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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: assessment

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May 1, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Too much focus on short-term results hurts schools, report says

With the state testing season well underway across Washington, testing has been a focus of the Education Lab blog this week.

On Wednesday, we reported on an effort by Garfield High teachers in Seattle to improve the classroom assessments they give and consider whether those assessments might eventually replace many of the standardized tests their students take. Earlier this week, we wrote about Gildo Rey Elementary in Auburn, a high poverty school that has succeeded in helping nearly all its students pass state reading and math tests.

Today, we return to a report we filed away back in October, when it was first published.

The authors, two Boston College professors, argue that schools that put too much emphasis on the yearly ups and downs in test results may experience the same problems that businesses do when they concentrate too much on short-term gains: Employees try to game the system, and the organization’s overall success can suffer.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: assessment, testing

December 12, 2013 at 4:03 PM

Guest: Common Core offers promising alternative to letter grades

Joan Tornow

Joan Tornow

As we adapt to the Common Core, our traditional grading system of A-F is on the chopping block, and rightfully so. This system, grading on a curve, has tended to perpetuate the status quo.

Because of socioeconomic factors, students with access to fewer educational resources have made lower grades, and students with greater access to educational resources have made higher grades. There are numerous exceptions, but this method has not championed equal opportunity and upward mobility — at least not in accordance with the American dream we tout.

A bell curve on a graph describes random variations in naturally occurring outcomes. But education is not a random undertaking, so critics have rightfully begun to question whether a grading curve is appropriate. In other intentional efforts — such as building a bridge or removing an appendix — we do not expect or tolerate a bell curve. If a bridge collapses into a river, or a patient dies from surgery, we do not chalk it up to a bell curve. Rather, we examine the situation to determine what went wrong and how we can prevent future calamities.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion | Topics: assessment, common core, guest opinion

November 8, 2013 at 3:04 PM

Your voices: Readers consider alternatives in measuring student performance

Credit: Boo Davis

Credit: Boo Davis

We received several thoughtful responses to this week’s question: What’s the best way to measure student performance?

Peter Henry of Edmonds referred to his own experience as a math instructor. Part of his response: “Assessment is a natural part of teaching and learning, and it functions best as an integral part of the classroom. Every time I give an assignment and read or listen to student responses, that is an example of assessment, and I modify my practices accordingly.”

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Comments | More in Your voices | Topics: assessment, student performance, test scores