This is the ninth is a series of questions, concerns, comments, and issues related to the 1995 NCTM Assessment Standards for School Mathematics. Thus far, we have looked at each of the six standards. We are now ready to tackle the section on Purposes: "Use of the Assessment Standards for Different Purposes." Because all items are numbered consecutively for ease of reference, I'll begin today with # 47.
Ron Ward/Western Washington U/Bellingham, WA/98225 firstname.lastname@example.org
47. I want to caution everyone that each of the sections on purposes is MUCH LONGER than the sections on standards. So, I'm actually going to give you the weekend to read thru the first purpose before I ask questions about it. :) However, I will make a few preliminary remarks and try to suggest some things to look for as you read.
48. I found some of the introductory writing to be a bit confusing. For some reason we have both "broad categories" and "purposes" which turn out to be the same thing. We also have both "results obtained" and "actions"--again which turn out to be the same. And, according to the writers, it is the "objectives to be achieved" that will distinguish one purpose from another;however, as I read each section on purposes, I found myself wondering what those specific objectives were. Thus, for my understanding, it would have been better had they not let loose with so much educational jargon. Perhaps you'll feel differently.
49. The writers claim that ALL six standards apply to EACH type of assessment but that "the way in which a particular standard is applied in assessments carried out for different purposes may vary." So, you might want to look for such variations, especially when dealing with two purposes which are as closely related as "Monitoring Students' Progress" and "Evaluating Students' Achievement."
50. You will probably also want to look for evidence of several "shifts in assessment practices" which are discussed and illustrated in each section. [I note in passing that for those who have read all of the NCTM Standards' documents, we now have a rather LARGE collection of "shifts" of one kind or another! It might make an interesting project for one of your students to gather and organize ALL of the recommended shifts and to investigate how they interact with each other.] One of the things the authors say is that "The shifts should be seen as components of needed changes in the total assessment system and not viewed just with respect to the purpose with which they are presented." What do you think they mean by that?
51. Now the writers claim that the specific educational purposes they identify have been "deliberately chosen to blur the distinction between assessments that are internal to the classroom and assessments that are external." But as I read, it seems to me that what they are really after is to extend outward teacher participation until THEY are involved in the assessment process for ALL purposes, not so much extending inward the involvement of external evaluators.
52. When we discussed the standards, there were "questions for reflection" listed at the end of each section. So, you should look to see how those specific questions can be used to determine how well assessment practices meet the standards--within the context of each purpose. That is, what METHODS are recommended for APPLYING the standards to each purpose?
53. It is also my understanding that we should be able to detect the four "phases of assessment" within the context of each purpose. If true, this would help to "flesh out" some of the earlier material on assessment systems and approaches, for those particularly interested in that.
54. Finally, I note that as we read thru the six standards, there were references from time to time to the examples and vignettes that we're going to NOW read about in the purposes material. So, for example, I found it helpful as I read each vignette to go back and check all the things it was SUPPOSED to illustrate, then verify that it did so.
As you can see, there are MANY things to juggle as you read each purpose. I don't think it will be easy. But, now you have been warned! Cheers. :)