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A New Look at Standardized Assessments

Scottish educational leaders say there is a better way.

Standardized testing has long been the tool to measure student achievement and teacher effectiveness. You can read about how to get your classroom ready for assessments here (GEI: Getting Your Classroom Test Ready).

The big question looming in educational circles is whether assessments are hurting or helping students. It depends on whom you ask. It also depends on how they’re implemented. Scottish educators have found a way to incorporate assessments while also providing equity and opportunity they say are vital for student success. Their goal is to help all children achieve their full potential as successful learners.

Here’s how they’re doing it:

Building a framework

Earlier this year, educators in Scotland consulted with teachers, parents, and children and adopted the National Improvement Framework. Their focus is to deliver equity and quality education, and to ensure students acquire skills at the highest levels so that they can have the greatest opportunity to succeed regardless of their needs and circumstances.“We want to close the gap and attainment between our richest and our poorest children,” said First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon. “It will for the first time over the next couple of years give us information about how our education system is performing and allow us to make sure we have targets and policy to improve and to close the attainment gap.”

Changing the goal

Globally, outcome-based learning and core subject performance have been the drivers of education for years. More recently, standardized assessments became the way to measure knowledge of material. Scotland says we need to look further than the assessment. Through their “Getting It Right For Every Child” (GIRFEC) approach and Wellbeing Wheel, support comes from from parents, teachers, community, and government so they can work together to support the child. Assessments are only part of the picture. Additionally, a new piloted standardized assessment in reading, writing, and math will be used by teachers in 2016 to evaluate students’ needs in and outside of the classroom. Parents will have access to this information so that they can further support at home if needed. And it doesn’t stop there. The National Youth Work Strategy for Scotland will support older students and contribute to improving outcomes for young people.

Considering the effect

While the Scottish government strongly believes that successful students stem from fully supported and nurtured students, it also places confidence in its practice to annually review its policies. Understanding students’ performance on a systematic basis allows educators to discover trends and see what’s working. By continually examining the framework set in place, it can adjust its foundations and provide more targeted objectives for students and support staff. Simply put, it’s an evolving process so that the well-being of children is continually developing. “Every child and young person has the right to expect appropriate support from adults to allow them grow and develop and reach their potential,” says the GIRFEC. By regularly measuring what creates success within students, the bar isn’t even in view for what they can accomplish.

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