It’s Time to Reassess: Educators Rethink Measurements of Student Performance

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As teachers grapple with addressing COVID-19 learning gaps, while preparing students for high-stakes state testing, the frustrations of educators, administrators, and caregivers are approaching a fever pitch. The intense focus on standardized test scores has not only pressured teachers into fabricating test results, but has also sapped students of their energy and motivation to learn and internalize class material. There is one question gaining more and more prevalence in the education sphere: Does the way we conduct student assessment really measure student success?

Our current state of assessment consists of the traditional 0-100 grading scale, which is employed to summarize what students learned. Testing often occurs at a point when it’s too late for teachers to tailor their instruction to help struggling students. This leaves teachers with a murky idea of their students’ needs, while students experience elevated stress and an unclear understanding of their course objectives. The fact is that traditional assessment models do not measure the skills crucial to student success like critical thinking and independence

This problem, exacerbated by the frustrations of students and caregivers needing more support from educators who are stretched too thin to provide it, has sparked a noticeable shift in the approach to student assessment. Teachers are embracing the concept of a streamlined grading system based on mastery. They place a greater emphasis on the completion of specific objectives and assessing the most recent performance. Moving away from relying on a cumulative average of past performances. Mastery-based assessment is critical for teachers and caregivers to be able to meet the students where they are now, as opposed to where standardized test scores claim they should be

As more ed-tech options appeared throughout the pandemic, many educators and caregivers hoped the expanded technological options would foster student independence and self-directed learning. However, it soon became clear that while technology is an ever-present fixture in students’ lives, many of the “educational” apps and programs popping up on the market are more distracting than supportive. Educational technologies that can help students think critically and process independently are useful tools, but not every student has the intrinsic motivation to problem-solve on their own. 

An effective technological solution would ideally combine the elements of on-demand convenience and human connection to keep students engaged. One such company attempting this multi-pronged approach is Link-Systems International (LSI) with its Sofia homework practice and assignment program. Since Sofia is algorithmic, students can practice as much as needed, by generating similar questions and using just-in-time hints when they get stuck. When Sofia’s hints do not provide enough support, students can send a question directly to their instructor or even connect to NetTutor, LSI’s tutoring program. NetTutor uses highly qualified virtual tutors who are available 24/7 and trained in scaffolding techniques that guide the student toward working independently. Questions from Sofia travel with the student over to NetTutor for easy collaboration. “We want to provide students with unlimited tutoring support so that they have unlimited opportunities to demonstrate their mastery throughout the year, not just at test time,” said Vincent Forese, President of LSI. 

The antiquated assessment scale does a disservice to students who can thrive when given the resources to do so, and averages in their failures with their successes. Moving forward, educators and caregivers are considering how to leverage technologies at their disposal to boost student confidence. The confidence to use resources to seek help, the confidence to demonstrate their mastery of curriculum objectives, and the confidence that they are being equitably and effectively assessed.

Published by: Aly Cinco

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