Rachel's Notes: October 22, 2008

Last Updated: October 22, 2008

October 22, 2008 The Forum for Education and Democracy hosted another briefing on Capital Hill last week that was first rate. The topic "Assessments for Learning: A Briefing on Performance-Based Assessments" is close to our hearts here at the Rural Trust.

With help from the Education Testing Service and the Harvard Graduate School of Education we developed a Portfolio-Based Assessment System (PBAS) for place-based learning. It includes rubrics for student learning, community change, and school-wide change. Over the years, we have tried, with little success, to encourage schools with whom we work to consider this performance-based tool. The pressure of standardized high-stakes testing has made schools and districts wary of trying any kind of performance assessment.

Perhaps the times are changing.

This briefing included five presentations:

Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond discussed international assessment practices. The fact is that all the nations whose students rank at the top of international lists use performance assessments. Students are required to apply knowledge to new situations in multiple assessments that are embedded in the curriculum.

Eva Baker from UCLA who directs the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Testing (CREST) described performance-based systems in American schools and in the military. She debunked several myths. The one that is most interesting to me is that they have been able with modest training time on rubrics to get different people to score material with almost 100% agreement. And, she explained the ways in which new technologies enable this process to work even better.

Ann Cook of the New York Performance Standards Consortium described their performance-based assessment system that New York State has allowed to be used in place of the Regents Exam. One of the students from New York City, Kiri Davis, now a sophomore at Howard University, knocked our socks off with the presentation of her creative arts project that culminated in a seven-minute video.

Nick Donahue, former New Hampshire Commissioner of Education and now head of the Nellie Mae foundation, talked about state efforts in New England including Rhode Island’s system that includes performance assessment for 30% of graduation requirements.

By October 24th, these presentations will be available online at www.forumforeducation.org.

I encourage you to look at them and if you are interested in learning more about performance assessment and our PBAS system, please be in touch.

One of the services that the Rural Trust can provide to members of the Rural School Innovation Network (RSIN) is assistance in developing performance-based assessment generally and in implementing the PBAS system. In addition to our staff, we have a Rural Faculty of educators around the country that can help develop, design, and implement a performance assessment that is appropriate to your school and community.

As always, keep in contact.

Rachel Tompkins