Making Assessment More Equitable

A next generation system of assessments offers the opportunity to create more equitable opportunities for all students to succeed.

Here are three ideas for how using more and different measures can make assessment and learning more equitable:

Use student-led goal-setting as a key measure.
Having students set goals and track their progress toward achieving them can be a powerful form of assessment that provides insights into why students are performing as they are in addition to what they know and can do. Goal setting helps students prepare to be independent learners who take control of their learning. All students possess the ability to set and achieve goals. For lower achievers in particular, goal setting is a crucial skill for developing a stronger sense of self-efficacy, enabling them to control the conditions of their success.

Summit Public Schools, which operates 11 charters in California and Washington, provides time weekly for students of all achievement levels to meet with a dedicated mentor to set goals, review progress and adjust strategies accordingly. By their senior year, students have developed high levels of self-awareness and the ability to have conversations about their metacognitive strategies — how they think about their own thinking and how effective their thinking is in helping them achieve their goals.

» Implement measures that provide additional insight to students about who they are and what they want to be.
Many measures are becoming available that help students gain insight into themselves. Some fall under the heading of social-emotional learning. Others gauge college and career readiness. Most are self-reports that ask students to think critically about them-selves. These instruments also serve a teaching function. The items themselves help all students discover the “privileged knowledge” held by only a few students currently and identify what they need to do to succeed in school and be ready for college, careers and life.

For example, Intellispark, a McLean, Va.-based company, offers, as an option in its Pulse data management system, an instrument called Insightfull that determines college and career readiness in four areas: key cognitive strategies, key content knowledge, key learning skills and key transition skills. The Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College developed a list of 21 noncognitive instruments including Angela Duckworth’s grit scale, Carol Dweck’s mindset instrument and William Sedlacek and Terence J. Tracey’s noncognitive questionnaire.

For career readiness, one of the best free online resources is the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, O*NET OnLine, which contains questionnaires and diagnostic tools to help students learn more about their career interests and what it takes academically to prepare for a career.

» Use standardized test results to measure student growth in addition to their status and rank.
Measuring student growth in addition to their performance level and percentile rank is rapidly becoming much more widely accepted. While the goal is always to get all students to comparably high levels of achievement, growth goals help demonstrate progress that can be missed if students are only compared to one another. Growth goals allow all students the potential to show progress, even if they are below a desired performance level. Nearly every state includes some type of growth model in its accountability system.