interviews with school teachers. The author interviews three teachers and presents their empirical evidence as well as researched data to outline teacher assessments, and then presents some suggestions for change based on this gathered information. There were five sources used to complete this paper.
For the purpose of this research three teachers were selected for interviews. They were selected based on the grade levels that they teach, the diversity of the students both in ability and in ethnic background and size of population.
The three teachers used for this interview included an elementary school teacher, a middle school teacher and a high school teacher. The elementary school teacher was chosen because she works with an extremely diverse group of students. Her students come from four different nations and speak many languages other than English as the first language. In addition she has several special education students in her classroom which adds to the diversity of the group for the purposes of this study. The second teacher teaches middle school and was chosen because she has exceptionally large class populations. While the other two teachers average 24 students per class this teacher averages 38 students per class. A state waiver was provided for this to happen and the teacher was chosen because of the abnormally large groups that she has to teach and assess.
The third teacher was chosen because she works with high school honor students.
The elementary school teacher uses several methods to assess her students. The district mandates that she administer standardized testing to the students. This method provides a good baseline measurement for those students who are not learning disabled, or ESL students. It provides areas of strengths and weaknesses which in turn allows her to adjust her lesson plans to address the needs. The problem is with standardized testing and ESL or special education students. The standardized testing for these students often presents a false impression of the student abilities and knowledge. The teacher has learned over the years to incorporate alternative assessment methods for those students. She has employed the use of portfolios and other criteria for the purpose of assessing such students. The portfolios provide a collage of examples for each student. An example would be art projects, assignments presented to the student in native language and accommodated assignments for special education students.
The middle school teacher and the elementary school teachers both report the use of observation reposts. An observation reports as assessment tools. An observation report allows the teachers to report the student's progress through effort, participation and other elements that are not recorded or used in other methods of assessment.
Both portfolio and observation methods provide validity because they allow the student to be showcased in true ability whereas standardized testing can provide a false low score because of the student's language barriers or other elements.
The high school teacher uses a mainstay of standardized testing but also uses a portfolio for the students. Honor students and gifted students often do extremely well on standardized testing however, the students often top them out and it is not a true indication of their ability or knowledge because they are designed for the average ability student. The portfolio removes the ceiling effect and allows the honor students to show exactly how far they can go in achievement. The individual projects that she uses in the portfolio also allow the students to showcase their ability to create, design, organize and produce.
Several studies on portfolio use to assess student performance have concluded that there is still a great deal of controversy when it comes to their use. One such study was conducted at a Middle School combining student portfolios and student led conferences to assess student ability and achievement. The school used portfolios in many different ways.
Educators, students, and parents disagree about the effectiveness of this educational process. A major cause of these differing views is that currently portfolios are used for too many purposes (Airasian 2001; McMillan 2001). To come to a logical decision about effectiveness, you must first decide what you are evaluating. Critics of portfolios would be more open to their use in student-led conferences if their purpose was clearly defined in terms of importance to stakeholders, that is teachers, students, and parents (Juniewicz, 2003). "
This particular study developed the following conclusions:
The large majority of teachers, students, and parents reported the use of portfolios in student-led conferences was effective in promoting the real world skills of responsibility, reflection, self-assessment, and goal-setting (see appendix B).
Teachers spent a varying amount time and effort on portfolio development, especially as it related to student-led conferences.
Teachers who focused on connecting student portfolios with the learner expectations (life-long skills derived from the guiding principles of the Learning Results) invested more in the use of portfolios.
Teachers opposed to portfolio use were concerned about time spent on the process or were uncomfortable changing from their current teaching methods.
Middle school structure, with its changing classes and large numbers of students seen by each teacher, made it more difficult to implement this process than in self-contained classrooms.
National, state, and local standards could potentially provide a framework to focus the portfolio process on developing the life-long skills students need in the real world.
Strong support by the school principal and district administrators encouraged the use of portfolios in student-led conferences (Juniewicz, 2003)."
Another assessment method has come under fire recently. The use of standardized testing has been accepted for many years in both public and private education. In more recent years however it has come under fire as more and more educators realize that their students are comprised of many different types. One size fits all assessments are no longer accurate when it comes to students with special education needs or language barriers (Hilliard, 2000).
Assessments do more than showcase the student ability, they also show a measurement of teacher effectiveness. In recent years standardized testing has come under fire because the teachers have begun to teach to the test. Districts have also been known to mandate the removal of ESL and special education student scores to boost the overall scores of the district testing. Standardized testing has proven itself useful when it comes to the average student, but for students with obstacles, or with very high abilities they fall short of the mark when it comes to providing an accurate assessment.
In theory, standardized achievement tests may offer some benefit. What is being claimed by achievement test makers and users is that standardized achievement testing is a fair measure of the curriculum that is offered by the school. All achievement test makers claim implicitly or explicitly that tests have content validity, that is, that they are a fair match to the school curriculum and objectives. The popular term for this criterion is test/curriculum alignment. No school district would or should knowingly buy and use a standardized achievement test that obviously did not match its curriculum (Hilliard, 2000)."
In the past two decades, the use of group achievement tests has increased in school districts across the nation. Standardized, norm-referenced achievement testing has been utilized in the United States since the 1940s, and it has become apparent that group achievement tests continue to be the major form of assessing student achievement in American schools (Bond & Roeber, 1995) (Journal, 1998)."
In 1994, the National Center for Educational Outcomes (NCEO) recommended that states adopt assessment practices to include the maximum number of students (approximately 85%-90% of the student population), including students with disabilities, in large-scale assessments. They also recommended that 5% to 10% be tested with accommodations and that less than 2% receive an alternate form of assessment. The NCEO further advocated that the reauthorization of IDEA mandate participation of…