Why we continue moving to performance based assessments is best explained by renowned educator and speaker, Jay McTighe. “The case for the increased use of performance tasks rests on two foundational ideas: 1) Authentic tasks are needed to both develop and assess many of the most significant outcomes identified in the current sets of academic Standards as well as trans-disciplinary 21st Century Skills; and 2) Research on effective learning from cognitive psychology and neuroscience underscores the importance of providing students with multiple opportunities to apply their learning to relevant, real-world situations.”
The implementation of benchmarks a few years ago was the beginning of our movement toward assessments that truly measure the application of skills and knowledge. We made this move after two years of conversation with a committee of staff and students who researched and recognized the need to move beyond the content laden final to prepare our students to be as successful as possible post high school. As a high school, we have come a LONG way to achieving that goal and there are some outstanding examples of performance based benchmarks making their way to our students. It is time to acknowledge the progress to date and offer a perspective on where we still need to go.
If current benchmarks are telling us what we already know about the learner ~ then it is likely time to consider a redesign. These assessments should go beyond that and should also evidence a true progression from marking period 1 to 2 to 3 to 4. Reviewing each benchmark should provide a clear picture of what students don’t need more of and what they do need more of. A well-constructed assessment will naturally allow focus on the needs of the class relative to strengths and areas that need enhancement. If all assessments are merely asking students to recognize an answer that is already there, we are not asking for any authentic application of skills and knowledge. Feedback is crucial for both teacher and student and utilizing class time to provide that is essential to turn an assessment into an instrument for learning. Creating these types of performance based assessments is not an easy task. We continue to work with our resident expert, Joe Ginotti, from the University of Pennsylvania. The administrative team spent time with him just last week and he was very complimentary of the progress RHS has made ~ very encouraging.
Are performance based assessments the only assessments we should be giving ~ absolutely not. They are however becoming part of the fabric here at RHS to assist students with becoming more critical learners and problem solvers.