructional leader, I feel like this kind of planning at the macro level with little or no input from the school level and especially inputs from teachers is troublesome. If teachers were asked to offer their opinion on the impact of administering a computerized test that requires actual written responses to elementary grade students lacking formal training in keyboarding, I am sure this could be avoided. Maybe the time has come to start listening to teachers before policies of this magnitude gets implemented. Perhaps, we need to stop blaming the teachers for all the woes in education as they knows a thing or two about teaching and learning. Let us use their expertise in teaching and learning to create programs and policies that will improve student learning. After all, teacher spend more time with our kids on a daily basis. Teachers knows our kids possibly more than we do especially when it comes to learning.
I am glad that the milestones will at least include some open ended questions. However, the number of multiple choice questions in these teste are still too high in my views. As an instructional leader, I would like to see a major shift in assessment, from merely testing for recall type of knowledge such as multiple choice questions are capable of, to more alternative types of assessment such as portfolios, performance based assessment, writing components and rubrics (Popham, 2010). I believe that if the ultimate goal of education is to develop students who can think deeper, problem solve, and think critically regarding their roles in society, then, we need assessments that reflect this type of knowing(Ravitch, 2009).
To help make a shift from excessive multiple choice testing format tests, I believe it is my responsibility as an Instructional Leader to share with colleague the research on the current climate of testing and how it is negatively impacting students learning and school resource allocation. The truth is that, America still leads the world on per child expenditure in education. The fact that most of this money is spent on testing is wrong. In my humble opinion, more money should be spend in things that matter most for student learning: teacher salaries, new books, balanced education, technology infusion, and so forth.
In my capacity as an instructional leader, I will work tirelessly to influence those around me on better ways to assess student learning including alternative means such those we discussed in class. I believe that with the amount of knowledge I have acquired in the past two years, I should be able to influence the micro level decisions on testing at my school. In addition, as a parent I have the obligation to discuss these issues with my fellow parents and hopefully together we will be able to voice our opinion on this issue to school administrators at our schools, the district, and the state levels. With a sustained engagement of this kind, I am sure we will see a shift in this testing regime to more nuanced types of assessments. I see myself growing further as an educational leader on this issue, through advocacy.
Popham, J. (2010). Everything school leaders needs to know about assessment. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Company.
Ravitch, D. (2009). Time to ‘kill No Child Left Behind’. Educational Week, 28(33), 30-36.