George Lucas Educational Foundation

Hotter Than You Think: The Brave New World of Student Assessment

February 9, 2011

Edutopia's first Schools That Work installment about comprehensive assessment focuses on a New York City school that has changed the game of student assessment. Think: more rigorous, more relevant, more fun.

While that may not sound terribly sexy, don't be fooled. These techniques -- and what New York's Manhattan-based School of the Future has achieved with them -- have the potential to change the way we understand and learn from our successes and failures.


Because when you break down the learning process to its fundamentals, there is one question every teacher or administrator must ask herself sooner or later: did the kids get it? Did they understand and retain the knowledge? Not just in some big, high stakes, summative way, but every day, every week, every month. Why embark down the bumpy road of educating young people if we are not keen to pause -? and pause often ?- to see if the learning process is working?

The teachers, administrators, and students of New York City's School of the Future make it their business to answer those questions at a granular level just about every day. Early and often, they deploy a strategy of "authentic" assessment (using everything from end-of-class exit notes, to large-scale presentations and exhibitions, to more traditional tests and exams) to measure progress. And they really lean into that authentic part.

School of the Future staff ensure that both the knowledge they are assessing and their techniques for measuring it are relevant to the student's lives, and reflective of the real-world challenges they they will face when their formal educations are behind them. And while authentic assessment requires some extra effort in prep time, the end result actually speeds up the learning process. As one teacher told us, "Now when I go home at the end of the day, I am much less tired than I used to be."

I have visited my share of impressive schools and this one ranks among the best. I hope the video below (and the other videos in our Schools That Work package) paint an inspiring picture. More importantly, I hope the tips, free resources, and community connections will prompt you to try similar innovations at your school. As our story suggests, your students will salute you.

-- David Markus, Editorial Director, Edutopia

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  • 6-8 Middle School
  • 9-12 High School

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