So I received an email that someone had posted a comment on a discussion I had started awhile ago about Standard Based Assessment on the #SSchat Ning. It came from Mary Lou Buell and she agreed to let me publish it here. Below is the comment in its entirety:
I will look and see if I can find that old list. But I have to confess, you are bringing up a sore subject for me. After a decade on the job, I thought I have finally hit on a great system. The skills. The skill progress chart, etc. made the subject so much more meaningful for me and the students. I used the world history subject content to assess the overarching skills which were like “explain how economics is a driving force in history.” So, it put events from the Opium War, to the Unification of Germany, to the Persian Gulf War into perspective. It really gave the students some direction and focus, instead of just learning “facts” about the events. It was a great way to generate discussions too. And the best part was that just like in life there were no “wrong” answers on tests, only unsupported answers.
Unfortunately, due to pressures from RTTT and the new evaluation system our department needed to standardize the curriculum. We have no state history test, and if we ever do get one it won’t be in world history. So the department took a vote and my way lost out to multiple choice tests with questions copied from old NY state regents exams, and I believe the AP world history test. We also have new department “standards” with things like “attainment of rights” and “democracy” and “industrialization” which I don’t mind as much, but there are only a few of them and they are broad it’s hard for the students to really focus. We also have standardized essential questions which are great (well, ok…I had my own that I like better, but these are ok)—BUT the multiple choice tests don’t really address the EQs.
I really struggled last year, and am having a hard time this year getting my planning going. Sorry to be a downer, but I am not looking forward to another year of this curriculum and not being able to teach it how I want. I will go through my old files and see if I can find some helpful examples of what I used to do.
by Connor Tarter
So an inspired teacher with a wonderful curriculum is being shut down by the hierarchy that comes down from NCLB, RTTT, and the Common Core. I don’t believe this is an isolated story (I also have a friend who teaches MS science and developed his own curriculum where he taught the history of science chronologically and won a state Science Teacher of the Year award only to be told he could not teach that way anymore for the same exact reasons-standardization across the district), but will become the “norm” unless teachers find some way to resist.
We need to start reframing the conversations to focus on quality instruction instead of this cookie cutter nonsense!