On October 21st, the California Teacher Advisory Council (Cal TAC) brought together teachers and educational experts from around the state to discuss assessment systems in California.
The symposium at the Sacramento Convention Center, “Working Towards an Assessment System with Value: Informing and Strengthening STEM Teaching and Learning”, focused on innovative formative assessments both in the state of California and in other states, including Oregon and Minnesota.
“The goal was for us to focus on core assessment purposes,” said Cal TAC Chair Anne Marie Bergen, teacher in residence for the College of Science and Math at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. “Processes devised to hold teachers and schools accountable for ‘learning’ are only valuable if they provide data that support improvement. The tests emphasize the accumulation of facts, instead of the application of thinking processes or problem solving necessary for today’s work force and citizens. This approach narrows the scope of learning and limits creativity of thought.”
Among other things, the participants at the symposium discussed California’s response to the Common Core State Standards, an internationally benchmarked educational framework developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) with a group that included parents, educators, content experts, researchers, national organizations and community groups from 48 states, 2 territories and the District of Columbia.
“The next step is for the California Department of Education to bring implementation plans for the state’s Common Core strategy to the Board of Education in November; the results of this meeting are just the first step in an ongoing process to help inform this policy,” said Bergen. “The structure of the tests that our students take needs to engage them in the process of applying information to solve a problem. Testing has become the driver for education, rather than one of many tools to monitor student progress.”
Cal TAC is a group of master teachers modeled after the very successful National Teacher Advisory Council, established in 2002 by the National Academies.