Are We Forcing Teachers into Malpractice?

If you go to your doctor with a cold, she starts by asking you how you feel, what your symptoms are. You give her the list: runny nose, scratchy throat, achy muscles, shivers. She will then take your temperature, look in your ears and nose and at your throat, feel your lymph nodes, listen to your heart and lungs, check your blood pressure. Sometimes she takes an x-ray. She does not simply take your temperature and proclaim “You’ve got pneumonia.” It would be medical malpractice to make this type of diagnosis based on only one test.

No one would stand for it.

So why do we force educators to make high stakes decisions based on a single piece of evidence?

Why do we force them into “educational malpractice”?

Teachers and educational leaders are trained professionals. We should respect and value their judgement, demand that they use and synthesize a wide range of evidence. We expect this from doctors. Why not from educators?

Educators use tests and assessments for several reasons—to determine what a student has or has not learned, to judge how well a lesson has been taught, and to design learning experiences that foster deep learning. Reliance on a single test can end up measuring how well the learner memorizes, not how well he can apply what he has learned to different situations and in new ways.

So, teachers need a holistic view of a student’s performance with many data points. These should include formal assessments (we are not saying throw out all tests) and much more: what the teacher observes in the classroom, how the student does on homework, and how she performs on project-based work. And like the doctor who asks his patient how he feels, teachers should ask students what they know and how they know it.

Unique to The Learner First is our Authentic Mixed Method Assessment. This method is rubric-based and uses multiple points of evidence to create a full picture of each learner. Teachers learn how to use everything they know about individual students when determining student ratings. And teachers, schools, and districts measure and track student and district progress toward outcomes in a new way – one that looks at the whole child and that assesses deep learning, not just short term memory.