Stories of Rethinking Assessment That You Need to Hear

For the past year and a half, we have been on a journey with imaginative and insightful educators, leaders, and organizations from around the country who are working to reimagine assessment, called the Assessment for Learning Project, for short: ALP.

ALP awarded grants to 17 teams from states, districts, to innovative school models, in places like Virginia, New Hampshire, Hawai’i, and California. Teams who were eager to dive headfirst into the question of how do we rethink assessment to make it meaningful and authentic, rooted in learning experiences that help students understand themselves better and where they are on their journeys? How do we shut the door on an era of assessments focused on high-stakes accountability only and welcome an era of deeper learning?

Great. That sounds good, right? Anyone reading this blog is likely interested in these types of questions. But what does rethinking assessment actually, tangibly look like? Education transformation like this can often feel inaccessible to people outside this world, in the language that’s used and the way it’s talked about. But as a journalist and storyteller that has always made me a little nuts — because education and learning is all about people. Our interactions with each other, with ourselves, and with material (digital, physical, reading, writing, creating, making, building). And stories like these are deeply intuitive and whole-hearted and we can all understand them, without a glossary or a decade of experience in ed reform. We just need to make sure we tell them in that way.

We need the stories of reimagining assessment to be accessible and sticky. We need them to be easily shared with friends over dinner or a parent at a school board meeting or grandparents at the park — because that’s what creates a movement. 

The ALP leadership team, made up of the Center for Innovation in Education (CIE), Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), and our team at 2Revolutions, has been working with grantees over the past several months to create stories like these because we believe that assessment needs to change dramatically — what we assess, how we do it, and the meaning behind it needs to shift because that will change the whole system.

The first release of these stories is a series of podcasts, and today I’m thrilled to share one. This compelling 12-minute audio story is set in Hawai’i. In Hawaiian, ʻāina means “that which feeds us.” For too long what has fed assessment are the wrong things, and the people of Hawai’i are coming together to make sure students' and families’ stories, called mo'olelo, culture, and community are not ancillary parts of the teaching, learning, and assessment experience — but the heart.

#Rethinkassessment. Join us.

After listening, learn more about Hawai'i's journey to rethink assessment through this great blog post by NGLC's Tony Siddall in Education Week.