Re: Equity in Educational Assessment

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

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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