Every once in a while, a contrarian appears and challenges some of our basic assumptions about schooling in today's society. One of the biggest assumptions we have is that it is the job of school to prepare all our students for college.
The bowling analogy in my previous post is an illustration of the misunderstanding about the true purpose of formative assessments. Assessment provides needed information for the teacher to adjust instructional activities, but that is a by-product of the real reason for doing it. True formative assessment engages students and puts them in charge of their own learning, much as a bowler is in charge of how she bowls.
Recently, consultants who were reviewing the data systems the California Department of Education uses to track student performance interviewed me. I have had to wrestle with how I feel about the whole process, because unfortunately, I think the emphasis on data has not been the boon to students and educators that was promised.
The requirements for highly qualified teachers that are part of the No Child Left Behind Act, as well as more stringent prerequisites surrounding teacher accreditation, have underscored discussions about teacher quality over the last several years. The Educational Testing Service has released a report about marked improvement in teacher quality over the past decade.
One day, the mother of one of my fourth-grade students came in to meet with me about her son. She reported that Noah, who I knew to be extremely bright, was bored with math. Although my school district's textbooks included problem-solving activities and stories, and I augmented the curriculum with various exercises that required students to apply creativity and higher-order thinking skills, the assignments, she told me, were still too easy for him.