The WYTIWYG phenomena- what you test is what you get – is an example of how school and district assessments can have both good and bad effects on instruction.
There are two primary barriers a school leader must remove – in order to make sure the WYTTWYG phenomena does not highlight the bad side of assessment.
1. Using District Benchmark tests to serve a summative function only. It is important for the school leader to understand District benchmark tests that are not used as a longer term formative assessment quickly become misused summative tests perceived to determine if teachers are “keeping up” with the curriculum pacing guide. James Popham (2006) says it well:
Assessment expert Lorrie Shepard believes that this approach [using benchmark tests for summative purposes only], which is based solely on marketing motives, is corrupting the meaning of the term formative assessment, thereby diminishing the potentially positive effect of such assessments on student learning. During the 2006 National Large-Scale Assessment Conference, Shepard observed,
The research-based concept of formative assessment, closely grounded in classroom instructional processes, has been taken over—hijacked—by commercial test publishers and is used instead to refer to formal testing systems called “benchmark” or “interim assessment systems.”
As a school leader it is your role and responsibility to ensure benchmark tests are used for formative functions. As Popham (2006) further indicates however, there is hope for longer-term large-scale assessments:
Properly formulated formative classroom assessments (or even sufficiently short- cycled district assessments) can help students learn better and can improve those students' scores on external accountability tests. Persuasive empirical evidence shows that these tests work; clearly, teachers should use them to improve both teaching and learning.
We are not not suggesting that longer-cycle tests, such as the so-called benchmark or interim tests that we often run into these days, are without merit. They quite possibly may enable teachers to make useful longer-term changes in instruction and curriculum (p.87)
The more appropriate use of benchmark testing occurs when using the tests for immediate and corrective feedback. The most powerful use of benchmark tests occurs when teachers form instruction and students form and focus personal targets for re-learning based on benchmark results. Without teacher work time built into the benchmark testing process for this formative function, there is no evidence that the benchmarking effort will impact or improve student learning.
Last week, as you can see from this picture, mathematics teachers from around the country addressed the WYTTWYG phenomena at the NCSM leadership academy in Atlanta GA. As part of the preparation for the expectations of the CCSS they attacked the 2nd barrier to the good side of assessment.
2) Private teacher decision-making for summative assessment design and the scoring of those assessments, used during a unit of study.
Based on the identified learning targets for the unit of study, what are the common and coherent and high quality summative assessments the teacher team will use during this unit? What are the summative tests and projects that will be used for the purpose of determining a students’ grade or mastery level? In addition, what will be the team agreed upon scoring rubrics used for grading student work on the agreed upon performance targets? How will these rubrics be used during the formative assessment process of the unit to provide descriptive feedback to the students and further ensure potential mastery on the summative assessments?
These school leaders made the following Assessment commitments in 2011-2012. Will you join them?
I will commit to providing opportunities to engage in departmental and grade level discussions about common course and unit assessments with grading rubrics. With the expectation they will be non-negotiable in 2012-2013.
I will commit to writing all exams at the start of the unit, and distribute expected scoring rubrics to ensure equity and rigor in grading practices across teachers and teams.
I will commit to working with all of our teacher teams on the critical issues of grading practices and coherent feedback to students on all tests - using CCSS rigor.
I will work with all teacher teams on developing a basis for common assessment quality and scoring them together.
I will build our 2011-2012 PD efforts on scoring rubrics and common assessments used for formative purposes (The equity problem caused by teachers doing their own grading of things).
Developing the “basis” for high quality summative assessments and the grading of those common assessments and common homework assignments defines a boundary to the expected and common grading practices that must used by all faculty learning teams.
Use the time you have this summer to determine the commitments you are willing to make to address the WYTTWYG phenomena .