Re: Equity in Educational Assessment

Date: Fri Mar 03 2000 - 15:27:39 EST

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    I agree with the earlier statement that academic standards, and
    standardized tests which measure student progress in attaining standards,
    are not going away. I also agree that the real problem comes when, for
    political reasons, we begin to hold children accountable for our failure to
    provide quality programs and quality schools. Accountability is absolutely
    essential, but the question is accountability for whom and for what?

    This was our reason for developing the alternate assessment framework in
    Wisconsin. We felt there was little or no accountability for English
    language learner progress, and that when we finally did test students, in
    many cases they had not had access to the type of curriculum and
    instructional support to allow them a fair shot at succeeding. Our belief
    was that if teachers of ELLs began teaching and assessing standards-based
    lessons from the very beginning (not 3-4 years later after language
    remediation), but used appropriate bilingual and ESL methodologies
    throughout, we would be more likely to have students who could
    compete with white middle class kids. This still assumes adequate time (at
    least 5 years in most cases), and it assumes we are willing to make a
    quality, long term investment. I agree that standardized assessments AND
    performance assessments have and always will have biases. We minimize those
    biases both by creating quality assessments and, more importantly, pr!
    oviding the ACCESS to curriculum and SUPPORT for instruction that ensures
    long term success of ALL students.

    The alternate assessment framework gives teachers and their students the
    tools, in a low stakes, classroom environment, to begin the process of
    preparing kids to handle the tests and standards that will be waiting for
    them 3-5 years later.

    To us, this seems a sensible compromise between those who say let's throw
    them (ELLs) in the standardized assessment after one year, ready or not,
    and those who say standards and assessments shouldn't be applied to English
    language learners at all. While early involvement in inappropriate testing
    appears to subvert the curriculum and instructional practices away from
    innovation and towards a "back to basics" rote approach to learning, we are
    hopeful that implementation of our standards-based classroom assessment
    framework will guide teachers to better and more equitable teaching for

    While the assessment framework was created specifically for English
    language learners, we have received several comments within the state from
    curriculum planners and staff developers who say they are using our
    alternate performance indicators to guide their work with all teachers and
    for all students. This has been most gratifying. It's early and there is
    still a lot of work to do but we are encouraged!

    Tim Boals, Consultant
    Bilingual/ESL Education Program
    Equity Mission Team
    Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
    PO Box 7841, Madison WI 53707-7841
    (608) 266-5469, Fax (608) 267-0364

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