Ambitious Teaching and Equitable Assessment

By Lorrie Shepard

Claims that testing will serve equity very often aren’t true. That’s my conclusion from 50 years of studying the impact of high-stakes standardized assessments. Yes, I should have retired years ago. But I feel compelled to call attention to how seemingly well-intentioned efforts to increase student achievement actually diminish student learning—and, more importantly, to offer an alternative vision of assessment so integrated with instruction that it actually furthers learning.

American Educator, Fall 2021

Here’s the arc of the last 50 years, at warp speed: minimum competency tests in the ’70s; basic-skills tests in the ’80s; “tests worth teaching to” in the ’90s; high-frequency, high-stakes tests in the ’00s; and added layers of commercial interim tests in the ’10s.* After testing ourselves into a maniacal focus on reading and math, there’s now a growing effort to tack on other variables, like social-emotional development, as if that could solve the horrific imbalance of accountability testing over all else.