This post was written by NCTE member Bobbie Kabuto, chair of the NCTE Standing Committee on Literacy Assessment.
This year’s NCTE 2020 Virtual Annual Convention was like no other. In the backdrop of COVID-19, meeting in person was not possible, but that did not stop the Standing Committee on Literacy Assessment (LAC) from continuing our work on supporting teachers in becoming assessment leaders. This year, we were excited to highlight another dimension to our work: considering progressive assessment practices as advocacy work as we move assessment from a deficit-oriented mindset to an advocacy perspective.
The twin pandemics, COVID-19 and the social and racial unrest in the US, have created both an advocacy challenge and an opportunity in literacy assessment.
For some teachers, moving to a distance learning format has disconnected us from our classroom students, whether we are in preschool or college classrooms. This disconnect has made it harder for teachers to draw from a variety of expressive means and document the diverse ways that students communicate what they know. At the same time, the move to distance learning has put a pause on most high-stakes state testing, providing teachers an opportunity to use formative types of assessment practices.
As part of our committee’s NCTE blog series, we have asked teachers to tell us their assessment stories from the spring of 2020. Respondents have talked overwhelmingly about the challenges of informally and formatively assessing students and not being able to connect with their students. They have also discussed the challenges of trying to modify assessment practices for an online platform. You can still join the conversation and tell us your story here.
For this past year, we used these stories to guide our work as a committee. We have tried to reorient how we think about assessment in a way that moves it from a deficit perspective to one of advocacy. Shifting to an advocacy perspective allows teachers to observe and document what students know from different perspectives. What and how students know can be understood in tandem with the families and communities they are part of.
Shifting from a deficit-oriented mindset to an asset and advocacy perspective means emphasizing a narrative that focuses on:
- The knowledge that students bring to any assessment task
- Ways to make assessment culturally responsive
- The diverse ways that students express their understandings and knowledge through a variety of expressive means (writing, drawing, orally, through multiple languages and dialects)
- How to encourage students’ families and community members as part of the assessment process
- How to assess students through multiple approaches
This year was also an election year and there was more on the ballot than who would occupy the White House come January 20, 2021. Voters across the United States came out in record numbers so their voices could be heard. The committee put assessment on the ballot in November and encouraged teachers to be advocates by getting to know how state tests and assessments are linked to federal, state, and district offices and officials. In the committee’s final panel discussion, we further explored teachers as advocates and discussed two questions: What does advocacy mean to you? and What takeaways do you have for teachers when engaging in advocacy work?
The new year will bring new ideas and change and the LAC will remain dedicated to teachers, families, and communities as we continue to change the conversation on assessment.
Bobbie Kabuto is a professor and chair of the Elementary and Early Childhood Education Department at Queens College, City University of New York. She chairs the NCTE Standing Committee on Literacy Assessment.
Chair, Bobbie Kabuto (Queens College, Flushing, NY)
Valente´ Gibson (Jackson Creek Elementary School, Columbia, SC)
Chris Hass (Center for Inquiry, Columbia, SC)
Elisa Waingort (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
Kathryn Mitchell Pierce (Saint Louis University, MO)
Melissa McMullen (Comsewogue School District, Wading River, NY,/Hofstra University)
Peggy O’Neill (Loyola University, Baltimore, MD)
Eric D. Turley (Kirkwood High School, MO)
Jessica Wheeler (Jefferson Forest High School, Bedford, VA)
It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.