This morning, the tweets from MRA13 were about Peter Johnston who, in huge contrast to Rhee and Gates, reminded us that we teach kids and not subjects. This puts assessment in a different light. I used to be glib when it came to assessment and say assessment was accountability without the annoyance factor. How one defines assessment depends, I think, on what the focus of the classroom is. If we focus on kids, as Johnston suggests, then assessment is more individual (instead of group-focused) and diagnostic rather than prescriptive. It also does not need to be in the form of test results and data points. True assessment can be conducted in a quiet conversations or conference with a student.
But for those like Rhee and Gates who demand data, let's give it to them. Let's show them the amount of reading done willingly, the writing done with enthusiasm, the discussion conducted with passion within the workshop or other UNprogram approach (and I kept data all those years ago when I was working with middle school kids, data that indicated growth commensurate with those who were using packets, teaching grammar and spelling in isolation, using the textbook in lieu of real books, etc.). But let us be quick to point out that our data is reflective of the progress of the child who is at the center of all we do. Our data is not a measure of our value; instead it is one snapshot of one learner. Let's keep the focus where it belongs: on the kids.