Susan Riley | April 2013

Practice What We Preach

A few weeks ago, I heard John B. King, Commissioner of Education for New York State, give a keynote presentation about the impact and roadmap for the Common Core Standards.  He was fascinating to listen to, and had so many points of merit. However, the one that stuck with me most was his comments about assessing the Common Core.  Essentially, do we practice what we preach when it comes to assessing the Common Core?

Mr. King’s point was that if we teach Common Core Standards, we should use assessments reflecting those standards.  Yet, as I listened, I reflected that this could quite easily transpose itself to any new initiative, and particularly to Arts Integration and STEAM integration.  If we choose to learn all we can about Arts Integration strategies, download lesson plans, learn how to write lesson plans effectively, learn how to curriculum map and align the standards but fall short during assessment time, what data does that reflect?

What are we truly measuring?

This happens all. the. time.  Teachers do a fantastic amount of work learning about Arts Integration and put so much effort into implementing an authentic lesson plan.  Administrators take time to discover what Arts Integration is and how to look for those behaviors and practices in a classroom.  And when it’s time to give an assessment, a multiple choice test, brief constructed response or fill in the blank test is pulled out.

I would laugh if it were funny.

We should be assessing our students in a way that reflects how they learned the information.  It should be able to demonstrate the how and the why of the process, and not just the what of the knowledge.  So we should be looking at rubrics that are flexible enough to showcase a variety of strategies, processes, concepts, skills and applications of student understanding.  We should be able to allow students to show growth over time through portfolios or to demonstrate their learning through a self-reflection.  And yes, when a summative assessment is necessary AND appropriate, we should use those too. We must use questions reflecting a student’s critical thinking, not just knowledge base.  Formative, Performance and Summative.  It should all align.

It is a difficult task to ensure what we assess is reflective of the work our students created.  But without this type of aligned assessment model, our integration work is in vain.  Because without the right measurement stick, we’re all just guessing at what our measurements really mean.

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan