Tuesday, March 22, 2016

OSOS Brings Authentic Assessment Discussion to Salem



Last Tuesday, Oregon Save Our Schools brought a discussion on what our schools would look like with assessment for learning to Salem Public Library. Our panel included Lew Frederick, who is currently running for Oregon Senate District 22;  Elizabeth Thiel, Portland parent and teacher newly elected vice president of Portland Association of Teachers; Yong Zhao, Presidential Chair and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education and Professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy, and Leadership at University of Oregon; and Rick Stiggins founder and president (retired) of the Assessment Training Institute in Portland as well as a researcher on classroom assessment and author of many books on that subject. 

The four panelists spoke about the flaws in our current assessment system, specifically the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which all agreed is a flawed measurement. Frederick talked about the history of standardized testing as a gatekeeping mechanism used to exclude people of color. Thiel told the audience that the Smarter Balanced Assessment yields no useful information to her as either a teacher or a parent in understanding where a child’s strengths and weaknesses lie and how to help them. Yong Zhao discussed the false meritocracy that the tests support, wherein students who are from higher socioeconomic backgrounds do better on the tests than students from poverty, thus rationalizing maintenance of the status quo and causing an under valuing everything, including the Arts and Music, in favor of high scores in English Language Arts and Math. Stiggins stated that he is still waiting to see any empirical evidence in the form of peer reviewed, replicated studies, that prove that high stakes standardized testing used for strict accountability does anything to improve teaching and learning. He also questioned where the attitude of or effect on the learner in relation to our current system has been taken into account.

The audience had many questions regarding assessment systems, so many that there was not enough time for all of them to be answered. 

All panelists spoke of the opportunity to change our current system under the new ESSA and the importance of involving students, parents, and teachers in that discussion. Lew Frederick mentioned how very important it is for citizens to make their views on education known to their representatives and to stay abreast of and involved in the ongoing political discussions and decisions about education.

Oregon Save Our Schools thanks all of our panelists for helping bring this important discussion to a wider audience. We hope that our audience members will continue to seek answers to their questions about education and assessment and we hope all Oregonians heed the advice of our panelists: stay involved in and informed about what is happening in education, and keep in touch with your state and federal representatives, especially while the new rules for ESSA are being rolled out. We have an opportunity to create a better system. Let’s all get involved and do it! 



Read more here from the Salem Statesman Journal

Photo credit Tim McFarland, Salem Keizer Education Association 

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