K-12’s Dilemma with Performance Assessments

School districts across the nation anticipated that Common Core State Standards national tests would resemble a performance assessment.  As a result, K-12 districts pushed for all  their staff to learn how  to design, implement and administer  performance assessments in the classroom. K-12 teachers -across the country- spent many hours learning the ins and outs of this new assessment system.

And, just like all things in educations, the demand for this type of assessment simply stopped.

Performance assessments are time-consuming . It is not a practical evaluation for districts that are bounded to specific testing restrictions. This type of evaluation takes longer to design, to implement and to grade. The data results from these assessments are not instantaneously. It takes about two weeks to collect and analyze the results. Data -driven K-12 districts founded this problematic.

And, it forced them to return to a multiple-choice test format, which measures simple skills and concepts. Multiple choice assessments are not only expedient; it is cost-effective. Most of these tests are pre-packaged bulk evaluations, which can be automatically corrected by a Scantron machine. No longer do districts have to allocate funds or time for teacher training or a school coach. It does make the process easier for schools.

But faster, cheaper  and easier is not always a better way for our students.

Multiple choice assessments is  somewhat of a flawed evaluation. These assessments do not fully evaluate a student’s academic abilities, and can give false test score of what a child knows and can do. Quick assessments are brief appraisal of learning bits. Performance assessments are a more resource intensive evaluation; it is an accurate indicator of how well students can apply what they have learned. These assessments also quantify how a student is using prior knowledge to reinforce new grade-level content. The data it reveals is valuable in understanding how a student retains and transfers content being taught.

It is unfortunate that performance assessments are no longer consistently used  in K-12.  Hopefully one day, school districts will give performance assessments another try and recognize the its value measuring learning.


Beyond Basic Skills: The Role of Performance Assessment in Achieving 21st Century Standards of Learning

School Vouchers

Parents and educational advocates, who support school choice, believe that school vouchers are just another option to help disadvantaged students receive a first-class education. Voucher programs allow parents to use monetary vouchers from the city, state or federal government to pay for their child’s private school education. The amount of the voucher is generally about the same amount that is granted to public schools for each child’s educational needs.

School voucher proponents insist that is a viable solution for students, who are stuck in a low performing school.  According to voucher advocates, voucher recipients are more likely to graduate from high school compare to their public school counterparts. A greater majority of these kids graduate college and career ready. They are academically capable to handle college-level work, and have the requisite work-based skills to clinch an entry-level job.

On paper, vouchers appear to be the solution to our educational problems. But, like all reform initiatives, this program has its limitations.

Voucher recipients are not guaranteed admittance to a private school. Private schools, which accept vouchers, still require all students to meet their admission requirements. Kids, who do not measure up academically or behaviorally, are typically not accepted. In most cases, special education children, truants, and academically “mid-of- the road” students are typically denied admission to most private K-12 school systems.

It is possible that 80 percent of our public school kids will never benefit from a voucher program.

This program can also be very costly for many families. School vouchers only cover the school’s tuition payment. Any additional school fees such as textbooks and  transportation costs are the parent’s responsibility. Remember, that most voucher programs are targeted at low-income families. These additional expenses can be a significant financial burden for them. And, it can also deter many of these parents from enrolling their child in a voucher program.

For voucher programs to be effective, policymakers need to address these issues, and consider expanding the program’s reach to include publicly operated schools. Currently, students can only use their vouchers to attend private schools.

However, not all private schools are great schools. There are actually a number of high performing public schools that are more innovative and rigorous. It would be great if kids could be allowed to use their voucher to attend these schools. The voucher would cover the out of district fees. Since these schools are public, all students would be granted admission. It is a win-win situation for all students.

Phonemic Awareness Skills First

When it comes to learning how to read, the common wisdom is to teach phonemic awareness skills first, then phonics. This is because phonemic awareness is a critical pre-reading skill.

Phonemic awareness helps kids understand the sound structure of the English language in order to read printed text. Students with proficient  phonemic awareness skills can hear and identify letter sounds within words. They understand that spoken words are composed of individual and a blend of sound parts (i.e., phonemes). And, they use phonemes (i.e., units of sounds) to sound out words to read-out aloud.

Young children that do not have strong skills in phonemic awareness do struggle to learn to read and spell. This is because many of them have not been taught how to isolate and blend sounds into word parts and words to learn to read and spell.

The only way to build-up students phoneme awareness is by teaching them the alphabet and explaining how each letter represents one or more sounds. For example, the letter “A” has three possible sounds such as:  aaa, ah, or ae. By helping a child develop an ear for each corresponding sound a letter produces, s/he will become a proficient reader and speller.

Reading is not an easy skill for young children to develop. The best way for them to acquire this skill is by understanding phonemes. If a child can take words apart auditory and then put them back together over and over again; then reading mastery will occur.

What, Then, is an American Individual?

Where did all of these people come from?  They are Native Americans, Pan-Europeans, Africans, Asian, Oceanic, Latino, Transgender, Lesbians, Homosexual, and Heterosexual. What, then, is an American individual?  He or she is  a  mixture of ethnic and social diversity, which you will find in no other country.  Americans were once scattered all over the globe; now here they are assembled into one region of the world struggling to coexist under one set of principles.

All Americans are directed to comply with ethics defined by previous generations. However, it seldom happens this way.   Instead, Americans hold on to their ancient prejudices and behaviors until they are pressurized to evolve their reasoning.  They are perpetually battling with one another to control  the country’s political and social metamorphosis.

Some call for change to the status quo while others synchronously refuse to accept alterations to any existing conditions. It is a trial of strength and perseverance of whose policies and ideas will control the country’s direction.  The winner will either repress the country’s growth or propel Americans into a new era.

Ultimately, Americans are unforeseeable.

Inspired by J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer.