It’s Time to Assess the Skills Students Truly Need

Regents time is right around the corner yet instead of dread and fear, my students and I are feeling ready to demonstrate all the skills we have learned this year.  It is spring and a time for new beginnings, and the time has come for assessments that match the learning that is done each and every day in my classroom. 

Schools this year can elect to have their students take either the old New York State Regents in January, or to have students’ learning assessed using the new Common Core Regents in June. My school decided to have our students take both.

After the January Regents, my students felt frustration. While completing the Critical Lens essay, they realized that the task was far different from what they do in the school day.   My students (critical thinkers that they are) questioned the validity of an assessment that does not demonstrate mastery of skills, but rather the majority of which could be completed simply by using basic synthesis or memorization. 

I asked my students what they would include if they were to design their own assessment.  They created a wishlist for the Common Core Exam that included measuring what they are actually learning: close reading, making evidence-based claims, argument writing, and a true measure of their critical thinking skills.

Assessment results should reflect not only the teaching and learning that has been done, but also point to the skill gaps that students have and will need to compete in the ever-changing landscape of global competitiveness in the 21st Century. I want my students to exit high school with the knowledge and skills necessary for a new world.  I want them to be able to face challenges in their careers with confidence. They will not need to search their memory for what Ms. Finch said was the theme of 1984, but will need the critical thinking and communication skills that allow them to take in new information, make meaning for themselves, and communicate in a scholarly way.

I feel that as I come to another culmination of teaching and learning in my classroom for the year, students should feel confident and ready to demonstrate their learning, and as a teacher, I am ready to learn and grow from one more puzzle piece of information that will help me complete the larger picture I need to accurately understand my students’ skills and knowledge.  We are now ready to move into this next generation of assessment which will help my students better demonstrate their learning and help me better prepare them for success after high school.

Andria Finch is a high school English teacher at Franklin Central School in New York.

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