Student-Centered & Blended Learning: The Evolution of a Model…and Teacher (Part III)

Student-Centered & Blended Learning: The Evolution of a Model…and Teacher (Part III)

Part III


Some have recently argued that standardized testing, as we currently know it, will be an obsolete practice within a decade. But as we still operate in the Matrix, how do we hold teachers and students accountable for their practices in an equitable manner? More importantly, how do we measure achievement within an SCL environment, where students learn and master content at their own pace? Let’s take the blue pill first:

Every school that takes public dollars is beholden to the “state test,” but in this new climate of charters and turnarounds, another metric has surfaced: the adaptive test. Companies such as NWEA and Scantron have given schools a unique understanding of how students grow. These tests, often given 3 times a year, provide real-time results, adapt to the ability of the student, and compare apples to apples. Makes sense considering the state assessment, at least in the case of Michigan, provides information on the previous year, compares different groups of kids, and forces you to wait up to 5 months for the results. These new online adaptive tests give teachers the latitude to see the results and create actionable steps to make improvements on them. The students can set goals and actually see them fulfilled within the same school year. This system fosters true ownership of achievement and frees the kids from being linked to a single, fixed score. So, is the adaptive growth assessment the “one?” Let’s leave wonderland and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Why are colleges finding that students coming in with 4.0 GPAs are unprepared to contend with their rigor? I would argue that we don’t give our kids enough opportunities to apply what they know in any type of meaningful context. Somewhere along the way we forgot about Bloom’s Taxonomy and critical thinking. If the jobs of tomorrow don’t even exist today, we must equip our students with the ability to problem-solve, adapt, and think. Their minds must be freed…. and measured. Can an objective, multiple-choice test accurately assess the mind’s capabilities? Perhaps, but let’s take the red pill.

In a student-centric model, choice is key. The students choose how they learn and how they practice. Shouldn’t they be able to choose how they are tested? For years, graduate students have been defending their theses and dissertations in order to prove they deserve letters after their names. Some schools have started to bring this practice to high schools and even K-8s. Imagine if students had the opportunity to defend their grades and course standings. Imagine if kids produced projects, artifacts, and evidence for each standard and objective. Imagine the rigor, the creativity, and the choice. If students could start this in Kindergarten they may need to build more graduate schools. Are you starting to see the Matrix for what it is?

Let me know your thoughts. What have you seen to be the most accurate and equitable metric for achievement?

[Read Part I and Part II.]

Written by Nichole Husa

Nichole Husa

Nichole Husa is a Blended Instruction Specialist with Matchbook Learning, a national non-profit partner provider specializing in school turnarounds.


  1. Rod Stevens

    I’m a parent, and I’ve gotten to know the NWEA test and results better than most parents. I’ve used it to track my child’s progress, but i’ve also come to see it’s short-comings. Notable among these are the discontinuity between lower and middle school grades, the ability to game it by learning the concepts, and the remarkably “fragile” quality of the test, how a child’s results can be changed by just one or two questions. Beyond this, my child reports that she and her classmates have trouble reading the script, which means that many simply give up. My younger child, lacking in test-taking “hygiene” blows off the tests. So my first recommendation is get feedback from the kids themselves on the tests they are already taking. They can tell adults how to make existing tests better. Finally, none of my children’s teachers have really used these tests, I suspect because they are afraid to. Customizing their teaching to reflect the classrooms difference would involve changing from their traditional, “one size fits all” approach. The first step in any reform is getting the teachers to accept a modicum of personalization. Without that, even the best tests won’t matter, except as a lever in advocating for reform.

  2. Hi Rod,

    Thanks so much for commenting on my post. I completely agree that students need to be part of the process when determining the “best” assessment to gauge student achievement. I am pleased to hear that you are willing to ask questions and try to learn as much as you can about your children’s assessments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *