Assessment is the thing that determines a student's perception of where they stand in the world. Or, as the children say, tests are the things that tell them whether they are awesome at something or whether they suck. If we were really committed to clear and honest reporting I propose the categories to be:
When the government rolls out the '1 in 5 children suck' statistic, this is based on assessment.
It's our assessment practices that suck, not the children.
Our technologies are pretty awesome. We have the tools and the know-how to provide personalised, relevant, and deep assessments. If we spent half the time, energy, and money that we do on 20th century testing, and poured this instead into the more meaningful tools that already exist, education would look quite different.
Currently we are in a position where we teach awesome things. Then we assess using ordinary tools. Awesome things are pushed to the side because we discover ordinary "gaps". We then teach to the ordinary "gaps", we fill the ordinary "gaps", and we pat ourselves on the backs for raising ordinary achievement. But achievement of what? Of something quite ordinary.
If you assess regularly you will raise achievement. Of course you will. If you assess regularly, what you assess becomes the focus of your programme. The kids get awesome at it because they're practicing it more. The kids who suck, will suck less (but the awesome kids get more awesome so it's all relative.) It's all a little ordinary.
Isn't it time we challenged ourselves to break this cycle? To actually do what Sir Ken Robinson suggested (two years ago!) and bust apart this factory model of education?
Why do all children have to take the same tests?
Why don't we assess LEARNING as opposed to content?
Why do we lie to ourselves and believe that giving the students the same test at the same time is standard? There is no such thing as batches of children who live in the same sterile conditions and environments, so why waste time striving for something that just doesn't exist?
Wouldn't it be awesome if we assessed students in groups and actually reported that data?
Wouldn't it be awesome if we assessed maths by the student's abilities to ask the right questions instead of just giving the right answers?
Wouldn't it be awesome if we assessed reading with a combination of digital literacies and paper literacies?
Wouldn't it be awesome if writing assessments were ongoing edited and re-crafted works with assistance from peers and teachers, rather than stand alone one off assessments done in isolation and in silence on a given day?
Wouldn't it be awesome if we valued digital citizenship?
Wouldn't it be awesome if gardening and art was held up high. If parents said:
"never mind her maths (we have a calculator at home), what I really want to know is how's her garden going?"
Wouldn't it be awesome if we valued all areas of the curriculum?
Wouldn't it be awesome if we assessed students by the positive impact that their learning might have on the community?
Meaningful learning portfolios could allow this to happen. If done well they allow us to assess real growth, real learning, and the real picture of our students as vibrant individuals. Unfortunately though learning portfolios are too often digitized versions of the ordinary. Scanned copies of standardised tests with reflections to the side.
I don't think we totally suck but I do think we're a little ordinary, let's get awesome.