Authentic Assessment: New Ways to Measure Student Performance

July 30, 2008

From an Edutopia reader comes this question: "With so many of today's schools focused on state achievement tests, many teachers are 'teaching to the test.' However, this does not adequately prepare students for life outside of school. Does anyone have any suggestions for the alternate assessment that this article was describing? I am looking for some way to increase student learning while maintaining state standards at the same time."

We can agree on the limitations of standardized tests, but as teachers, we must nonetheless find ways to measure student learning. In place of narrow tests, innovative educators are developing new authentic assessments. Here are some interesting new looks at the subject:


Ted Nellen proposes digital portfolios and shares a suggestion he made recently to Al Gore.

Peer Review

"I suggested as a means of fostering authentic assessment that we have the scholars produce Web pages that are public and can be peer reviewed. The work of the scholars can be digitized and copied to CDs, DVDs, and flash drives. A national clearinghouse could be established for archive purposes. The Web pages can be sent to colleges as part of the entrance application. They can be used when a scholar moves from one town to another, across state lines or within a state. The work of the scholar tells us more than any test score ever will."


Another form of assessment is exhibition. The Coalition of Essential Schools recently held a National Exhibition Month to showcase student work.

"This year's National Exhibition Month was a successful campaign, as throughout the month of May (in some cases in April and June), schools and support organizations across the country made their exhibition work public and advocated for the use of exhibitions in their local contexts.

"Close to a hundred schools and organizations across twenty-five states participated, recognizing and documenting student exhibitions, submitting letters to the editor of local papers, hosting public events to showcase exhibitions, and educating media and local leaders about the benefits of exhibitions."

But Wait -- There's More

For a general overview of what authentic assessment is all about, Jonathan Mueller has put together the Authentic Assessment Toolbox.

Last, the University of Wisconsin at Stout has put together a great set of authentic-assessment resources for teachers.

Do you know of any other resources or have suggestions? Please share your thoughts.

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