9 WAYS TO ASSESS WITHOUT STANDARDIZED TESTS
5/30/2012 By: Lisa Nielsen
We know standardized testing is a challenge. But what’s the solution? Here are nine ways your school district
can assess students without standardized tests:
1 Look at each student’s schoolwork: Students are doing work throughout the year. So let’s assess that, rather than
a bubble test. For instance, we can look at a piece of writing and use a standardized rubric for measurement. We
can listen to a recording of a student’s reading and retelling and use a standardized measure to assess the student’s
reading and comprehension level. The great thing is that many teachers are already doing this.
2 Games: More games are being created to allow us to determine a student’s level of mastery by the ability to
progress in a game. Some examples include simulation games and contests like Tabula Digita and Manga High.
3 Challenges: In real life, we’re assessed by how well we do, not by how well we fill in bubbles. We can help
young people tackle real-life challenges that demonstrate their capabilities and get them noticed for awesome
apprenticeships, internships, or career opportunities. This is exactly what companies like Rad Matter (life is rad, make
it matter) do.
4 Badges and Points: Folks like Tom Vander Ark (author of Getting Smart) predict that badges will be big in
education. A badge (e.g., think Boy or Girl Scouts) is a popular award for demonstrated mastery of a skill in games
and social networks like foursquare.com. In education, a badge could be awarded for successful completion of an
activity. An example of this kind of reward system is Code Academy, co-founded by Columbia University dropout Zach
Sims. On the Code Academy website, you learn to program by actually coding and you receive points and badges as
you complete each exercise.
5 Real-World Work: Encourage your students to get out of the classroom and into the world by exploring an area of
interest. iSchool is an example of a school that does this well with their Areas of Focus Program. The staff helps
students figure out their interests and guides them toward internships, apprenticeships, and jobs. Just like in the real
world, each student’s work is assessed by a supervisor
6 Real-World Projects: So many students are doing amazing work...just not in school. They’re making viral videos,
writing for publications, publishing their own blogs, and engaging in public speaking. When kids are doing
amazing things in the world, let’s give them credit for it.
7 Real-World Accomplishments: Why is it that many schools will only give students credit for work that is
done during school hours on school terms? If they can provide evidence, why can’t students get credit for
accomplishments achieved outside of the classroom? For example, if a student completes a marathon, he can get
physical education credit. If a student competes in a pig competition, she can earn science credit. If a group of
students write a travel review, they are rewarded with social studies credit. In these cases, the assessment doesn’t
come from the school, it comes from the real world.
8 Personal Success Plans: Assessment should be customized to the student, not standardized to the system. This is
exactly what happens with a personalized success plan with measurable goals. Teachers work with students to help
them identify their goals and develop a real plan to achieve them. This involves input from teachers, mentors, family,
friends, and the community. They can see the student’s progress at any time and provide scaffolded support as necessary.
9 ePortfolios: ePortfolios provide a great way to capture, document, make meaning, and share with others what we
learn. They are wonderful assessment tools that tell us much more about a child than a letter, number, or piece of
paper. Not only that, ePortfolios form the basis of what can lead to academic and career
success. There are numerous ways to create free, student-owned ePortfolios. The Knowit
App is a new site that helps students do this work. ePortfolio guru Helen Barrett notes that
Google Sites and Wikispaces are also great resources.