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A study by Khosrow-Pour (2006) found out that a student’s level of performance is best assessed with balanced measures which are directly linked to the lessons taught and the materials used in teaching. He further states that the most authentic measures available for teachers to evaluate students in class are the regular assessments. Khosrow-Pour observes that using teachers’ personally developed classroom tests and quizzes to evaluate performance of students is helpful for latter to meet national and local achievement standards. Other studies found that classroom assessment were in need of realignment with the standards. Notably, the finding did not indicate any teacher who developed their own assessments. Instead teachers transformed local standards in classrooms to achieve targets and in turn change those achievement targets into classroom assessments (Macciomei & Ruben, 2001)
The process of assessing students’ performance in public schools is mostly narrowed down to an exercise focused on a single aspect of a student. According to Gillborn (2005), any single assessment can give a true reflection of what a student is able to accomplish. In order to have a real representation of the students’ learning process and their capabilities, a balanced assessment system is needed. This system will not only reveal the learning process of a student but also the ability of the teachers to teach. A balanced assessment program will help in revealing a lot of aspects related to the education sector. Brantlinger (2009) observes that a balanced assessment system should be hinged to the understanding of the basic mission of public schools that is to maximize success of all students rather than to rank students based on their achievements. To achieve this, Reschly (2002) observes that assessment should be seen as instructional tools, used alongside the learning process in order to determine next steps in the teaching and learning processes.
Davidovich & Laugerman (2009) state that a balanced assessment program must include following components: teacher-made assessment that incorporates multiple choice and short answer questions together with written and oral responses. Students also are assessed through produced products such as demonstrations, developed models projects accomplished and written presentations. Moreover, there is a standardized assessment that benchmarks the process of learning and provides a summary assessment to the progress of the student.
The above classification of assessment helps the teacher to monitor closely the progress made by the student. Moe (2001) says that teacher-made assessment produces comparable results between and among students in a class. It is aimed at increasing the achievement of the student besides informing the teacher on the progress of the student learning process. Moreover, this assessment provides a checklist for both teacher and student to determine the learning progress in relation to other students in the same class. Notably, this form of assessment helps the teacher to have a clear picture on the distribution of resources in a class.
On the other hand, Khosrow-Pour (2006) argues that students who are assessed through generation of products can produce results that reflect the individual ability of the student. Likewise it shows the application of acquired knowledge and the reflection capability of the student. Additionally, Davidovich& Laugerman (2009) note that this form of assessment helps the student to be self-aware and ensures that a personal reflection on individual application of acquired knowledge is attained. The student is also able to figure out the kind of resources that that they may be in need.
Similarly, a standardized assessment produces comparable results between classrooms and schools. It documents the individual achievement of the student and the school. The assessment may help to inform others about the learning progress of the school. In addition, it provides a check for the teacher on instructing and learning of individual in relation to the school. Finally, a standardized assessment informs the division on the distribution of resources to individual classrooms and schools across the nation or a given geographical area (Khosrow-Pour, 2006).
The Need for Balanced Assessment in Public Schools
Balanced assessment of students by their teachers is considered to be one of the professional requirements that instructors of public schools are supposed to have beside other usual skills of content and classroom management (Davidovich & Laugerman, 2009). It is considered an official tool that every teacher is expected to have and this represents a national practice. Additionally, there is a more essential and vital reason that necessitates the need for balanced assessment. For instance, information obtained through classroom assessment helps the instructor to answer fundamental questions that instructors ask. Through the use of balanced assessment in public schools, teachers and instructors are empowered to identify and document evidence whether or not appropriate progress is achieved by students in class. Per Dalin (2005) observes that any contradiction to the expected result means that teachers need to implement necessary instructional and learning changes that meet the desired learning outcomes.
Another aspect of balanced assessment of public schools is that it is set as a standard to be met by all teachers. In theory it is suggested that fundamental assessment exists for every teacher regardless of whether they are employed in public of private school. In essence Martino & Clarke (2008) argue that teachers are supposed to be knowledgeable and competent in regard to assessment skills. Assessment skills needed by teachers include the knowledge and understanding of foundational assessment terms and procedures and know how to use them in a classroom setting. Further, teachers in public schools should able to select appropriate assessment approaches that are based on the purpose and instructional circumstance. He observes that collection and communication of findings related to educational decisions should be skills of teachers who want to have their schools well assessed. Finally, teachers assessing students in public schools should adhere to some ethical guidelines and procedures while using assessment measures in class (Gillborn, 2005).
Discussions are on going to determine whether assessment in public schools contribute towards the final achievement of a student. Martino & Clarke (2008) indicate that classroom development has been found to improve especially when low achieving students are regularly engaged and receive regular feedback on their performance during the course of study. Similarly students have achieved high levels if certain assessment practices are followed in their classroom. Reschly (2002) cites effective and meaningful learning communication between the teacher and the student, deliberate efforts made by students to ensure that students are part and parcel of their own learning process and are always connected to it. Furthermore, assessment information should be used by teachers to examine the process of students’ learning and adjust the process where it is found to be necessary. They note that students should be given opportunity to assess their own learning progress and make necessary adjustments in order to reach the desired educational experience.
In relation to the above, Barbara, Taylor & Pearson (2005) observe that assessment should exist as the necessary balance to teaching. With an efficient classroom measurement system in place, a suitable demonstration of student learning and progress concerning classroom training and experience can be established. Moreover, if the classroom assessment system is associated with the intended academic substance standards nationally, there is direct evidence that students have acquired expected knowledge and techniques and skills mandated by national standards can be provided. Through making assessment a part of the teaching process, it assumes the role of a critical component of every educational experience provided to students in public schools. Balanced classroom assessment is, by intend, a permanent process where specific student creation is examined and previewed to make sure suitable and authentic progress toward a particular learning goal or target is being attained (Ventriss, 2003).
Brownlie & King (2001) observe that it is inequitable to hold all students to the same assessment standards because richer schools generally provide a higher quality education than schools in shoddier areas. Research shows that this disparity is distributed along distinctive lines such as race, gender or origin. Cases of students being placed in schools based on aspects that are beyond their control has been increasing recently. This has affected the performance of some students who may be burdened by thoughts of being segregated on the basis of their race or gender. For instance, Long Island is a geographical area dominated with white school systems, where mixing students by race isn't even an option. According to Hemphill-Pearson (2007), a ruling against using race as a factor usually put Long Island students and innumerable other students across the country at a severe disadvantage in the contemporary education world where mixing and mingling has been embraced.
How to Mitigate Challenges to Balanced Assessment in Public Schools
Assessment in public schools faces a lot of challenges that come from various players including teachers and students themselves. Davidovich & Laugerman (2009) noted that both formative and informative assessment must be seen as instructional tool geared toward assisting teachers in their teaching process. But this is not the case as assessment on the whole is seen as a formal requirement by education policy makers. In return, all assessments in schools are taken as a matter of routine rather than as a part of teaching and learning process. For instance, Davidovich& Laugerman (2009) observe that summary assessment is destined as a measuring tool to evaluate learning of concepts at the end of every unit or some other points of designation. Ellen & Handley (2004) state that estimation in a balanced assessment structure must be understood from the point of view that the principal mission of schools is to increase success for all students but not simply to rank students according to their achievements.
Similarly, Macciomei & Douglas (2001) note that assessment should be viewed as a process of keen observation of learning that entails describing, collection and interpretation of information relating to a student. It must also be understood as an incident of learning that provides opportunities for teachers to reflect the understanding of a student. They argue that there is a need for all the stakeholders to understand that assessment generally aims at improving the performance and not just evaluating performance. The data collected during assessment should be used to make informed decisions and help in providing a clear reflection of the student process of learning.
Macciomei & Douglas (2001) observe that a balanced assessment should include connected tools and strategies that are fair and reliable and which are sufficient enough to bring up the learning process of a student. Therefore, public schools will need to have varied and regular opportunities for their students to demonstrate their comprehension and reflect learning process. Moreover, teachers should be versed with the capabilities of their students so as to be able to design effective assessment tools for the students. This will enable them to design a balanced assessment system which takes into consideration both formal and summary assessment techniques.
Davidovich& Laugerman (2009) cite continued collaboration between teachers and students as important factor for development of better systems of assessing students in public schools. Teachers should undergo regular training to improve their skills of assessing students in schools. On the other hand, students should also be encouraged to analyze, view, and compare their performance with the previous ones. Upon doing this, they will be able to reflect their capabilities and be able to apply new techniques during the next assessment (Milbrandt, 2002).
On the other hand, teachers should be able to investigate previous assessments and deduce information concerning the records of the students. Likewise they should be capable of administering diagnostic tools to find out the strengths and needs of the student. Moreover, Altbach & Umakoshi, (2004) suggest that teachers should give interest inventories so as to be able to learn more on the co-curricular activities of their students away from classrooms.
Another challenge that faces balanced assessment in public schools is the failure of teachers to premeditate on how they assess their students before developing the lesson activities. While preparing to classes, teachers fail to plan through putting into consideration of students’ needs in order to demonstrate that they are acquiring and internalizing what they are taught in class. Macciomei & Douglas (2001) indicate that while improvement on the system and mode of assessment has been remarkable, there is much that needs to be done to encourage teachers to deliberately plan for assessment before they think of attending a lesson in class. Through planning, it becomes possible to bring out the importance of formative assessment. Planning will also ensure that questions to be asked are clearly set out for every lesson as well as enabling the teachers to identify areas which require much of their efforts in order to improve the performance of students. Furthermore, it can also help teachers to know the most relevant assessment techniques that bring out the desired results in students.
Macciomei & Douglas (2001) indicate balanced assessment has been remarkable. It remains vital for teachers to maintain assessment systems that provide for a variety of assessment to provide multifaceted opportunities for students to demonstrate their process of learning. There is also the need to look for constructive and specific communication signals exhibited by students. Collecting data on feedbacks should occur regularly within the confines of classroom. Similarly, the progress of every student who may be at risk of lagging behind should be monitored.
Finally, Davidovich & Laugerman (2009) also argue that since children are not subjects for processing, there is need to formulate conventional assessment systems that meet requirements in the public sector. Moreover, they suggest that there is need for a clear cut distinction to incorporate natural learning process with technical process in assessment systems.
From the above discussion, it is clear that public education face a lot of challenges that need to be collectively addressed by stakeholders. It is evident that, in the wake of financial crisis and diminishing family income, students should be able to reap maximum benefits from public schools that they attend and thus there is a need to have assessment systems that are multitasked to ensure that all aspects of students’ development are captured and nurtured well enough to bring benefit for nation. Similarly, there is need to develop systems that will ensure equitable assessment of students irrespective of the locations and schools. The paper recommends collaboration among