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Assessment Alternatives

There is growing recognition that true/ false, multiple choice, and short answer tests do not give a true picture of what students know and have accomplished. These are primarily measures of memorization and recall, and do not always even test comprehension. They certainly do not give students opportunities to demonstrate that they can apply what they have learned or use their knowledge in creative or even just practical ways.

Many teachers have long used their own tests involving such hands-on measures as the arts, constructions, dramatizations, and multimedia reports. Recently there has been impetus on the state and national level to expand the repertoire of assessing strategies. In this section we will describe numbers of examples of work in this area. See our Glossary of Assessment Terms to clarify terminology.


Assessment as a Tool for Learning
Jill Hearne
An introduction to the topic.

Assessment as Feedback
Grant Wiggins
A renowned expert in the field of assessment defines feedback and its role in assessment and learning.

Assessment Equity in a Multicultural Society
Asa G. Hilliard III-Baffour Amankwatia II
One of America's leading authorities on multicultural education discusses the importance of considering the cultural background of students in assessing their learning.

Introduction to Alternate Assessments
Nancy Arnold
Alternate Assessment Specialist for the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction notes that the academic assessment of students with disabilities is essential and must be done appropriately and sensitively.

Student Led Conferences at the Secondary Level
Karen Dickinson
The director of Curriculum and Instruction of Federal Way Public Schools explains an effective way to engage students and parents in the process of assessment that has useful outcomes for both.

The Arts Journey in Progress
AnnRené Joseph
The Program Supervisor for the Arts at the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction updates her report on Washington State's arts assessment program to assure the inclusion of the arts as an Essential Academic Learning Requirement in the K-12 curriculum.

Learning Celebrations are Authentic Assessments of Student Understanding
Maggie Meyer and Jenna Glock
Two dedicated teachers describe powerful learning experiences and assessment tools based on the multiple intelligences.

The Goal is Excellence
Launa Ellison
A gifted elementary school teacher shares how she utilizes best practices, brain research, and learning styles in achieving standards.

The Impact of Collaboration, Assessment-driven Instruction, and Site-based Professional Development on an Elementary School
Kelly Aramaki
A teacher writes of his experiences in a program implemented in his school by NWIFTL.

Like It or Not, We Are a Test-Driven Society in School, Work, and Government
Niki Hayes
Legislators in 25 states have passed laws requiring that standardized tests be used for accountability purposes in public schools. Educators, parents, and students are openly opposing these tests in increasing (and organized) numbers, and are demanding to know why this "test mania" is taking place in the United States. Niki Hayes shares a brief history of testing, the effects of testing on a population and shares a method she incorporated in her counseling to help parents and students understand testing.

A Teacher Speaks Out: Children and Test Scores Are Not the Same
Alan Warhaftig
Imparting the joy of learning is more important than improving test scores.

Reading, Dyslexia, Learning Disabilities, and Assorted Miseries
Dr. Renée Fuller
Dr. René Fuller examines the Reading Readiness Test -- a test that she failed after she received her doctorate in psychology and after she had spent a decade in libraries reading medical journals in several languages! The Reading Readiness Test is used to determine whether or not a child is ready to enter the first grade. The test's assessment determined that reading would not come easily for Dr. Fuller, but it did not predict that she might be able to achieve literacy through other means.

The Plural of Leaf is Tree
Michael Meyerhoff
Meyerhoff writes about the different types of intelligences of two girls. One is an A student and one is an average student; however, the average student possesses incredible curiosity and motivation to learn. He wonders how schools can restructure themselves to value the curious learner, instead of just valuing the learner who can parrot back information.

The New Conversations About Learning: Insights From Neuroscience and Anthropology, Cognitive Science and Workplace Studies
Theodore J. Marchese
Theodore Marchese examines educational theory and finds much is about teaching and teachers. He looks for reasons why deep learning so seldom happens for participants in school settings, going back to past research and to contemporary work in the fields of neuroscience and anthropology, cognitive science and workplace studies to discover and ask thought-provoking questions.

The Thoughtful Classroom
Harvey Silver, Richard Strong, Matthew Perini and Greg Tuculescu
The author discusses the challenge of new emphasis on accountability and higher standards in education and how to achieve them through creating thoughtful classrooms.

Working Smarter Through Collaboration: The Maryland Assessment Consortium
by Jay McTighe
Jay McTighe describes an innovative collaboration of Maryland school districts. Shared knowledge supports the goal of improving classroom use of performance assessments as a part of the instructional process. Also included are some recommended assessment resources.

The Northwest Initiative for Teaching and Learning: Learning from Our Schools
The Northwest Initiative for Teaching and Learning (NWIFTL) asks the tough questions: What do teachers need to learn so that they can teach to Washington's new standards?? How do they organize precious resources so that staff development makes a difference to students?? And what effect is the state's drive for accountability having on teachers and students?

Taking Stock of Our Future: Program Evaluation and Assessment of Global Issues Education
Kim Rakow Bernier and Gilda Wheeler
Facing the Future, a timely nonprofit organization, develops and distributes global issues curriculum and action opportunities for students and teachers.

Lesson Study in Bellevue Schools
Ann Oxrieder
Bellevue teachers use the Lesson Study approach in working together to improve student learning and teacher assessment.

Recommended Reading

Accountability for Learning: How Teachers and School Leaders Can Take Charge
Douglas B. Reeves
ASCD, 2004
ISBN: 0871208334

Portfolio Practices: Lessons from Schools Districts, and States

Sandra Murphy and Terry Underwood
Christopher-Gordon, 2000
ISBN: 1929024185

Washington : A State of Learning
Bruce and Linda Campbell
Campbell & Assoc Inc, 2000
ISBN: 0964203715

Succeeding With Standards: Linking Curriculum, Assessment, and Action Planning
Judy F. Carr and Douglas E. Harris
ASCD, 2001
ISBN: 0-87120-509-2

The Truth About Testing:An Educator's Call to Action
W. James Popham
ASCD, 2001
ISBN: 0-87120-523-8

Student Assessment That Works
Ellen Weber
Allyn and Bacon, 1999
ISBN 0-205-28271-70

Related Links

Richard C. Atkinson: A California Perspective on the SAT

Richard C. Atkinson: UC Looks Beyond Test Scores for Students

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