Assessing Writing - Documenting Students' Growth

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Why do we assess? For what purpose? In terms of writing, I hope the answer is this: We assess so that we can help students become better writers. If not, we’re wasting our time. We assess to determine strengths to build upon and weaknesses to address. We assess to document growth. But ultimately, we assess to find out what we can do to help students become better writers.

However, too often assessment is used to “hold teachers accountable”. Ugh. Why is it that some groups continue this war against teachers and insist on the de-professionalization of education? Hold teachers accountable? We want intelligent, creative teachers to enter the field – but then we treat them like young, way-ward adolescents. We don’t trust them. We think we need to hold them accountable. We tell them what they must teach and how they must teach it. We assign standards and measures that must be used. Maybe we should give them a curfew as well. That’s it, let’s give all teachers a curfew and a mandatory bedtime – and restrict their TV watching and phone access if test scores fall below a certain percentage. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Certainly.

However, what happens when groups continually try to hold teachers accountable? Teachers teach to the accountability measure. In other words, they teach to the test. I mean, who wouldn’t? The result of this accountability nonsense is that instead of testing what is taught, teachers teach what is tested. This is called ass-backwards in some circles. Utter clownery in other circles. With such ass-backward clownery, the curriculum becomes narrowed, focusing only on that which can be measured and quantified by an external entity.


Elementary and Literacy Education Department