In a recent post, Seth Godin wrote:
What is it that you hope to accomplish? Not what you hope to measure as a result of this social media strategy/launch, but to actually change, create or build?
He was writing about a marketing strategy, but it struck me how strongly his description resembles assessment practices, particularly standardized tests. Standardized assessments are easy to calibrate, arbitrary, easily administered, and can be mistakenly confused with the purpose of education.
The purpose of our work is not to raise test scores but to grow learners. Yet, how many dollars are spent on testing? How much time and energy is spent on preparation for testing? How many kids are sorted and labeled as a result of testing? For all the cost - financial, emotional, time, and energy - how much does testing contribute to learning? We expend so much attempting to measure progress that we actually impede real learning.
Godin ends his post with the following statement: System innovations almost always involve rejecting the standard metrics as a first step in making a difference. We may not have the option of rejecting standardized tests, but unless we reject the notion that test scores are what matter, we won't be able to focus on the metrics that actually make a difference.