The current landscape of our educational system is filled with over-simplified and polarized views on critical issues such as student assessment and teacher evaluation. If we are serious about the education of our future generations, then we can no longer afford such views to plague our healthy debate.
First of all, any serious educator is a master at assessing students in realtime and making on-the-spot adjustments to their lessons. Thus, assessing students is not the problem and neither is evaluating teachers.
What is problematic is frequent standardized assessments that do not help guide my lessons, do not add to the learning process of my students, nor to parental involvement, but that are instead used to evaluate our performance. The Read With Me team wants to reframe the purpose, vehicle, and value of assessments.
Case and point #1: Reframing the Purpose of Assessments
Washington Post writer Valerie Strauss chronicles the growing movement of parents and school districts opting-out of student participation in standardized testing:
What’s the reason for the growing resistance? Actually, there are a number of them. Student scores on standardized tests have become the main accountability measure today for students, schools, teachers, principals, districts and even states. Assessment experts have warned that standardized tests are not designed for such purposes, but they are being used by reformers who either don’t believe the experts or are ignoring them.
As a serious educator and parent, I wonder how standardized tests, even as summative assessments, contribute to my students or children acquiring the higher order thinking skills that lead to a robust understanding of their world?
Read With Me is not meant to maintain the status-quo. By digitizing formative and summative fluency assessments we are using technology to encourage a shift in education from assessments OF learning to assessments FOR learning.
Assessments FOR learning help teachers cut down on paperwork to grade and ineffective use of time. Assessments FOR learning also help students interact dynamically with assessment vehicles and immediately learn from their own, their parent, or their peer feedback.
When rethinking the purpose of assessing a child’s fluency we concluded that, as educators, we wanted to develop a tool with researched-based elements shown to help students learn. That means the learners know their learning goals, where they are in meeting those goals, and how to get there; that means teachers are skilled at assessing student progress and prescribing alternative ways of learning; that means that schools have a systematic culture of learning through assessing; and that means that parents also know their child’s learning goal and how to support their child and the teacher in attaining those goals.
Read With Me not only makes it easier for all parties to assess for fluency but it also makes it possible to use this data anytime, anywhere, and by ANYONE (anyone within the private circle of the students). That means everyone knows the learning goals, is actively thinking about the area they need to improve on, and that they have various ways to improve.
Case and point #2: Reframing the Vehicle of Assessments
All teachers know that if you assess FLUency, it can actually make you feel like you have the flu (see Why Running Records?).
Computer based assessment is nothing new and it has its proven advantages. Some include instant feedback to the student and more flexibility: students can assess anytime, anywhere. One disadvantage of anytime, anywhere computer based assessment can be accountability: how does the teacher know if the intended student is the one taking the test?
Read With Me’s approach reframes the purpose of assessment, as well as reframes the idea of computer based assessments as we know them today by adding components of mobile learning all too familiar to many English as a Second Language teachers: users can access it on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone anytime, anywhere, by anyone.
By adding a video component of the child reading we tackle the accountability issue. We also realized that a video adds much more potential to instruction as well as to the human connection between all parties. If we have the ability to video record a student reading for accountability, we could also use that video to encourage the parent to watch and grade their child’s reading on their own time. Not only that, teachers and parents could exponentially add to the amount of time a child can experience a read a-loud, which is also a research-based strategy proven to strengthen literacy.
Read With Me envisions assessments as a painless and effective process whereby learners and families are collaborating with the teacher to achieve learning goals. Digitized assessments that layer components of mobile learning make assessments more like learning activities rather than stressful, cumbersome routines.
Stay tuned for more screen shots of the newest version!