Friday, September 27, 2013

Assessing the Whole Child | September 20, 2013

Chris J. Profeta

Question: What are the features of assessment that make it a valuable practice? 

Assessment provides insight into the prior knowledge of a student and collectively can provide a baseline and a starting place for class instruction. How an educator utilizes this information is paramount to its value.

Politically, assessment provides the information for financial support to school districts. Schools must show Adequate Yearly Progress and exemplary MEAP, ACT, and other mass produced standardized test scores. Standardized tests illustrate how effectively a student’s ability is to navigate questions designed to test one learning style. Further, standardized test scores lure parents to charter schools, on line schools, and all other alternatives to public education.

A baseline, both individually and collectively, is essential for all students and classrooms. How else can an educator plan a strategy for classroom instruction and further to assist a student’s individual needs? As a former classroom teacher I am painfully aware that time and curriculum demands may not allow all needed individualization. However, the standardized assessment does provide information that will allow an educator to target problem areas.

What makes assessment a valuable practice? In my opinion the answer is, how is the assessment utilized? I understand why a university views the SAT and ACT as a portion of requirement for admittance. Is it possible that a student with a 4.0 grade point average and a low test score would not be admitted to a university? I recall meeting with my son and Michigan State University and the question was asked, how does the MEAP test affect my admittance? The answer was, not at all. All the MEAP hype and it does not even matter to MSU.

As a parent I clearly wanted to know in what areas my children needed assistance. I clearly did not want to know he was a 2 or that he may never catch up. I applaud the teachers in the Grosse Pointe Public Schools who focus on the whole child. My two sons, and now my grandchildren have the advantage of educators who focus on the whole child and not the test score.

As a private tutor I work with parents and students who need to realize just that. A number does not predict a person’s success.

I have the utmost sympathy for current teachers who must work within the confines of a kindergarten curriculum that mirrors my first grade, school funding based upon standardized test scores, and so many stresses coming down from Lansing. Educators have the insurmountable task of encouraging, motivating, and having a personal connection with students while making assessment a valuable practice.