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March 30, 2014

Panelist: Fair tests exist

PLATTSBURGH — While Monty Neill supports the growing movement against the overuse and misuse of exams, he believes assessments of students are necessary. 

“It’s proper that people know how well schools are doing and how well kids are being educated,” said the Executive Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, who spoke via video conference at a recent forum on education at SUNY Plattsburgh. 

In addition, he told attendees at the event, which was hosted by the North County Alliance for Public Education, there are assessment methods that are proven to be educationally beneficial. 

PERFORMANCE-BASED

One such method, Neill said, is the New York Performance Standards Consortium, which is used by some schools in New York City that received a variance from state graduation requirements several years ago.

These schools, he continued, are allowed to use performance-based assessments, for which students perform tasks demonstrating their ability to use language arts, math, history and science skills.

For example, Neill noted, students might read a novel and write a paper on it, perform a complex math problem, conduct an original science experiment and write a history research paper. 

“Students pick the tasks, they pick the novel they’re going to read, they decide what the science experiment is going to be, (and) they do it in collaboration with the teacher because it needs to be the kind of level of work that’s appropriate,” he said. 

‘MORE GRADUATE’

A common set of scoring guides is used across the participating schools, Neill continued, and students must submit and defend their work orally to a committee comprising their primary teacher and at least one person from outside the school, such as a college professor or expert in the field being evaluated. 

“This process has been independently evaluated also and has been found to be essentially sound,” he said. 

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