Square Peg, Round Hole


It is well documented that students learn differently and they most certainly test differently. Teachers honor and respect the cognitive, social, and emotional differences in their students by differentiating instruction. A standardized test does not measure the diverse skills and cognitive abilities of our students in a differentiated or respectful way.

Demanding students stay connected to a text and think critically about text-dependent questions that have only one right answer, is not the same as cultivating independent and critical thinking skills. Just as training students to solve Common Core math word problems, is not the same as fostering the development of creative problem-solving skills.

NASA scientists were confronted with a “Square Peg, Round Hole” dilemma during the Apollo 13 Mission in 1970. Fortunately they were educated in the BC era (Before Core) when student-centered and non-routine learning experiences cultivated creative, innovative, and inventive thinkers who were prepared and “ready” to solve a novel problem as they tried out and tested numerous plausible strategies and solutions.

Informal + Formative = Informative Assessments


Students acquire knowledge and skills when they actively participate and engage in their own learning rather than just submit to personalized learning activities that are designed to engage and entertain them.

Common Core and PARCC enthusiasts are more concerned with quenching their own thirst for student data than satisfying our students thirst for knowledge.

Learning should be an active and collaborative process. Both student and teacher will react and respond to student performance in real time.

Timely and purposeful assessment provides useful feedback while the student is engaged in a task and learning. The teacher and student have opportunity to process this information and then adjust their instructional and learning strategies accordingly.

“Effective” teachers understand that actionable and meaningful feedback is essential to support and inform student learning and this data should be provided “in the moment” while the student is actively engaged in a learning process.

Standardized tests administered at the end of the school year or “after the fact” do not provide timely feedback or actionable data. Simply put, a standardized test score reveals little more than how well a student performed on a standardized test.

VAM enthusiasts claim that students standardized test scores reveal the effectiveness of their teachers. It is foolish and unfair to hold teachers accountable for test scores when the scores do not account for “outside factors” that impacted student performance.

Standardized  tests do not provide meaningful information to support student learning because the score only reveals what questions the student answered wrong but not the reason why.

It would be foolish for a teacher to adjust or modify instructional practices based on a standardized test score when the new group of students they teach the following year have different cognitive abilities and disabilities

Students acquire knowledge and skills through self-directed learning experiences rather than successfully completing computer adapted learning activities.

Students learn by making mistakes while researching content rather than avoiding mistakes as the “content searches for them.”

Learning is enriched when students harness new technologies and software to explore content and evaluate data while product developers grow rich when their software solutions are utilized to deliver content and collect student data.

Employers rely on creative thinkers who can adjust tactics and invent new strategies while solving novel problems rather than students who have been trained to solve customized problems that were adapted to accommodate their personalized learning styles.

The real life and real time data that is generated by frequent formal and informal formative classroom assessment is the gold standard of effective student-centered classroom instruction and the artificial data that is generated through personalized and adaptive computer-based learning and testing activities is about as useful and valuable as “fool’s gold”.