As the United States works to develop broader, more comprehensive and sophisticated testing assessment systems, several countries that have gone down this road provide maps on how to do so.
In a white paper titled “Benchmarking Learning Systems: Student Performance Assessment in International Context,” Stanford University professor Linda Darling- Hammond explores testing systems in Finland, Sweden, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom.
“While the use of performance tasks does require time and expertise, educators and policymakers in high-achieving nations believe that the value of rich performance assessments far outweighs their cost,” she writes. “These [new assessments] deeply engage teachers and students in learning, make rigorous and cognitively demanding instruction commonplace, and, leaders argue, increase students’ achievement levels and readiness for college and careers.”
Some larger nations like Canada, Australia and China have developed state- or provincial-level standards and blend state and local assessments. This methodology “turns out to be an important way of enabling strong teacher participation and ensuring high-quality local assessments that can be moderated to ensure consistency in scoring,” Darling-Hammond writes. “In many cases, school-based assessments complement centralized ‘on-demand’ tests and may constitute up to 60 percent of the final examination score.”
Among other examples, Hong Kong uses school-based assessments that Darling-Hammond’s report describes as typically involving students in activities such as “making oral presentations, developing a portfolio of work, undertaking fieldwork, carrying out an investigation, doing practical laboratory work or completing a design project.”
These methodologies “help students to acquire important skills, knowledge and work habits that cannot readily be assessed or promoted through paper- and pencil-testing,” she adds, and later in the report stresses “the importance of assessment of, for and as learning, rather than as a separate disjointed element of the education enterprise.”