[Susan notes: Here's an exchange P. J. Hallam and San Francisco Chronicle reporter Nanette Asimov.]
Published in San Francisco Chronicle
for more discussion of Asimov's article, see:
Nanette Asimov neglects to make an important distinction in the article headlined "Testament to Testing." The "testing" described in the article that brought about increased student learning is actually "teacher-based assessment." By not clearly delineating the difference
between standardized, multiple-choice testing and teacher-based assessment, the article, especially the headline, implied that standardized testing is responsible for the increased learning. The subheadline, "Schools close 'achievement gap' by pinpointing trouble spots with frequent assessments" is far more accurate. If this had been the clear focus of the article, let alone the main headline, then the logical conclusion that teacher-based assessment deserves increased emphasis in educational policy and funding could have been made. Public documentation of the rewards of having teachers well trained in making frequent and consistent judgments of student learning promotes increased staff development in teacher-based assessment, thereby contributing to a "win-win" situation for students and teachers alike. I hope that the distinction between the two is more obvious in future articles.
I suspect the reason you are able to write with such certainty about what my story really intended to say is that my story was, infact, clear and unambiguous.
Given the choice between describing frequent diagnostic testingas "teacher-based assessment," as you recommend, vs. the way I described it in my article, ie: "John and the teachers at Treasure Island havebecome converts to the
increasingly popular practice of using frequent tests to diagnosechildren's academic needs -- a practice they believe can help low-achieving students soar in school," I'll take my way every time.
In fact, given that you have invited an entire distribution list to kibbitz this conversation, let's give everyone an opportunity (just a little holiday gift) to read all about how 16 low-income schools outscored 16 other low-income schools when their teachers used frequent tests to diagnose children's academic needs.
P. J. Hallam and Nanette Asimov