What do parents really think about assessments?

Are assessments important or not?

I interviewed Jon’s mother, Jon is a student with moderate autism who is a 9th grader on my current caseload. She believes that for her child formal assessments are not that important. She stressed several times that it is most important to know that her child is succeeding in his functional skills and progressing towards meeting his current IEP goals. She feels that it is important that teachers know how well Jon is meeting his IEP and behavioral goals and adapt them as necessary.

I also interviewed a regular education mother to a boy (Connor) who is in my English 9 class that I currently co-teach. Connor’s mother feels that formal assessments are an important part of determining how well her son is doing with meeting the learning objectives that are set in each subject area. She stressed that her son had a lot of anxiety about his first experience with finals after first semester but ended up doing well. She talked to him about how high school finals are a great learning experience for what college assessments will be like.

Do assessments accurately show what a student knows?

Both parents agreed that assessments do not always correctly reflect what the student has learned. Connor’s mother brought up the fact that he sometimes knows everything on a study guide but then still does not get the grade that he expected. She also wishes that some classes for example science or history would use less multiple choice exams and sometimes allow students to show their understanding through projects, experiments, presentations etc. She knows that students sometimes get anxiety or have poor test taking skills which then does not correctly identify whether or not they know the learning goals.

Jon’s mother mentioned the fact that she knows her son performs below the average on state and local assessments however she does not take these assessments into account when looking at his progress at school. She is more interested in how well he is progressing towards his behavior, organization, social and IEP goals at this time.

How can assessments be improved??

Jon’s mother hopes that teacher’s especially special education teachers would use more observation, checklists and shorter assessments to assess Jon’s progress. She knows that lengthy assessments are essential for most students but because of Jon’s ability level and disabilities he does not require such assessments.

Connors mother brought up the fact that she would like to see teachers use more informal assessments such as projects, presentations, experiments, discussions etc to assess the understanding of some objectives in certain subjects/classes where it is applicable.

Compare/contrast what parents thought about assessment......

Both parents believed that formal assessments do not always accurately show how well the student has learned the material or learning objects. Connor’s mom mentioned the fact that teachers do not always consider the students learning style and how this can affect the way they perform on assessments. She thought students should sometimes be able to show their understanding of learning objectives in other ways then “paper/pencil” tests. She however did say that because this is the form students will have to use in college so it is probably helpful that they are familiar with using this type of assessment to be successful. Connor’s mother also brought up the fact that formal assessments have brought her son a lot of anxiety this school year as he strives to succeed and get into the college of his choice.

Jon’s mother said that she believes because Jon has low written expression she would like teachers to assess him using oral conversations, observations, experiments, projects(posters so he could draw) etc. Since Jon will not be attending a four year university it will not be necessary to know how to take multiple choice assessments in his future. However she still wants teachers using informal and formal assessment to determine his progress towards meeting his IEP goals.

Why do parents differ in their opinion on assessments?

The reason for some of the parents’ differences in responses is the varied backgrounds of both of their sons. Jon’s mother deals with completely different issues than most parents at our high school. She also has stressed her goals and hopes for Jon’s future to me several times throughout the school year. Most of Jon’s post-secondary goals deal with him gaining experience during high school in living and community skills to be successfully independent. Connor’s parents hope he will gain the knowledge, organizational and study skills necessary to succeed in college and his career. Connor’s mother states he he will go on to a four year university so she knows formal assessment is a key aspect to determining how well he is meeting learning objectives. Connor’s mother would also like him to take courses such as the ACT prep summer course to learn how to become an effective test taker and know what to expect through practice tests. Jon does not take state assessments such as the WKCE or PLAN test so it is not necessary at this time that he knows how to successfully take multiple choice assessments.