Thursday, June 21, 2007

Assessing 21st Century Skills

I'm sick over Regents exams being the measuring stick of intelligence. By distributing, proctoring, grading, and giving credence to the exams are we only perpetuating the myth that they actually are true barometers of success? I am not sure if I can participate in the process next semester. Do exam grades translate into life long success? Seeing a sophomore cry in the cafeteria over the stress of an exam designed to separate her from society made me sick.

Below is an excerpted article that although might sound a little "Thomas Friedmenesque" is really the push we need to make in our school. If we are pushing project based learning and we are designing our own assessments we should consider changing our transcripts. Are we ready to make this switch?

"Between tasks in Algebra 2, Valari Jacobsen checks her grades in the class. Accessing her personal page on the school’s computer system, she sees she has a 71 percent in course content. She knows she needs to step that up.

But she’s doing really well in collaborating with her peers: Her score is 100 percent. And in oral communication, she has a 135 percent.

Unusual as it may seem, Jacobsen, an 18-year-old senior, is being evaluated on oral communication and on how well she works with other students in her mathematics class at Sacramento New Technology High School. Those interpersonal skills are among 10 “learning outcomes” students here must master as they progress through all their academic subjects. The outcomes are embedded in complex projects designed to build those skills as well as course-content knowledge.

The approach to learning is one response to national concern among policy and business leaders that teenagers are emerging from high school without the set of skills they need to thrive in college and the workplace. Some experts refer to those competencies as “soft” or “applied” skills. Some call them 21st-century skills." (read more)


W Brown said...

Am I wrong here? Does everyone agree? how can they (the powers that be) stop everyone?

Anonymous said...

Let me see... if you or your kids were sick, would you go to a doctor who received his degree by creating a portfolio OR one who passed his/her rigorous medical exams???

Thank goodness you are not in charge of hiring airline pilots!

W Brown said...

Would you want a doctor who filled in scantrons or one who has been on rounds and expereinced patient interactions?

Which plane would you get on, one with a pilot who answers a DBQ or one who has recorded some flight time with an instructor and learned from expereince?

Why can't portfolios be "rigorous"?

Stop selling yourself short, we as humans are so much better 3 hour exams.

Anonymous said...

Although I am not a fan of regents exams, how can we hold accountability without them?

Superfly said...

The question is not how we can have "accountability" without regents exams, but how you would quantify the individuals involved.

Anonymous said...

If my kids were sick, I'd probably have to go wherever the HMO told me I could go without any knowledge of the doctor's educational experiences. Go see Sicko about the tragic results of our state of health care in this country.

Isn't one purpose of education to get young people ready for the work world and to be informed citizens? I don't think Regents exams, which require rote memorization of facts in some content areas, do anything of the sort. Some of the questions on the Science exams seemed more perceptual which require critical thinking and problem-solving, but most of the tests require five paragraph essay writing skills -used so often in the real world (not) - expert test-taking skills, or memorization of facts. For high achieving students, a high score on these exams is coveted, but what does it actually represent? Maybe they study hard, maybe they are really smart, maybe they will be extremely successful in life, but is a test score a true and only way to demonstrate these traits?

Ms. Mayo said...

I don't know that the doctor metaphor works here. A friend of mine teaches nursing in a Jane Adams H.S. in the Bronx. The state sent in reviewers to certify the kids. Some students failed for not starting the exam by washing their hands. But nursing, like doctoring, is a "doing" thing. As much as we want them to think like historians in history and all, the regents is really more about knowing than about doing.

In answer to the question, I think I'd prefer somebody who created a portfolio (if it demonstrated an understanding of what needed to be understood, had some thoughtful reflection on why it was chosen to be in the portfolio, etc.) than somebody who passed an exam. That kind of learning lasts a lot longer than information memorized for a test. Any of us that looked at any of the science regents, and saw how little we remembered, will agree. And if we try to remember our own school experiences, there is a stronger possibility that we remember projects and presentations over the tests.

2 cents.


d. o'neill said...

Doctors take the exams they do because it is essential that they have a certain amount of content base stored in memory so that it can then be applied to patients. So they learn by research, lectures and then of course experience rounds and patient interactions. I want my doctor to have this base of knowledge that has been memorized and then applied. I want a lawyer to have down the basic fundamentals of the laws of our state when beginning a practice that will be bullt upon as experience is gained.
I am at a crossroads as to how I feel about the regents exams. Is the english regents so difficult that is is impossible to pass? Aren't acquired skills necessary to pass the english regents and are these considered worthless? For history, does the exam have no credibility at all? As for science and math, after the Living Environment exam which is the only one required for the basic regents diploma, I think the exams should be optional for those students that have the aptitude for a particualr subject with all students in the class being held accountable for the coursework.
My problem with these tests is not that students take them but that they are so high stakes. So, if a student cannot pass a regents for graduation there is no other way to prove that knowledge was gained and a diploma deserved. Maybe this is where change needs to be made.

Mr Tesler said...

Like many of the posters here, I find myslef conflicted over the regents exams. To that end, if I may take a moment to discuss my feelings.

Regarding the regents exams themselves, I'd like to comment on their "rigor." I recently scored a regents exam which required a student only needed to correctly complete about 40% of the material in order to get a passing score.

Where is the rigor in an examination which you can answer less than 50% of the material correctly, and still earn a passing score? With all of the "conversion factors" and other scoring devices, doesn't it seem like the "powers that be" themselves admit that the scores on the test by no means demonstrate mastery?

I tend to agree with O'Neill's comments about these tests. There's certainly a need for some requisite information in certain disciplines (law, medicine, music). However, I believe you should also be able to demonstrate what you can and have done with the knowledge of your subject.

Perhaps a solution could involve modifying graduation requirements, where a portfolio of work would be used along with some type of pen/paper test. Something that shows that not only can you memorize facts, but you can actually use that knowledge in a constructive, meaningful way.

Mr Tesler said...

Although I spent considerable class time preparing my students, for the Regents exam, I didn't do this because I believe in high-stakes testing. I did this because as a teacher, I believe I owed it to my kids to have them ready for what their state and city tells them they must do to get a high school diploma.

As WB once eloquently told me "we can't hug the Regents exam." At this time, the state is telling the kids this is what they have to do to get the parchment paper. To that end, our hands are being forced to give credence to these tests. Perhaps more effort needs to put into making change at the higher levels of the educational spectrum. My question is how?