In a recent conversation with fellow advocates of performance assessment, a colleague made the point that our job as educators is not to teach standards but to teach students.
Of course, standards play an important role in guiding teachers’ work. But given the structures and incentives of our system, it’s easy for standards to slip into the position of ends rather than means. Tragically, covering standards—“I taught it; some got it.”—feeds inequities that plague education. When we truly reorient to “teaching students,” we stay focused on those whole human beings in our classrooms. What do our students need to achieve, how will we know they have achieved it, and how do we support their getting there? This is performance assessment system design.
The graduate profile movement is a boon, pushing students into the focal point of our energies. Social-emotional learning (SEL) is trending, reminding us to attend to the whole child. But none of these ideas will translate into lived learning experiences until students are regularly tackling rigorous and real-world challenges that elicit the skills they need to practice and master. Our kids need high-quality performance assessments.
Join us on twitter for more conversation about the importance of teaching students over standards, using the hashtag #TeachStudentsNotStandards
Justin Wells, ELP Executive Director