Worth Reading: K-12

K-12 Testing

Guide to Developing Equitable Performance Assessments provides: background information on equity in assessment, including linguistic and cultural issues and connecting assessment to local context; strategies for developing performance tasks, with examples drawn from assessments used with American Indian students; and guidelines for workshops on the topic, including thoughtful questions for examining performance tasks. It contains five good criteria for authentic assessments, ways to reduce bias, and ways to think about equity. By N. Koelsch, E.T. Estrin, and B. Farr (1995). Available from WestEd, 730 Harrison St., San Francisco, CA 94107-1242; $8.00; if ordering with purchase order, add $2.00 p&h.


Learning in Overdrive: Designing Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment from Standards, by R. Mitchell, M. Willis and the Chicago Teachers Union Quest Center (1995), is a guide for teachers cooperatively writing and using standards at the school level. Though it contains clear examples and step-by-step procedures, the book suffers at times from a too-narrow, rather technical approach to the broader question of the purposes of schooling, offers only a limited range of assessment practices. the scoring guides also could use further work. Nonetheless, it is a worthwhile addition to the library of a teacher, curriculum specialist, or principal. North American Press, 350 Indiana St., #350, Golden CO; (800) 992-2908; $17.00.


Taking a Different Look: How the Primary Language Record Supports Teaching for Diverse Learners discusses how the PLR can be used to improve instruction for students with limited English proficiency, with special needs, or from low-income or minority group backgrounds. The impact on instruction and placement decisions is noted. Contains many concrete examples from student records and teacher interviews. A useful complement to the PLR (see Examiner, Summer 1992). By B. Falk, S. MacMurdy, and L. Darling-Hammond (1995). Available from NCREST, Box 110, Teachers College, Columbia Univ., NY, NY 10027; $8.00 + $1.75 p&h.


Final Exam: A Study of the Perpetual Scrutiny of American Education is a potent antidote for anyone poisoned by the notions that the sky is falling school reform movement began with the publication of A Nation at Risk or that current critiques of U.S. educational quality are based on the evidence. Author Gerry Bracey, once Virginia's director of testing and currently a widely published author on a range of educational topics, makes a strong case that broad-brush attacks on schools are a long-established part of American history. Rather than viewing contemporary public education through rose-colored glasses or from the diametrically opposite position that all schools are failing, Bracey uses international assessment data to show that many U.S. students are already performing at world-class levels. But conditions in schools serving low-income neighborhoods are generally so poor that high-quality learning is impossible. If policy-makers were to read this book -- and heed its message -- resources could be directed toward the nation's real educational problems instead of politically motivated symbols such as expanded high-stakes testing. Available from Technos Press, Box A, Bloomington, IN 47402; (800) 457-4509; 24.98 + $4.00 p&h.