Pass or Fail: Multiple Assessments to Determine True Learning
In this multi-part series, I provide a dissection of the phenomenon of retention and social promotion. Also, I describe the many different methods that would improve student instruction in classrooms and eliminate the need for retention and social promotion if combined effectively.
While reading this series, periodically ask yourself this question: Why are educators, parents and the American public complicit in a practice that does demonstrable harm to children and the competitive future of the country?
When it comes to getting rid of our current pass-fail system, I have developed six strategies (click to see them all). Developing a system with varied assessments is one of those points.
Many educators view standardized testing as a necessary evil, and some see it as a completely useless process that never reflects what students know. Proponents of K-12 assessments, on the other hand, contend that there is no adequate way to enforce educator accountability without them.
The majority of states and school districts rely on large-scale assessments when it comes to student grade progression, but this should only be a small piece of a larger analysis of individual students. Multiple sources of information about a student should be used in determining his or her readiness for the next grade, and teachers should make use of them.
Compared to the first two stages of change, the idea of creating multiple assessment measures is very easy. To some extent, public schools already make use of multiple assessment measures. For instance, multiple assessment measures are standard for students with IEPs, and IEPs are not usually changed without making reference to multiple assessment measures. The real key to implementing this stage is not so much the employment of multiple measures as it is the actual selection of those measures and the way they should be administered and interpreted.
The use of multiple assessments including some that do not entail tests makes allowance for that considerable proportion of the student body that does not perform well on tests. Multiple assessments also allow for the possibility that a student simply had a bad day on the day of the test. Finally, the inclusion of some assessment elements that do not consist of a rigid, multiple-choice tests reduces the likelihood of students “overthinking” higher-level questions, and inadvertently providing the right answer to the wrong question.
A combination of assessments is best both for simple assessment of learning and for making decisions about retention. The decision to hold a student back, if made at all, should be made on the basis of multiple measures of performance, and never strictly by a standardized test.