Formal assessment is completed through a variety of methods during which each student is assessed through previously agreed-upon testing and criteria. Tests are administered each term to measure a child’s ability to exhibit real-world skills like math, science and English, and the results are tallied to give the entire school a rating. Whether through standardized tests that are the same for each student, or a rating system employed by the school board, each child is judged against the same criteria for his work. While this can give both parents and teachers an accurate picture of where the child stands when it comes to the rest of his classmates, it may be doing an injustice to those children with learning disabilities, who clearly will not rate as highly as their classmates. George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative was hotly debated for this reason. Conforming every child to the same testing standards can be a catalyst for teachers only teaching to the standardized testing, and ignoring a child’s individual needs, argues the National Education Association. Standardized testing, assessment and rating can still help teachers, schools and students see where they measure against other school sin the nation, in order to identify where improvement is necessary.
Those with children who have learning disabilities or who are struggling in school may prefer an informal approach to secondary school student assessment. The learning disability website LDonline.org notes that informal assessment could include things like observation, charting growth and improvement, essays, journals, teacher-created tests, presentations, and teacher-parent interviews. Through informal testing, the individual personality of the child is taken into consideration and assesses the child’s specific needs, talents and improvements over a prescribed period of time. Unfortunately, informal assessment only pertains to the child as an individual, with no way to assess how she measures against other secondary students her age and skill level. Parents can speak to teachers to talk about how their children can improve, but schools as a whole will not be able to see how the curriculum is stacking up against other schools in the nation.
With the “No Child Left Behind” initiative being overhauled with a new presidency, schools must choose, based on individual needs, the right way to assess their secondary school students. An assessment of the school and an evaluation of the student’s needs is necessary before deciding on a method, notes Edutopia.com. It may be that a combination of assessment methods presents the most accurate picture of the needs, skills and level of each secondary school student.
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