Does Assessment Have to Drive the Curriculum


Does Assessment Have to Drive the Curriculum? In the real estate market the key word is location, location, location. In education the key word is assessment, assessment, assessment. Do we need all the assessment? What is the purpose behind all the assessment in our schools? Assessment is a concern not only in our schools in the United States, but in British schools as well. Are teachers to teach to the test? Are the tests an accurate reflection of a level of intelligence or merely a reflection of what a student can recall or know? What about authentic assessment, does it have a place in our schools? Are we testing what our students will be able to do in the world as citizens or are we testing them to see what they can merely recall? According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, recalling facts is at the lower end of the spectrum of critical thinking skills. Application and synthesis of knowledge reside at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Are we doing our students a disservice in our assessment of their knowledge? Are we restricting classroom activities, projects, and other hands-on activities for the sake of the test? How do we answer these questions as teachers? As administrators? As school districts? As nations? Are we truly assessing our students’ abilities in the real world in which they live? There is a heavy emphasis on testing to measure what students are/are not mastering in the content areas. Testing, according to Paul Ramsey, a representative of Educational Testing Service, “must provide accurate, valid, and reliable measurement of student knowledge. These tests must be aligned with the curriculum. If tests are not aligned with the curriculum, the test cannot be a valid measure for standards-based accountability” (speech, 2006). There is a growing “concern about the fairness of external testing and the undue pressure it places on students and teachers” (Volante, 2006). Questions with only one right answer rely on rote memorization; they are fact-driven (Swope, 2000). And what about the Limited English Proficient students? According to Peterson (2002), many schools will find themselves on the Needs Improvement List. In fact. Peterson says, “some state superintendents predict that within a few years upwards of 80% of all schools will be on the list” (2002). Students can learn so much from each other. When teachers teach to the test, time is taken from collaborative work and this limits students’ learning. No one is going to live as an isolated Gilligan on his own little island. Students need to learn and live collaboratively. Rotherham states that we need “more than a list of standards” (2006). In an interview with Theodore Sizer (2006), Rotherham agreed that there must be better ways than our present methods of assessment. The trouble with the No Child Left Behind and assessment is that it is “narrowing everything to a single score, to a test on a particular day” (2006). Many claim that “educational standards coupled with external testing increases accountability and allows for greater instructional consistency” (Volante, 2007).Ramsey (2006) advocates “adequate opportunities for students to learn the material that will be tested and … the format of the test that will be used.” We need a balance between classroom and large scale assessment. According to Volante (2007), the most timely and relevant type of assessment data is “integrating a range of curriculum-embedded assessment measures for accountability purposes, focusing attention when it is needed most–improving reliability and validity of classroom assessment data.”Swope & Miner (2000) agree that the goal of assessment should be “to help students learn and to provide them a quality education–not to constantly compare schools and children.” So, does teaching to the test drive the curriculum? Volante (2007) answers with an emphatic “yes”. Research has documented that teaching to the test does raise test scores, but what is the overall effect on the student population?