Why Do Bad Test Scores Happen to Good
A Comparison of Teacher Assessments with Standardized Tests
Two of my star seventh grade
readers scored in the “failing” category on their
standardized reading test. These two girls had read numerous
grade-appropriate books, had written creative and insightful
responses, and would frequently take extra books home for
the weekend. They were able to read difficult books and to
read them faster. According to the city’s policy, the girls
were in danger of failing the grade and might have to go to
summer school. What kind of reward was this for all of their
hard work? How would this make them feel about themselves
and about reading? I questioned the test. What kind of
assessment could miss these girls’ talent and progress? How
could other students, who didn’t read as well, have scored
higher? I also questioned my teaching. Was it possible these
girls really didn’t understand the books they had read all
year? Had I missed important clues when assessing them? I
wondered what I could find out by comparing standardized
test scores with detailed teacher assessments of a
Learn what Lisa
found out in her action
Full Paper (PDF file)
1) Students and teachers can and should be held accountable for their progress, but assessments should incorporate multiple measures of student achievement.
Simple multiple-choice questions aren’t adequate to capture the complexity of student learning. In my research, I examined the work of a student deemed “far below grade level” on a multiple-choice reading test. I found that in her written essays, this student was able to demonstrate not only a
reasonable understanding of grade-level texts, but also above-average proficiency in expression and style.
2) Teachers need the professional development and time necessary to analyze their students’ work in depth.
I found that the process of analyzing this student’s work as a body, rather than simply grading individual assignments, provided me with an incredibly detailed picture of her instructional needs. Because I was conducting action research, I was able to draw upon the expertise and advice of colleagues. Our students would be better served if all teachers had the time and assistance to analyze all students’ work in such detail.
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"Just because you
taught it doesn't mean the students learned it." -- anonymous
Lisa Peterson writes:
I currently teach
Title I reading to sixth through eighth graders at I.S. 218 in
Manhattan’s District 6. I began teaching with the Teach For America
program in 1990. Over the past twelve years, I have taught fifth and
sixth grade self-contained classes and seventh and eighth grade
humanities (English and social studies). I also spent a year working
as a technology staff developer as part of the American Gateways
federal challenge grant. I graduated from Yale University and
received my MEd in Early Adolescent Education at Bank Street
College of Education. My research interests include student
assessment, school scheduling, and developmentally appropriate
literacy and social studies instruction.