Recently, PARCC (which is one of the organizations charged with creating and implementing new assessments for the Common Core Standards) released their first clues as to what the new assessment model will look like in 2014-2015.  In what is one of the most exciting changes that is coming with Common Core, PARCC is making it clear that assessment will take place multiple times during the year and in multiple ways.  A bulk of the assessments will be through performance-based tasks in both English/Language Arts and in Mathematics.  As an “Arts” person, this puts me on the edge of my seat and definitely perking up my ears.  If what we implement becomes what we propose, we have an honest potential for making assessment an interactive part of the learning process for students.

An Equitable Assessment

It’s incredibly difficult to provide any measurement that is equitable.  We have tried to solve this problem by providing equal assessments for years – measurements that are exactly the same across the board.  It hasn’t worked.  There still exists a perceived major gap in many subgroups, including in minority students and special education students.  However, are they really gaps?  Or, could those students demonstrate their knowledge in that content area if we offered an assessment that was relevant and meaningful for them?

In our online class, assessment for makers, we explore the idea that equitable is NOT the same as equal.  By providing multiple opportunities to share their mastery of a skill or concept through performance-based measures, we may be offering a better compilation of true student understanding.  After all, it’s not about how much knowledge you have, but rather what you do with it that counts.

The Performance Standard

And here is where the Arts become truly reflected within this newly proposed assessment model.  Three of the four assessments throughout the year are “performance-based” assessments.  Meaning that students must show what they know through manipulations of content into something new.  This is where the Arts truly shine through – because the ultimate measure of the Arts are through their performances.  It doesn’t matter how much work you put into you character if you never have an opening night.  Nor does it demonstrate your commitment to mastering your craft without a portfolio of work to show how far you’ve come.  And you can’t having a stunning choral performance with all voices in harmony without having a great understanding of your own musical interpretation of the work through your vocal practice.

We are used to being judged critically based on what we produce and through that, we become better artists – and better people – for the development of the work itself.  We have an opportunity to share how we do that with our colleagues and our communities. It becomes our job to help them adjust and implement these new assessments with integrity.

Not a Cure, but a Model

These assessments are not going to be the cure that “fixes” what ails us.  We need to gather as an educational community and do that for ourselves.  We need to recognize that “drill and kill” doesn’t work and that standardization can only take you so far.

However, these new assessments do provide us with a model to keep in mind for our own classroom assessment systems.  Are we capturing more than one view of student understanding?  Are we offering opportunities to built a portfolio of learning?  And where are our greatest values – in the knowledge or in what you do with that knowledge?  Are we building assessment systems in our classrooms and schools that match those core values?  We’ll continue to take a look at the PARCC Assessment Prototypes this week to analyze how we can truly make our assessment systems align with student globalization and relevancy to ensure the most equitable model possible.