January 28, 2009
Writing Response 1
Assessment Does Not Equal Evaluation
Wolcott examines some of the fighting points surrounding education, primarily writing assessment and, on page fifteen, she describes assessment (for this purpose) as “used interchangeably with the terms testing and evaluation.” She does mention that the pedagogical uses and apparent definitions for these terms are debated, but she doesn’t actually clarify the debate. The chapter lends the impression that assessment and evaluation are synonymous and that evaluation is formative and summative.
In a Curriculum and Assessment class, I can recall the professor claiming no such interchangeability. One of our major requirements was to apply both assessment and evaluation techniques in appropriate contexts. Wolcott touches on the uses of the findings, regarding classroom (internal) and external testing, but does not critically dissect the two. On page seventeen, Wolcott explains that “formative evaluation […] is ongoing and ‘proactive’ in the sense that it allows for changes to be made.” As a student of elementary education, I’m sensitive to the flexibility she assigns to the term evaluation, because if this mistake was made in one of my previous classes, I’d be writing “assessment does not equal evaluation” on the board for a week.
Assessment, from my own memory, is always ongoing, meaning it’s formative in nature and provides teachers with information necessary to augment teaching. There is a sense of finality given to evaluation; its product is summative and concentrates on measurements and benchmarks—let’s say, the NJ ASK given in fourth grade.
Another way to look at assessment is to picture it as observing what’s being learned in your classroom. Conversely, evaluation strictly is what has been learned. With assessment, there is room to improve and it’s sometimes viewed as an outlet to practice objectives. When a student is evaluated, what they have learned is measured, or gauged, or whichever politically correct educational phrase you prefer. In my prior coursework, I have known assessment to typically correspond to the internal testing Wolcott analyzes; and, evaluation, in my eyes, is consistently external. I just don’t agree with her perception of summative assessment/evaluation stressing such accountability; summative evaluation makes more sense. Even in a writing discipline, I believe the distinction must be made.
These commotions over terminologies and political intricacies are probably contributing factors to the downfall of American education. We can’t just teach! Every writing lesson must be in alignment with the trend or content standard of the week. Without a doubt, there is a need for assessment and evaluation, but as a future educator, I’m hesitant to have an opinion, because what I’ve spent five years studying will likely be out-of-date by the time I get a classroom. The whole educational machine contradicts itself, however, because educational researchers press the issue of needing highly qualified teachers and more performance-based assessments in the classroom—where is my performance-based assessment? I am required to demonstrate my knowledge of teaching through a computerized form of summative evaluation known as the Praxis.