One thing that is missing from the conversation is how we can use assessment for learning to improve growth for all kids. Student assessment should not be a carrot nor a stick. Period. The real learning and growth that happens in classrooms is reward in and of itself. Just ask any teacher who has experienced that “ah-ha” moment when a student finally masters something new. Just ask yourself how great it felt when you became newly competent at something like operating a new piece of technology, learning a new sport, or playing an instrument for the first time. Learning feels really good, and when given the right opportunities, most students want to learn. We need to shift our focus from high-stakes tests in favor of assessment FOR learning that moves kids forward in a meaningful way. There is a ton of research on what effective, authentic assessment for learning looks like. Just ask the folks at American Montessori Society how to embed assessment into daily class work and move kids in a way that is individualized and leads to high achievement beyond high school. This method is still being called “progressive” after over a hundred years. Or look at Linda Darling-Hammond’s work from way back in 1995: Authentic Assessment in Action.
The other missing piece of the conversation is how we can use authentic teacher assessment to move the profession forward and ensure quality instruction for all kids. How can we adequately prepare new teachers? How can we help make good teachers great? There is also a ton of research available on this topic. Just ask the folks at the New Teacher Center or the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards or Doug Lemov (author of Teach Like a Champion). All of these pros have studied what makes teachers the very best they can be. We can use this information to new prepare teachers and help them continually improve, or help them out of the profession if it is really not right for them.
Yet, with the wealth of information available on how kids learn best, how to assess it, and how to truly understand the effectiveness of individual teachers, we do what we have always done in education. We try to solve problems through political action that is short-sighted and based on ignorance and rigidity in thinking. So, Governor Crist, what say you? Will you veto SB6 and help Florida look at real solutions to its education issues, or will you continue to make the mistakes our country has been making for decades?