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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Linda Darling-Hammond on International Assessment

Linda Darling-Hammond on International Assessment

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On November 17, Edutopia will be hosting a pair of powerful webinars focused on issues of standards an assessment, featuring Linda Darling-Hammond. Go here to learn more and sign up: http://www.edutopia.org/linda-darling-hammond-webinar Edutopia has asked me to facilitate the discussion over here, so please allow me to introduce myself. I first became acquainted with Linda Darling-Hammond's work when I read her book back in about 1998, "The Right to Learn, a Blueprint for Creating Schools that Work." In it, she wrote about the National Board certification process, which was then still new. I decided to pursue certification, and drove monthly to the National Board support group she had organized at Stanford. I was teaching middle school science in Oakland at the time. I left my school after 18 years, to become a classroom coach, which is my current post. I also have a blog called Living in Dialogue, on Teacher Magazine: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/ I have worked with Linda on numerous projects over the past ten years, and have found her to be a wellspring on knowledge and inspiration. I am looking forward to this conversation very much.

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Anthony Cody's picture
Anthony Cody
Science Coach and mentor, Oakland, California
Blogger 2014
Facilitator 2014

Alan Young asked:
How do we break the government/media imposed sorting, competition, and ranking proclivity of those who impose and mandate assessments and truly create a culture that uses assessments to promote student learning and capacity development. I believe the language of "demonstration" is critical vs. the language of "measurement." How we "talk" about education and assessment often affects our paradigmatic way of framing what we do in this area. Can we use "transformative" talk in this area to change the debate and the paradigm and get to a better place?[/quote]

Alan raises a great question. I am going to offer my own answer, and encourage others to offer theirs.

This is fundamentally a political problem. Unfortunately the majority of voters are disengaged from the schools, and politicians have great latitude with platitudes. They tend to settle on simplistic answers and "tough" language because that makes many voters feel as if the problems are being addressed.

We need to get organized as teachers, as parents and as students. We need to offer our own views, and raise our voices so they cannot be ignored. Those currently blocking health care reform are a pretty small minority, but they are organized and vociferous, so they are being heard. We do not need to be obnoxious or inflammatory, but we need to be more visible, and offer clear alternatives to the test-driven accountability model that is so easy for politicians to hide behind.

Eric Brunsell's picture
Eric Brunsell
Asst Professor of Science Education @ UW-Oshkosh
Blogger 2014
Facilitator 2014

Linda Darling-Hammond wrote a great article about long-term reforms in Finland and how those reforms have paid off. http://www.annenberginstitute.org/VUE/summer09/Darling.php

[quote]I noticed that Finland is on the top of the list for math and science scores but there was no mention about their approach. I was a Fulbright scholar to Finland and also taught at the University of Helsinki. It seems that more research on their system would be helpful.[/quote]

Eric Brunsell's picture
Eric Brunsell
Asst Professor of Science Education @ UW-Oshkosh
Blogger 2014
Facilitator 2014

David Hochschartner asks:
What is the first change a school leader might make to move an institution away from short-answer, recall-type exams?

I'll take a bit of a different approach than Anthony. I think the first step is to challenge teachers to focus on one unit. After watching the webinar(s), have teachers take one unit and clearly identify the "big ideas" that they want students to take away. Then, have them design a contextual assessment like the science and ethics example. After that assessment is created, identify the 3-4 embedded "activities" that students will be assessed on during the unit (like the Bio 3 example from Victoria Australia). Finally, have them plan the day-to-day instruction.

Use a collaborate - implement - reflect cycle while focusing on just one unit and then go from there!

Eric Brunsell's picture
Eric Brunsell
Asst Professor of Science Education @ UW-Oshkosh
Blogger 2014
Facilitator 2014

Kaitlin Seaver:
What body of research is most useful in promoting assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning?

Paul Black's work is a great place to start. See if you can get you hands on this article:

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139-148.

You might also be interested in this book:
http://www.amazon.com/Assessment-Learning-Putting-into-Practice/dp/03352...

Terry Smith's picture
Terry Smith
Teacher Education Professor; Project-based classroom teacher

Not only are so many schools overly concerned with meeting the requirements of the race,and thus putting learning efforts on the back burner, but schools are literally calling in the vendors, ready and willing to turn over new stimulus money for quick fix test prep and tracking. Let's see: vendors analyze state test objectives, vendors package state objectives in ready-to-use form, then vendors sell states their own test objectives in a bright new package guaranteed to raise test scores. Why don't we just skip the schools and give the money straight to the vendors? Oh...are there students in there somewhere?

Joe Beckmann's picture
Joe Beckmann
Retired teacher educator - UMass, EDC, various school systems

When Prof Darling-Hammond cited the New Tech High portfolio system to the Race to the Top Assessment panel last week in Boston, the Director of Duncan's Race to the Top office, Joanne Weiss, said to the effect, "if we don't fund tests, what will we fund?"

With policy makers at that level, with that level of $350,000,000 in discretionary funding, with that kind of imagination, it is astounding that k-12 educated children can cross the street. Oh, I may be wrong, sometimes they can't!

How does Darling-Hammond break that kind of paradigm? With at least six different software packages of e-portfolio capabilities, which does she recommend? Open source? or, perhaps, should DOE fund one or more? or, perhaps, should one or more link to some of the more sophisticated, rubric-driven assessment systems to engage kids in self-assessment activities? Like those suggested by John Hattie (Visible Learning) or, perhaps, by Jay Smink, at the National Dropout Prevention Institute/Center?

And, incidentally, why did not one of the experts, nor any of the DOE questioners, raise the prospect of assessment-for-diagnosis as the key and nationally preferred priority over grade retention in solving, once and for all, the national crisis of dropouts?

Anthony Cody's picture
Anthony Cody
Science Coach and mentor, Oakland, California
Blogger 2014
Facilitator 2014

I think this gets us back to Alan Young's question, where he asked how we break the current paradigm.

I posted an interview on my blog a few weeks ago with one of Linda's colleagues at Stanford, Dr. Myron J Atkin, who has written a bit about the connection between policy and research. He points out that the usual pattern is that social policy does not follow research by and large, because these are decisions based on values, which are embedded in our political decisions. The key thing is the political imperative. Policymakers will find research that supports what they wish to do, rather than craft policy in the way the research suggests they should.

(see here: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2009/10/interview_wi...)

That means we can all learn a great deal from the research that Dr. Darling-Hammond and others are doing, but it is too much to expect that information by itself to change policy. We are going to need to get active in the public arena to share these ideas and shift the conversations, and create some new political imperatives, if we want this research to be attended to.

Joe Beckmann's picture
Joe Beckmann
Retired teacher educator - UMass, EDC, various school systems

One might think, however, that the failure rate of k-12, and the dead end that NCLB has left us, and the painfully naive way Duncan & Company are trying to re-tool these pointless methods, might, on their face, look foolish to more than a few of us. When Alan November points out that the internet has converted all k-12 (or probably k-16) education into a new kind of one room schoolhouse, his observation goes largely ignored by the bureaucrats who defend systems rather than their output. There is no real reason to abolish those systems - they can deliver good stuff with existing people, tech, and curriculum - but they need a new way to see what "good stuff" means. And that really is an issue of assessment rather than the standard tools of curriculum & instruction. There is nothing wrong with kids knowing fractions, only with presuming that that is an end in itself. Much better that they know how to change a chocolate chip cookie recipe for more cookies. And that's just a different way at looking at those fractions.

Shannon Cde Baca's picture

Anthony is right about the teacher voice needing to be heard in this mix of assessment ideas. In STEM PISA results and some of NAEP are more informative about what kids know than any standard multiple choice assessment. I often ask the question would you rather have a surgeon who could name the parts of the heart or one who could tell you how they work and how their structure impacts their function. That is a fundamental difference. If we assess what we really value then we need to get more specific about what we really want kids to know and be able to do after experiencing an educational sequence in our schools. We have standards but they are all over the map. What exactly is the prioritized list of outcomes for science, or math or any specific subject combined with the others? Answering that question will involve collaboration between content areas and all of us have to give up some sacred cows. We need to adopt common language for skills such as inquiry and work from the same definitions. We have to stop protecting our turf simply because we are afraid of losing some tiny grain sized chunk of our curriculum that in the larger scheme of things we know is not critical...we just have to give things up. Education has become a lot like those folks who sufer from "hoarding". We keep everything, throw away nothing. We have a stellar opportunity to reinvent what we do and how we assess it. Once we know what our target is, a much clearer picture, the assessment form becomes an easier decision. But, we need to bring the teacher voice to the table and do a much better job at public engagement as we roll into the new model.
Shannon Cde Baca

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