Joan O. Dawson-Opening Statement

Date: Wed Mar 01 2000 - 10:17:10 EST

Opening statement:

The New York University Equity Assistance Center just completed a series of
sessions with administrators coordinators and teachers on equity and
educational assessment in the Territorial School District in St. Thomas and
St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. We are also working with a number of school
districts in the New York/New Jersey areas where superintendents,
principals, teachers and others are grappling with the issue of equitable
educational assessment, quality instruction, high expectations and the
standards for all students.

What a tremendous challeng as educators learn to internalize and put into
practice all of the new research knowledge about assessment. This
challenge includes an internal change, a thought-process paradigm shift
that infuses within our being that all children can learn and that it is
our responsibility as educators to make sure that they do. If we don't
then, we assume the responsibility for our failure in our career and their
failure in life. We have a responsibility to students and parents to
assure their learning and success. This is not to leave the parents out of
the loop. It is time for them to assume some responsibility for sending
students to school ready to learn, however, when we get them, we must begin
where they are. Assessment is a way of determining where they are. Since
assessment consists of the many methods we utilize to assist us in
understanding the knowledge students possess, certainly, they come to us
with five or six years of rich thinking and prior knowledge experiences
that we can tap. Just as surely, when students leave us, they are thrust
into a global economy where the impact of our on-going idnstruction,
assessment and attitude are necessary components and high correlates of
success for us and them. These components include a high quality of
instruction, clear both formal and informal standards, safe, caring and
nurturing environment and high expectations.

There are many purposes of assessment, all of which are valid. The
challenge arises when we are faced with statistics that tell us that the
identification of gifted minority students is underrepresented by as much
as 30 to 70% with an avarage of 50% (Ross et al., 1993, taken from ERIC
Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education, Ford, D.Y &Thomas, A.,
June 1997). This is clearly unacceptable. If this is true of the gifted,
then what can we say about the average or below average student?

Hopefully, as we dialogue this week, we can shed some light on the issue of
bias and other factors affecting the delivery of effective assessment that
is resulting in the disinfranchisement of a large segment of the
population. Surely, this is a critical issue. I look forward to this
dialogue. Thanks to WEEA for arranging it.

Joan O. Dawson

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