Thursday, January 19, 2012

Towards Richer Assessment

Today's morning news summary from Alexander Russo featured two stories from The Washington Post, one on Governor Brown's sensible call yesterday for reducing the number of tests our students are required to take and another on the U.S. Department of Education's attempt to research means to prevent cheating on tests. I wrote in a comment on the latter about the value of richer, essay-style assessments that prevent such cheating, and I'd like to expand on this to the general topic of the kinds of assessment we need to improve our educational system as a whole.

As I prepare to open a school, I have been working on course descriptions that might pass muster with the University of California in case our negotiations with high quality external curriculum and assessment providers break down. For our 11th-grade (Secondary V) Advanced English Language and Literature course, for example, our students will end the year with a final examination in two parts, a four-hour essay exam and a 30-minute oral (preceded by 35 minutes of preparation). Now how would any dishonest principals go about falsifying this kind of external examination? And teaching and learning in preparation for such broad and rigorous tests makes academic and linguistic demands that should stead our university-bound students well in their futures in higher education and beyond, as those who have done the French OIB, which is the model for this particular assessment, can well attest.

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