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Educational assessments Issues

Introduction

Students, parents, as well as the community tend to measure the success and performance of schools and their children through the assessment tests that are administered. The tools and techniques used in measuring assessments are either valid or standard. While one agrees that assessments can help in designing the best approach that a teacher can employ on student, it may sometimes give conflicting and wrong result since the performance of an individual may be affected by many factors apart from class attendance and school behaviour. Some of these factors contributing to the performance of an individual include the motivational level, background of the student, varying intelligence quotients, and the disability status of the student. In most cases, the use of standardized tests is employed, though it tends to give varying results when given to different students. It can therefore be deduced that assessment, though widely used as a measure of performance may lead to the wrong deductions and conclusions. In the analysis of this paper, special emphasis will be given to the issues that testing procedures and security harbours.

Types of assessment

Educational assessment refers to the variety of methods that the educators use when evaluating, measuring and documenting academic readiness. This includes the learning progress and skills acquired from the time a student starts the preschool up to the time one attains college education and eventually adulthood. The standardized assessment and testing approach is used to test a large population so as to give a generalized conclusion of the performance of the students. This system does not put into consideration the different conditions that may affect students from different regions. For example, the national educational board uses a standardized exam to gauge the performance of the students. This is regardless of whether the student comes from a disadvantaged background, or school capabilities (Marzano, 2006). An assessment that puts into consideration the nature of the students as well as the teachers would be better than that which assumes that all students were taught the same thing and therefore are able to perform/undertake a given test. Despite this fact, assessments can be used to track a given student, or a group’s performance, thereby making it possible to assist a person on an individual basis. This is particularly so because, the performance of an individual can determine the weak areas in one’s curricular and therefore provide a better avenue for assistance.

The major educational assessment includes the standardized assessments, high stakes assessments, reference tests among others.  Standardized assessments are designed, administered and scored on a standardized manner. These assessments usually use a multi choice format, though in other instances, may include open ended and short answer questions. These tests can be administered to a large population of students who belong to the same age, or grade level in a given state, region or country. The results from diverse locations can be used to compare individuals or group of students’ performance. Standardized referenced assessments on the other hand, are designed to measure how well a student has mastered certain specific skills and knowledge. The standard tests, together with the high stakes assessments may not generally relate to a given learning standard, and individual institutions or teacher may devise their own standards referenced tests to measure the performance and progress of the students.

High stakes assessment is another type of standardized testing that is used for accountability purposes. In short, the federal government and other agencies use the assessment method to ensure that students enrol in effective school and are being taught by effective teachers (Reutzel, 2013).  The scores that a student or a teacher gets in the high stake standardized tests determine the promotion and excellence of the teacher and/or the student.

Issues with testing procedures and security

Assessment methods includes observation of the subject matter, providing tests and interviews and portfolios, thus getting the performance of each subject in relation to the whole sample being studied. One of the issues with the testing procedures is that they are never perfectly accurate and therefore lack in terms of reliability and validity. No matter how objective a teacher can be in attempting to select the method to be used in assessment, various factors, including portfolios, past experiences, values, and attitudes influences the judgement of the educator/teacher. At the same time, the questions to be asked in case of an interview and the behaviours to be observed may not be considered as fully valid since they are affected by the educators personal beliefs values and attitudes. This therefore leads to the questionability of the assessment techniques.

The authentic assessment techniques, though subjective lacks the reliability score. This means that they fail to provide consistency, or the same score when administered again and again to the same person.  It follows that the observation made on day one may not be the same in day two and hence unreliability. At the same time, the results obtained from one child cannot be generalized to another set of children or group of people (Oermann, & Gaberson, 2009). The issue with the authentic techniques, therefore, is the fact that they cannot be applied in a holistic way to a group of children, nor can they be used to compare results between two sets of student groups.

Standardized tests on the other hand, are considered to be a good source of information for providing useful insights in the development and learning of the students. Despite their objectivity, and reliability in providing the same results every time they are administered and their validity (their ability to measure what they dictate to measure), they are influenced by various factors including culture. It should be noted that every test is administered within the context of culture, and this being the case, the results obtained in most cases produce the values and aspects of culture exhibited.

The logic behind testing is that, they all advocate for a standard based institutional improvement. Many systems are established to ensure that the performance of the teacher as well as that of the student is kept in check and the responsible held accountable. These policies, however, have led to controversies in the sense that though, they raise expectation on the students, they narrow down the students learning to what will be tested (Harris, Smith & Harris, 2011). This leads to the failure to recognize that what is being assessed is not all that is tested, but a part of what the student know or ought to know. Tests focus mostly on what can be easily measured and not on the extreme critical thinking skills that the student should possess. This fact limits the thinking capability of the students and at the same time falsely raises the hopes of the parents and the educators that their children/students are not faring well, or they are above average. Taking an example of the performance based assessments, these tests are designed to elicit various skills, including critical thinking, problem solving as well as communication skills. In most cases, these tests are open ended and the teachers as well as educators judge the students on the written essays. This is usually not exhaustive and therefore not be reliable when it comes to the actual performance of the student.

Since testing puts blame on the teacher, the school or the student to align with the set standards, the teacher may be forced to teach what the set standards require thereby denying the students’ exposure that may be provided could other means of assessments were used. The varying standards from state to state delimits some cluster of students, while the use of personalized tests lacks the validity assumption.

Another issue with the testing procedures is the fact that it leads to the educators and parents spending too much time preparing for the tests. The excess concentration on what is to be tested detriments other important activities that a teacher or student could have done to improve performance. As indicated earlier, many of the standardized tests administered are culturally based (Wyatt-Smith & Cumming, 2009). This explains why many of the African Americans and students from the minority groups score lower than their white counterparts. This therefore raises the issue and query as to the validity and reliability of the standardized testing.

The high stakes assessments determine whether a student will be promoted to the next level or not, whether they will go to the next grade, earn a high school diploma, or whether they will attend summer schools. These being the case, complaints about the fairness of the tests in promoting students have been raised in many States. This is more particular when students fail to qualify either as a result of biasness or general failure (Scheerens, Glas, & Thomas, 2003). The use of multiple choices in the high stakes exams undermines the efforts that are put by struggling students and this raises the credibility question as to whether the tests should be administered or held as true when it isn’t clear whether schools have the relevant materials and high quality teachers, viable curricular, and extra time that may help the student master the expectations of the test.

Reflections and insights

Assessments are important in the determination of a student’s performance. They are also important to the teacher since they assists in the determination of a teaching strategy to be applied to the students. In most cases, educational assessments have some degree of validity and reliability and help students to undertake extra research and readings in order to meet the test requirements. In fact, tests bring about academic gains to the minority students since they put extra efforts and eventually perform better on a national outlook. To make testing and assessment successful, it is important for the relevant department to make sure that the students as well as the teachers have the necessary resources and tools that are needed to meet the expectations of the tests. They should also make sure that apart from meeting the test requirement, the students are equipped with the necessary skills that would help them become experienced in the job market and personal development. Despite the issues with assessment testing and security, there is a need for assessments and testing as by so doing, the expectations of schools, especially of the lower performing institutions are improved. Tests can also be used to improve classroom practices through identification of what the student is lacking, and thereby enabling the educator to tailor the lessons according to the needs of the student.

Conclusion

          Education assessments entail the contemporary performance measurement techniques that explains the far a student understands in regard to the test given. The tests may be personalized, thus testing the students in a given area, or may entail the high stake standardized tests that are used to gauge the students from a large population. Despite this fact, the assessments have been criticized as being biased and lacking reliability and validity since they are prepared with the nature of the student in mind. The state of the teacher in terms of the attitudes, belief and past experience may also affect the outcomes of the assessments. All in all, there exist various types of testing, which include the standardized assessment testing, high stake, standard testing, and the standard referenced assessments among others. Issues that arise as a result of assessments include the over reliance of the test by the educator, thus consuming time that could have been used for other activities, the high stakes exams, cultural bias, and the narrowing down of the students reading scope in order to meet the tests expectations. All in all, there is a need for the assessments to be undertaken as they prompt the students to add more effort while at the same time, helps the educator to understand each student and the help that can be accorded to the students.

References

Harris, P., Smith, B. M., & Harris, J. (2011). The myths of standardized tests: Why they don’t tell you what you think they do. Lanham, Md: Rowman& Littlefield Pub.

Marzano, R. J., & Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (2006). Classroom assessment & grading that work. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Oermann, M. H., &Gaberson, K. B. (2009). Evaluation and testing in nursing education. New York: Springer.

Reutzel, D. R. (2013). Handbook of research-based practice in early education.

Scheerens, J., Glas, C. A. W., & Thomas, S. (2003). Educational evaluation, assessment, and monitoring: A systemic approach. Lisse [Netherlands: Swets&Zeitlinger.

Wyatt-Smith, C., & Cumming, J. (2009). Educational assessment in the 21st century: Connecting theory and practice. Dordrecht: Springer.