MACTE - Michigan
Monday, December 10, 2018

Leah Breen's 2014 EDTalk

Leah Breen, Director of the Office of Professional Preparation Services at Michigan Department of Education, used her EDTalk platform to discuss the problem of what she deems low-effective assessments in K-12 classrooms across the state.

From years-old copies so cluttered with hand-written revision marks that the original assessment, much less its intent, can hardly be recognized to worksheets that measure students’ abilities to copy a formula rather than their ability to understand and apply the principles of geometry, Breen acknowledged clarity and validity as the biggest issues in assessments.

For many teachers, Breen says, the issues of assessment revolve more around humility than ability. She shared a horror story of student  who tried to rationalize what he thought was a correct answer on a probability pre-assessment to a math teacher. She refused his rational, even after he went through great lengths to prove himself correct. On the assessment, he marked the answer he knew the teacher would consider correct, even though he believed otherwise.

“That educator would not even hear an idea that suggestion she was wrong, so every student in that class that day learned the wrong thing about probability,” Breen said, after having those in attendance come to the same conclusion as the student. “So some of this is about teachers being willing to having open conversations with students and accepting that there might be multiple explanations or multiple pathways to information.”

To remedy both issues of assessment quality and problematic teacher attitudes towards assessments, Breen suggested establishing new supports for teachers, including intentional professional development for in-service teachers and increased rigor in teacher education programs concerning assessment creation.

“Maybe it’s time we look at the standards we require in preparation for data use and data literacy and see if we need to make some additions,” Breen said.

Breen also highlighted the need for conversation between administrators and their teachers about school-wide views on assessment.

“It is likely that administrators don't know what assessments are being used in the classroom,” Breen said. “Or they possess same poor quality of understanding of assessments that many of their teachers do.”

Given the trend toward standardization of schools and assessments, Breen went so far as to suggest that administrators take on larger roles, and appropriately more training, in regards to monitoring assessments in their buildings.

“It’s a big change [of the education model], but probably a necessary one,” Breen said.