The Way of the Future in Assessment

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We control the SAT, ACT, GED and AP. Who the hell are you?

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Hope Matt doesn’t mind me borrowing his Way of the Future theme, but there’s no better way to point y’all to this fascinating article on people experimenting with ways to measure non-cognitive traits, like “heart” and “grit,” that have a huge impact on education and life outcomes.

While the article focuses on colleges using such measures to predict collegiate success of applicants, the measures are just as badly needed (if not more so) to change the way we measure success in K12. There is really no question that these traits, just like the cognitive outcomes we currently measure with standardized tests, are partly a result of genes and environment but also partly a result of school performance. We need a revolution in thinking about K12 that puts non-cognitive outcomes back at the center of education, where they belong. That isn’t likely to happen until we can measure these outcomes.

The early methods are still riddled with challenges, of course, as you would have to expect at this stage. And the people involved (as well as the reporter) have an unfortunate attachment to some of the usual nonsense about the evils of standardized tests. These may or may not be the people who invent the assessments we need. Often the first people to take on a tough new task are only clearing the way for greater lights to come. But there is no doubt about the need, and every little bit helps.

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12 Responses to The Way of the Future in Assessment

  1. Ze'ev Wurman says:

    I am having a hard time to decide if your are serious or sarcastic 🙂

    • Greg Forster says:

      I am having a hard time to decide if your are a victim of autocorrect, reading the Common Core English standards too many times, or both.

  2. matthewladner says:

    Put me down for totally serious.

  3. Erin Tuttle says:

    Maybe the rest of us aren’t in on your inside joke. However, I wonder how serious you would be if your own child was deemed failing on “heart” and “grit” base on the definition you, as the father, determined- unaligned with the new federal definition.

    As with all federal definitions, many are far from predictive or accurate. Do you really think an assessment can determine that? If so, at what age?

    • Greg Forster says:

      This movement represents a direct challenge to the testing regimes (SAT, etc.) that are now facilitating federal control of assessment – just read the article! Not every assessment tool is a federal conspiracy. One reason I welcome this movement is that it will inevitably undermine CC style central control of assessment. I was trying to subtly hint at that in the caption of the picture.

      Assessment tools that measure these kinds of traits are already very, very widely used in workplaces. Granted they aren’t always used well, but sometimes they are. I learned a great deal about myself that I hadn’t previously realized when I first took the TTI Performance DNA assessment.

  4. Christopher says:

    Where do you find that assessment?

  5. pdexiii says:

    After reading Mike Tough’s “How Children Succeed” I’m working this summer to incorporate those non-cognitive traits into my pedagogy (teaching summer school helps to field test my regular season playbook).
    I don’t think you can teach grit, self-control, and zest; what I think you can do is make students aware of them, put them in situations where they must use them, and provide feedback on their success or failure. Just like math, the more they use them the better they become, the more those qualities become part of who they are.
    Any assessment of these qualities will be quite subjective, just like a coach’s scouting report of a player. The moment any large entity tries to quantify and categorize qualities like this, too many in the edu-bureaucratic complex will snatch it up and transfigure it into something heralded to ‘fix’ education, and it ends up another eye-rolling professional development and something else to judge teacher effectiveness.
    Sounds like the Common Core path to me.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Sounds like you are nurturing and developing these traits even if you feel that you’re not “teaching” them. Call it what you want, you’re treating these traits as educational outcomes.

      I agree that if these assessments were adopted by big technocratic one-size-fits-all systems, they would become just as bad as CC is now. The correct approach is not to fear the assessments but to oppose big technocratic one-size-fits-all systems.

      Indeed, one of the major downsides of CC (an initiative that has so many major downsides to choose from!) is that it has made people suspicious of any use of assessment tools simply as such.

  6. pdexill. “I agree that if these assessments were adopted by big technocratic one-size-fits-all systems, they would become just as bad as CC is now. ” this is what bothers me the most….. I point out to you the example that the NAEP Governing Board has already taken under consideration a gates funded study that supposedly came through Brown U. (one person) and the folks at Harvard that bring you PEPG (Peterson, C. Finn, A. Smarick) etc and they propose to measure “grit.” When they didn’t get the results they wanted they said “the students are making things up”….. I would be glad to supply you the reference on this study but I just want it to quietly go away. In all the research on these issue that I deem to be in the personality domain the only person I could support is Seligman’s “learned optimism” and if you want to teach that at home I would gladly support you … but if Chester Finn and David Driscoll (NAEP Governing Board) are going to “standardize” it into their “system” please help me rescue the students from this egregious and arrogant ideology.

  7. agreeing with Greg: “many major downsides to choose from!) is that it has made people suspicious of any use of assessment tools simply as such.” yes, and it has set back our legitimate use of tests for two decade …. in training faculty to give some tests that can be seen as threatening, we have , for decades, set out the instructions to the child “we are going to play some games today” and this was a “ruse” that I accepted for the eventual benefits that the parents and teachers would have more knowledge. However, with the blatant abuse of students as “guinea pigs” with experimental , expensive tests (paying Pearson to do their R&D using our kids) I will in the future never again say this to a student. Teachers and students and parents have been “duped” and not for good intentions. This is unethical , dishonest, immoral, lacks integrity etc. and that is why I believe we have set the testing field back a whole generation.

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