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The Best Articles Describing Alternatives To High-Stakes Testing


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I’ve been trying to identify the best articles/posts that describe alternative ways to assess student learning other than high-stakes testing, and would love suggestions from readers for others.

Here’s what I have so far:

Jay Mathews wrote a column in the Washington Post titled Intriguing alternative to rating schools by tests. He speaks very positively about the student assessment process used by the New York Performance Standards Consortium.

The term “performance-based assessment” is a term used to describe one way to evaluate student achievement (the Consortium’s process would fit into this category). This basically means that students are evaluated on work they have “constructed” as opposed to choosing from a list of pre-determined answers. This could mean a writing assessment, similar to what is done in Vermont or Kentucky, or filling-in the blanks in a cloze (there are usually multiple appropriate responses), or describing how a student would develop a science experiment. The Stanford Center For Opportunity Policy In Education has developed a brief that lays-out the case for performance-based assessment and how it might be implemented. You can also learn more about this topic here.

The Other Kind of Testing is a good column by Walt Gardner in Education Week. It’s about “performance-based assessment” for students

Monty Neill from Fair Test has had a commentary published in Ed Week titled A Better Way to Assess Students and Evaluate Schools.

Teachers: How do We Propose to Measure Student Outcomes? by Anthony Cody

Bonnie Bc on Twitter suggested these:

A Child Is Not A Test Score by Monty Neill

Authentic Assessment and Accountability from Fair Test

The Case Against High Stakes Testing
from Fair Test

The Morningside Center recommends The Authentic Assessment Toolbox.

Arne Duncan Supports Using Student Portfolios To Evaluate Teachers?

Hot Off The Press! The Best Piece Yet Published On Teacher Evaluation

An alternative to standardized testing for student assessment is from The Washington Post.

Time to Put Forward a New Reform Agenda is by Pedro Noguera. I think the part about student performance-based assessments is particularly interesting.

Tests Seen as Bar to Better Assessment is from Education Week.

Help Has Arrived!: Banishing NCLB’s Narrow Paradigm is from the National Education Policy Center.

Impressive PBS News Hour Report On Project-Based Learning

NEA Partners With Teach Plus & Creates Online Rating System For Student Assessments

Monty Neill: Authentic Assessment as Part of a Testing Reform Campaign is from Education Week.

What Should Schools Be Assessing – and How? is by Sam Chaltain.

Rethinking Assessment: Trusting Teachers to Evaluate Student Learning is from Mindshift.

The Most Important Info On The D.C. Test Score Increase

Tennessee Using Portfolios To Evaluate Teachers In Non-Tested Subjects – Why Not In ALL Subjects?

The New York Performance Standards Consortium has been recognized by The American Federation of Teachers by its prize for Solution-Driven Unionism.

Coalition wants the state to let more schools skip the Regents is an article about the New York Performance Standards Consortium.

How Schools Can Succeed Without Tests is from The Hechinger Report.

Testing On The Brain

In Kentucky, Students Succeed Without Tests is from NPR.

Here’s Why We Don’t Need Standardized Tests is from Ed Week.

What Schools Could Use Instead Of Standardized Tests is a short and sweet review of possible alternatives to using standardized tests in schools. It’s probably the best thing I’ve seen on this subject. I was familiar with all of them except I had never heard of “stealth assessment,” which sound intriguing and depressing at the same time.

Quote Of The Day: Teacher Gives Testimony To Senate Committee

Showing Student Growth Without The Test is from The Educator’s Room.

Schools in New Hampshire are creating alternatives to national standardized tests.

Statistic Of The Day: Alternatives To High-Stakes Testing

NYC schools that skip standardized tests have higher graduation rates is from The Hechinger Report.

Presentations, Projects and Portfolios Can Take Place of Tests is from U.S. News.

There are better ways to assess students than with high-stakes standardized tests. These schools are using them with success. is from The Washington Post.

Please leave other suggestions in the comments section of this post. Thanks!

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Pingback: What's the alternative to high-stakes testing | Peer-reviewed by my neurons

  2. My wife and I have opted our 10-year-old twin boys out of all standardized testing for the past two years because of our objections to the grotesque abuse of those tests currently in our home state of New York.

    And guess what? We haven’t noticed any difficulty on the part of their teachers or ourselves assessing our children’s intellectual growth.

    The underlying assumption of virtually all public discussions in this country of “assessment” and “accountability” is that we absolutely at all costs must have a system in place that somehow measures our children’s learning objectively against all other children on the planet. If parents and teachers don’t have “internationally bench-marked” assessments to consult, our education system and society itself will collapse.

    I’m genuinely mystified by this. If I want to know whether one of our kids knows his multiplication tables, I ask him “what’s 6×8?” One of our boys is gifted enough in math to be working on some problems and terms I’ve forgotten or never knew to begin with, so for those I ask his math teacher, who tells me he’s working at about an 8th-grade level. We talk to our children about the books they’re reading and the stories and reports they write, and it’s perfectly clear to us how they’re doing with that. When we want to know whether they’re holding their bows correctly when playing their stringed instruments, we ask their violin and cello teachers.

    Educators can provide lists of topics, skills and areas of knowledge — aka standards — throughout the whole spectrum of knowledge in virtually any subject, loosely coordinated with somebody’s idea of what should be covered at what age. Anyone competent in those subjects can tell you what a given student can do and what he can’t. What’s the big deal? How can filling out multiple choice answers on a machine-graded piece of paper possibly yield a more informative assessment of learning than the direct observation of a teacher well-versed in a particular subject?

    When I was growing up and attending public elementary schools in Indiana, standardized tests were not part of the picture. I took one in fourth grade, it lasted 1-2 hours, there was no preparation and were no consequences, and that was it until the SAT.

    I have two degrees from Harvard, one from Princeton and am a tenured professor. I’m a certified smart person. College and career ready. And I got here doing virtually no homework until high school, and then as well having plenty of free time to pursue my own interests, uninformed and unconstrained by constant long-distance “assessments” of my progress.

    So my prescription is simple: student assessment should be performed by teachers, who whenever possible should issue narrative descriptions of what is going on with the children they work with. If parents want them, let them have grades (I’m with Alfie Kohn in my assessment of their worth; I get no information I care about from the numeric labeling of my children).

    And scrap all standardized tests. Let those who want them pay for them and have their kids take them outside of school hours (by the way, that’s how the SAT works, no?.

    The sky will not fall.


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