"So what do I take from all this? I used to spend hours creating and revising the perfect assessment. I'd stress about word choice.
I'd wonder if I was giving too much away or not enough info. I'd try for that perfect balance of academic vocab and accessible language. I'd try to cram in 60 questions in 50 minutes or have them write a full lab report in complete silence.
Except that there aren't any perfect assessments. What's perfect for Student A is highly flawed for Student B. It does not exist. But there are certainly better and worse assessments.
So like the Apgar test, I try to make my assessments good enough. Multiple "pretty good" assessments give a more complete picture than any single "great" one possibly can.1 And NEVER EVER let any one score dictate everything."
I came across this great Jason Buell bit the other day on our obsession with formative assessments.
In it, he describes the disastrous results of doctors who get lost in the "tyranny" of the Apgar score. Collecting and comparing data on the appearance, pulse, grimace and activity levels of newborns has–in many cases and for many doctors—become more important than caring for and observing babies.
That resonates, doesn't it?
Don't teachers get wrapped up in results, too? Aren't we just as likely to lose focus when our assessments become more important than the kids that we're teaching?
The question, then, is what are YOU—whether you're a parent, a policymaker, a principal or a teacher—doing to make sure that you don't fall victim to "the tyranny of the score" in your schools?