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Monograph Series Volume IV, Number 2

Executive Summary

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Issue Area One: Performance Based, Authentic Assessment, and Normative Assessment What are the Issues?

Issue Area Two: Use of Technology in Assessment, Monitoring and Reporting: What are the Implications of Total Learning Management Systems for Classrooms and School Districts?

Issue Area Three: Impact of Various Assessment Models on Students, Schools and College Entrance

Issue Area Four: Assessing Readiness of Students to Start School: How Do We Know When Kids are Ready to Learn in a School Setting?

Issue Area Five: Improving Accountability to the Public: Can It Be Done? What are the Implications? Potential Abuses?

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Executive Summary
Dave Else

Since the Nation At Risk report was presented to the American public in 1983, there has been a combination of increasing demands for accountability and the desire to measure a variety of complex educational outcomes in elementary and secondary schools.

State standards, national standards, natural assessment, performance assessment, authentic assessment, evaluation, standardized tests, norm-referenced tests, and out comes based education are just a few of the euphemisms that swirl around educators as they address the intricacies of school transformation (Biemer, 1993).

While many voices call for a variety of changes in education, the primary challenges have been deciding what it is students should know and be able to do and how should schools accurately assess what students know and are able to do. If national, state, and/or local standards are to survive, there must be a way to assess student performance.

A case in point is the Iowa effort to develop outcomes. Iowa is now reconsidering its outcomes based education initiative after nearly two years of study and development. While there were many reasons for this decision, one of the major factors in designing new direction for the state was that the "initiative left many to assume that the out comes were too broad for appropriate testing or that such testing would be inappropriately value-laden" (William Lepley, personal communication to State Board and Educators in Iowa, May 5, 1993).

The State Board of Education and the Iowa Department of Education accepted leadership for improving the performance of Iowa's students. To this end the Board and Department engaged in specific steps including: (a) allocation of resources to the development of assessment measures; (b) providing support necessary for schools to implement local policies related to standards, assessment, technology, and community-based planning processes; and (c) recognition of new measures of performance such as performance examinations and portfolio assessment (Lepley, 1993).

As the school transformation efforts in Iowa and across the nation intensify, there is a need for a new philosophy of assessment that never loses sight of the student (Wiggins, 1989). As noted by LaMahieu, Eresh, and Wallace (1992), there must be:

. . . a better match between assessment content and form on the one hand and desired classroom events on the other. The argument goes that if efforts at school reforms are to take root and effect lasting change, traditional forms of testing will have to yield to models of assessment that can be subsumed genuinely as an integral part of the learning process. (pp. 8-9)
This is not to suggest that student testing as we know it will become extinct but it will have to be determined how it plays a more direct role in the learning process.

Further, the interest in student assessment has been fueled by accountability issues. There is a critical need for student performance data to be organized in such a way that it can be communicated to and comprehended by students, teachers, parents, and the community. ,To do anything less will erode support for education and short change student learning.

While these issues surrounding student assessment grow increasingly more challenging for educators, there is not widespread understanding about how they should be addressed. A recent survey jointly sponsored by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and the National Council on Measurement in Education revealed a lack of confidence among school administrators about their own knowledge and skills in designing assessments and using assessment data to make decisions about students (AASA, 1993).

In an effort to assist PK-12 educators, teacher preparation faculty, and Department of Education leaders in initiating dialogue, building understanding, and resolving critical issues, 37 lowa PK-12 administrators and teachers, college/university faculty members, intermediate education agency specialists and research consultants were invited to the University of Northern lowa campus. Individuals were selected based upon their keen interest in PK-12 student assessment, their skills as communicators, and their enthusiasm for exploring the challenges facing student assessment in the interactive environment characteristic of the working conference format.

Each conference participate selected 1 of 5 issue areas for indepth discussion:

  1. Performance-based, authentic assessment, and normative assessment: What are the issues?
  2. Use of technology in assessment, monitoring, and reporting: What are the implications of total learning management systems for classrooms and school districts?
  3. The impact of various assessment models on students, schools, and college entrance.
  4. Assessing readiness of students to start school: How do we know when kids are ready to learn in a school setting?
  5. Improving accountability to the public: Can it be done? What are the implications and potential abuses?

Each participant prioritized issue areas and was invited to write a position paper on the area of greatest interest. Papers were submitted prior to the conference, copied and sent to participants in the same issue area. This monograph is a compilation of the position paper in each issue area as well as the consensus reports developed by the five groups during the three day conference and written by each group's facilitator. Because time c onstraints prevented development of a conference report, these papers represent the views of the participants within each issue area and are not necessarily shared by all conference participants. While the reader is encouraged to read the entire monograph to gain detail and understanding, the following recommendations are presented to highlight the conference outcomes.

Performance based, Authentic and Normative Assessment

  1. To create quality student assessments which produce useful information: (a) arrive at a mutual understanding of quality, (b) establish what you want students to know and be able to do, and (c) establish criteria and standards for reliability and validity.
  2. To make appropriate assessment to the intended purpose: (a) consider, use, and select tests and assessments for evaluative purposes; and (b) consider, use, and select tests for clinical purposes.
  3. To assure that participants in the educational process recognize the dynamics of education including integration of instructional strategies, learning strategies, student resources, and assessment: (a) develop and articulate a framework for an integrated approach to the educational process; (b) select and design appropriate models to achieve integration; and (c) provide scaffolding for change using workshops, peer coaching, and internalnetworks.
  4. To achieve a common understanding of terms and concepts relative to student assessment: (a) create forums for on-going discussion so that everyone at the local level understands the meaning of the terms and concepts used; and (b) work to extend forums to synthesize varying points of view that are expressed by authors/researchers.
Use of Technology in Assessment, Monitoring and Reporting
  1. To fully utilize a comprehensive technology-based assessment system which defines student achievement as an on-going, formative process which results in increased student learning: make assessment judgments at the classroom, departmental, building, and district levels; develop an internal method for measuring student achievement based on the taught curriculum; provide relevant assessment data to teachers and assist them in making better decisions to guide student learning; give students specific and immediate feedback that allows them to monitor their own progress; and equip parents to assist in the educational process by increasing their knowledge of their child's progress.
  2. To implement the comprehensive technology-based assessment system: involve the community in making a philosophical commitment to the use of technology and financial support of the system; reevaluate and redistribute the use of time in order to assimilate the system; incorporate comprehensive staff development programs involving readiness, training, implementation strategies, and maintenance for the system; and reach agreement on ethical issues regarding confidentiality and decisions about the use of student progress data.
The Impact of Various Assessment Models on Students, Educators/Schools, and the Colleges/Workplace.
  1. Communicate that assessment is a part of the curriculum not separate from it.
  2. Ensure the development of well-rounded children and adults by placing student needs at the apex of all decision-making.
  3. Provide a model environment where students see adults (teachers and support staff) excited about learning and enjoying their vocations.
  4. Create a learning environment in which all audiences have knowledge of the change process.
  5. Promote dialogue relative to student assessment between the academic community and those outside of the community.
Assessing Readiness of Students to Start School
  1. Eliminate the use of assessment as a screen which impacts the entry of students into school.
  2. Design an holistic state model for use in assessing the status of children in their development, i.e., education, social and health.
  3. Provide specific training in developmentally appropriate practices including assessment for: pre-service teachers, all building level practitioners, families and responsible caregivers, central office administration, and boards of education.
  4. Consistently, constantly, and consummately infuse within the community the symbols of valid assessment encapsulated within terms such as holistic, inclusive, and developmentally appropriate.
Improving Accountability to the Public
  1. To help society recognize its responsibility for being an educated populace: take the initiative to build the commitment of the community for being involved in and accountable for educating learners.
  2. To insure that information is interpreted within the context of the school and external community: (a) develop a balance among the many purposes of data collection; (b) ensure that important areas of mutual accountability receive attention in the collection and reporting process; (c) select and develop student assessments that reflect curriculum and use them to improve teaching and learning; (d) consider issues of equity, efficiency and effectiveness in accountability efforts; (e) integrate all appropriate school and community data for reporting and planning; and (f) format data reports to encourage usage that will guide improvement.
  3. To ensure that information used for documentation includes indicators of student learning and achievement: (a) select and develop student assessments to inform and support the teaching and learning process; (b) establish congruence between each need and its method of data collection; (c) systematically use multiple, reliable and valid data sources to obtain accurate information relevant to student outcomes; (d) design an efficient and effective longitudinal data collection, analysis, and reporting system; and (e) interpret and report data within the context of the local and external community.
  4. To ensure the commitment and active involvement of all stakeholders in two way communication essential for accountability: (a) initiate activities for identifying and involving internal and external stakeholders; (b) write and edit communications to be honest, non-patronizing, and clear; (c) elicit reciprocal stakeholder communication that focuses on improvement, not assigning blames; (d) design and implement a plan for pre-service and inservice staff; (e) develop and implement a plan for reciprocal education among all stakeholders; and (f) exchange information through print and other media.
The challenge for all educators is to develop an assessment system that effectively, efficiently, and fairly determines what students know and are able to do. The feedback from such a system must enhance the teaching and learning processes to stimulate further learning.


Resource List
  • American Association of School Administrators (AASA). (1993, April). Assessment issues baffle. AASA Leadership News, pp. 2-3.
  •  Biemer, L. (1993). Authentic assessment. Educational Leadership, 50(8),81-82.
  •  LaMahieu, P., Eresh, J., & Wallace, R. (1992, December). Using student portfolios for public accounting. The School Administrator, pp. 8-15.
  • Lepley, W. (1993, Summer). From the director. Iowa Department of Education Dispatch, 22(3), 2.
  •  Wiggins, G. (1989). A true test: Toward more authentic and equitable assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 70(9), 10-20

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