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Alternative Assessments

If we could change our education system more readily, I wonder if there would still remain the debate about testing and/or standardized testing.  I understand the fears about changing an entire system without research to back up what appears to work, but despite the research, it doesn’t work in every classroom. Why not? Each teacher is delightfully different. Those differences can be part of what makes our system great: they can also be what bog it down.
 
You likely know that I am a special education teacher.  I teach the moderate students that fall through the cracks of our education system – not quite ready for 100% independence and self-advocating, but do not fit in the highly specialized special needs classroom. So perhaps that is why the issue of assessment is nearer and dearer to my educational practice.
 
I frequently tell my clients and my students that there is no test in life that you can’t re-do.  What I endeavour to teach them, however, is how to learn from each experience and grow from it.  I happen to be a person who excels at testing, particularly standardized testing, but there are so many it doesn’t reach or teach.
What if we looked at testing as honestly “show-me-what-you-know”?
 
I have seen “show-me-what-you-know” presented as daily or 2-3 times weekly quizzes or as assignments that allow you to apply the skills learned.  I personally believe assessment should fall into that second category.  To ensure that our students have 21 century skills, why not give them 21 century tasks?
 
If we consider the workplace as our students’ ultimate destination, in whatever form they chose, then we need to expose them to those ideas and options.  The idea that not every venture is going to succeed, that marketing and presentation skills are important to not only yourself, but to the company you work for, that knowing your audience can make or break your efforts to succeed, the idea that you need to be flexible, adjust and get in there to get their hands dirty and so many more…
 
I wonder how a test can teach you any of those skills… In fact I don’t ever remember having to pass a multiple-choice test within a job. I know I had to pass one, well three, to be considered for certification as a teacher, but that was my choice (yet I do wonder how many people who would be fabulous at particular jobs held back or down because someone in their linguistic wisdom chose a multiple choice test as the gold standard).  For those that say testing helps prove decision making skills, I did have to prove that I could make decisions both as a policy analyst and as a teacher, but I was given real life opportunities to prove that.
 

So since all of these questions are about assessment, how do I assess you may ask? Well some of my students will return to a bricks-and-mortar school, so I teach them the decision making skills required for a multiple choice test, but I focus on alternative assessments. Check out some of the ideas I use in my classroom:
-memos
-memes
-infographics
-blogs
-videos
-collaborative notebooks
-comics
-peer tutoring
-learning menus
-maker time/build it
-20% time or Genius Hour

Or check out these links:
Or my summary:

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