With everyone so worried about meeting the demands set forth by No Child Left Behind (NCLB), it’s nice to see a state that’s looking to bring their students up to standards without making that their only academic activity.
In this changing world, it is important to help our students become masters of reading and math so they can keep up with the demands of society. In trying to prepare students to pass their test, many schools forget that the students need these basic skills to stay with them throughout school and out into the real world. Nebraska, however, is granting the teachers the freedom to teach the skills to their students, and then to assess on their own. This has led to the development of an assessment program that relies on multiple choice testing, but also includes an authentic component that can catch more than a multiple-choice assessment alone. Apparently, it really works for Nebraska.
There are a couple of things to remember. The first is that no matter what, a school’s primary goal is to educate students, to prepare them for the next level of their education and for their life. If a child has their head jammed with what they need to pass a test, instead of allowing them to authentically learn the material that will be showing up for the rest of their life, then like all information crammed for a test, the student will more than likely forget the material. The next year, the teacher is forced to not only cram new information into the student’s head, but they lose time having to refresh the lost skills. The second is that preparing children to pass assessments leads to an inaccurate picture of how those students are doing. The point of the testing is to demonstrate what level the child is actually operating at, but it often doesn’t reflect that. A student who passes a test one year might fail math the next year because of that aforementioned forgetting of what’s been crammed into their head, or even worse, they may only know how to answer test questions.
Authentic curriculum leads to more authentic assessment results, which in turn could lead to producing the effect we want in all children- that they’ve learned the skills they need to move on.