Thursday, April 19, 2012

Parents having a voice in student assessments

As I have mentioned before my perspective on teaching and learning has changed a bit now that I am a parent with school aged kids. I am happy that the voice of parents is beginning to be heard. We are far from giving this voice enough weight, however the change has started. I don't know if parents today are more savvy in the area of education and assessments or if they just want to be more involved, but the voice of parents in schools is more present than say 10 yrs ago. It probably has a lot to do with the global job market and pressures around getting our kids gainfully employed so they don't live with us forever! Heck, I'm already thinking about the skills and talents of my 4 yr old and how that will translate into a career for him. Whatever the reason, parents are at the table and want to be heard.

I applaud this movement and encourage it within reason. Just as I don't go into the doctor's office to demand my child be given a certain medicine or treatment, I would except that parents are not going to do that to teachers. It should be a partnership.

A hot button right now is assessment. With the onset of NCLB assessments became a much larger focus and part of the education of our kids. The question that is being asked now is "How do these assessments benefit my child's learning?" The answer is... they really don't. Not to say that assessments are worthless, that is simply untrue. The key is what type of assessments will benefit my child's learning. The accountability assessments or summative assessments don't have much benefit for individual children. They are meant to hold schools and districts accountable. Formative or informal assessments are where the rubber meets the road for my child's learning. This is the type of assessment that teachers should be spending time developing and analyzing, but often teachers don't feel they have time for this because they are preparing for the "big" one. This is understandable. It is time that we, as parents and educators, speak up and let the powers that be know we want the time our kids spend in the classroom with educators to be focused on moving them forward in their learning. This should include frequent, informal assessment that inform teachers about the immediate needs of the students.

Here is an article that got my ideas started for writing this blog post, it is worth a read. What Parents & Educators Want from Student Assessments is an article written by Marilyn Price-Mitchell with Parent Involvement Matters speaking to this topic.