Performance-Based Assessment: Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners

Tung, Rosann
Voices in Urban Education, n46
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12-05-2017 2:54 PM
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Fueled by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and its focus on standardized testing, the U.S. assessment system has been driven by capitalism rather than educational benefit. Annually, the testing industry, which four companies monopolize, is valued at between $400 and $700 million. The testing industry drives Americans to spend $13.1 billion each year on test preparation. Besides the test makers, scorers, and preparation companies, this system is designed to advantage three primary stakeholders: (1) the testing industry's corporate executives, who earn in excess of $1 million annually; (2) education technology companies, which create online software applications for textbooks, workbooks, curriculum development, formative assessment, and the like; and (3) families, predominantly White, who have the resources to avail themselves of the courses, programs, software, and exposure that lead to higher standardized test scores (Strauss 2015; Alexandra 2016). In this introduction, Rosann Tung, director of Research & Policy at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, provides a brief synopis of the articles presented in this issue of "Voices in Urban Education" (VUE). Tung writes that the articles propose an alternative to standardized testing, whose purpose is to sort and rank students and schools. This alternative, performance assessment, is personalized and rigoruous, and improves teaching and learning--thereby benefiting both students and teachers. Against a backdrop of the opportunities provided by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the challenges of a Trump/DeVos education administration seemingly committed to privatizing public education, performance assessment is an opportunity for public schools and districts to better meet the needs of all students and to use more relevant, engaging curriculum and instruction that prepares students for complex problem-solving and collaboration. Tung writes that some articles in this issue highlight how students like English language learners, Native Americans, students of color who live in poverty, and refugees benefit from performance assessments. She describes other articles presented as providing a focus on supporting implementation of performance assessments through teacher collaboration; school, district, and state networks; innovative uses of technology; and customized, teacher-led professional development. Tung closes with an expresssion of her hope that this collection of perspectives educates and inspires practitioners, researchers, and advocates to make performance assessment systems the norm rather than the exception.
Professional Development
Native American and Alaska Native Children
Instructional Effectiveness
English Learners
English Learners