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Guest Blog: Standardized Tests as Diagnostic Tools

By Jon Lever

There is a great deal of pressure around the results of our standardized assessments, PAWS holds state level accountability and NWEA holds district level accountability.  As a result, not just here, but around the country, the emphasis on the results of standardized tests has created a great deal of pressure to perform well on those tests.  The scandal in Atlanta is just one prime example of the intensity of the pressure that exists, people will cheat to get better results.

In Wyoming, we are lucky, because, even though we have standardized tests that are tied to local, state, and federal accountability, at this point in time accountability to individual teachers hasn’t hit.  Of course, we all want our school’s results to be positive when they are published in the paper.  But we haven’t reached a place of salaries changing or students not graduating because of the results of the standardized assessments.  What we have the unique opportunity to do with the results of our standardized assessments is to use them as diagnostic tools.

Sir Ken Robinson, made the statement in a Ted Talk, that “Standardized tests should be diagnostic…not dominant …”  What does this really mean?  This means that we need to recognize that assessments are tied to the standards.  Schools and teachers should look at the results of the assessments to see what areas within the standards are not being addressed, or could simply be improved upon.

If teachers see consistently that one skill area is where students are not performing well, then the teachers should first look at the state standards to see what is required of the students in that skill area.  Then look at how that skill area was taught in the past and see what changes can be made based on the skill area.  At the same time, if results show that students are consistently performing well, teachers should not ignore that area, but rather look to see how those skills can be expanded upon so that student’s strengths continue to grow.  Even better, look for overlap between the skills and see how the strength can be used to improve the area of underperformance.

Standardized tests themselves are neither good nor bad.  They are simply tools that give us information about our student’s performance against a set of standards.  What we choose to do with those results is up to us.

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 Jon Lever is the Assessment Data Coordinator for Natrona County Schools. His background includes 14 years in the classroom as a high school teacher. He started in his current role in 2011.  

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This entry was posted on May 13, 2013 by in Home - Inside NCSD and tagged , , , , , .

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