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The Law of Educational Program Transformation:
The nature of the assessment that is used to evaluate an educational program
shapes the curriculum and instruction of that program.
When our work began in the early 1990’s we were studying how high school students confronted a series of scientific problems that had been worked on by Archimedes, Galileo and Newton. In particular we studied their success in building and testing scientific concepts when conducting inquiries into natural phenomena (see Setting Theoretical and Empirical Foundations for Assessing Scientific Inquiry and Discovery in Educational Programs). We found that there are a number of fundamental capabilities associated with success in discovering scientific concepts. Second, and perhaps more remarkably, we found that 10th graders are able to infer fundamental scientific concepts through their own investigations in a relatively short period of time (in hours rather than weeks, months, or years). These very same concepts are often ineffectively taught in school and many are never attained. These ground breaking insights challenged our existing paradigms of teaching and learning.
For a decade now we have been using these foundations to build rigorous techniques for supporting teachers in bringing scientific inquiry and discovery into their classrooms. In particular we have focused on building assessments which reveal student competence in applying fundamental capabilities to real life problems. Although teachers receive our methods enthusiastically they have found it difficult to put them into effect because of the existing framework of educational testing and grading.
We have come to recognize that the destructive testing practices which dominate our schools are an impediment to creative education and work against the attainment of higher level learning goals. The papers and presentations introduced below are intended as a contribution to changes in public policy regarding assessment and testing. They provide an analysis of the deep problems in this area and put forth practical and efficient solutions. Please contact us if you are interested in joining our efforts.
A New Direction for Regents Examinations in Science Education. This piece, published in 2004, first introduces the concept of ‘non-educational testing’ and suggests directions for more productive and educationally productive examination processes.
Our presentation to the 2004 annual meeting of the Science Teachers Association of New York State An Alternative Approach to State Examinations in Science Education carries the critique of existing testing practices further and presents a new paradigm for local and statewide information use that will lead to increases in educational productivity and efficiency.
Equity and Assessment, published in 2005, highlights how non-educational uses of tests may present as great threat as test bias to the cause of equity in education.
A Constructive Role for Government in Education This essay, prepared in 2008 by Paul Zachos and Bob Pruzek, identifies the foundations needed to support 21st century educational reform and renewal. Issues of educational policy, research, evaluation, professional development and accountability are addressed in the essay.