What is "Authentic" Assessment? | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

School Of The Future

Grades 6-8 | New York City, NY

What is "Authentic" Assessment?

Educators at New York's School of the Future have enjoyed great success at teaching and assessing their students. Both efforts are squarely focused on student understanding of fundamental concepts and real-life learning. Making these efforts relevant and authentic has been the cornerstone of their success. See how, below.
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What is "Authentic" Assessment? (Transcript)

Whitney: The School of the Future is a six through twelve public school in District Two in New York City. It's located on the corner of 22nd Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.

John: I have to usually answer why it's called "School of the Future." Half the people think we beam people up to the Star Trek Enterprise. But actually what I say is that School of the Future, although originally was named for Macintosh computers, my partner and I feel that School of the Future now is a spearhead of progressive education that is rigorous and accountable.

Stacy: And we're continuing to be a progressive school, but also to figure out how we are folding in assessment and folding in accountability. I think what makes authentic assessment authentic is that it's actually the kind of work that a person in that discipline would do. A science authentic assessment would challenge the kids to do the same kind of task that a scientist would actually do.

Esther: We're trying to give work that either mirrors what they might be doing later in life, or will prepare them for those kind of tasks, or is simply meaningful to them.

Andy: In terms of authentic work within the school, it needs to be something that the student really cares about, and that the teacher really cares about. So if we want a school where it's just really making real change and really addressing students in their hearts, then we can't have curriculum that is just going through the motions.

Whitney: And then the other piece is that making sure the task is a synthesis type of task. That will ensure the critical thinking necessary to feel that rigor is happening.

Mike: I think of authentic assessment as a window into the true understanding of the student.

Whitney: It makes teaching much more efficient. You think that it takes all this time, but in fact it's far more targeted and efficient, and it really speeds things up.

Mike: I think first about what are the big ideas I want them to come away with. Some may argue that's curriculum, but I think it's even more fundamental than curriculum. What are the big things I want the students to be able to walk away with?

Whitney: The key is asking yourself, "How will I know?" And ask that upfront as you're doing backwards planning. What does that learning look like? What does it sound like? What would I be hearing? What would I be seeing on paper? And then based on that, creating whatever assessment tool works best for you.

Mike: When you're starting to plan your curriculum, start with-- all right. What are the three assessments then? The three big ones that I'm going to see whether or not they got these skills, and then you can start think of smaller assessments on their way. They're little check-ins. And then designing the activities that go along with does this activity that I normally do, does it address what I really want them to understand?

Andy: I've been teaching now for about 13 years, and a lot of educational fads have come and gone. But one that I believe is hopefully here with us to stay is precisely this question of how do we know they got it? Before, sometimes it felt like if we taught a great lesson and the students were nodding a lot, and maybe writing in their notebooks, we felt good. But now we have to find out did they actually understand the material we were teaching them? Are they connecting this to their own intellectual interests? Is it authentic for them? Was there real learning that happened there? And I think we're getting better at doing that as teachers. I think we're getting better at doing that.

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This installment of Schools That Work was produced in collaboration with The Digital Learning Group.

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