A Curriculum is a set of goals or expectations of knowledge or skills that students are supposed to acquire after some time in school. A curriculum is set for every level of school from the elementary school to college. It is upon teachers of those schools to ensure the students have acquired the right skills and knowledge in every level of education they go through in school. Assessment, on the other hand, is how teachers evaluate the students, on the knowledge and skills they have acquired. These assessments usually determine whether one will move to the next grade or to high school or college. This essay will focus on the curriculum assessment methods in place in schools in Illinois district and how they can be revised.
In America, there are four levels of assessment that occur in the school system. The first is at the national level, this exam is set by the national examination council. The national council of teaching mathematics is one of the councils that are involved in setting of these national examinations. This national examination is known as the scholastic aptitude tests (SATS). At the state level, they also have assessment exams this are mastery exams, regent, and the portfolio initiatives (Education Broadcasting Corporation, 2004). In our district, it is known as the Illinois standard achievement tests (ISAT). The third level exam is at the district level .Schools in that district subscribe to get these exams. The fourth level of assessment is the classroom assessment. This level is the most frequent mode of assessing the students. It involves essays, projects and informal testing by teachers in the classroom.
There are three methods that American schools use in assessing students in America. One of the assessments is performance assessment. These tests are designed to evaluate what the students have accomplished within a specified time for instance a semester. Their results are then used to give promotion to the next class or let the students graduate to college or high school. The second method of assessment is the use of projects. Projects mostly focus on identifying the skills of the students and know how outside of the classrooms. The third assessment method is the use portfolios. This is a group of student works that incorporates skills, knowledge and proficiency of the students. This method is not common in many states. Vermont State has adopted this method.
Most of the schools in the district of Illinois are known to administer the achievement tests. The Iowa test for basic skills (ITBS) is the most taken tests by most schools in this district. It is followed by the standard achievement test, the terra nova and other tests. In this district, it is crucial to determine the achievement level of the students. The schools also administer aptitude tests these tests are mostly used to tap the students' cognitive abilities rather than their achievement in class.
The district also administers the career planning and college preparation tests. These tests are supposed to prepare students for what program or career they will choose. It is mostly given to the eighth-grade students and the final-year students in high school. This test includes the achievement test, aptitude and the non academic section which includes career plans that a student has. An example of these tests is the ACT PLAN for the high-school students and the ACT EXPLORE for the eighth-grade students.
The other tests that the schools give are the local assessment. These have been created locally by the schools to assess their students. Most states usually look at the performance of these tests, to ascertain how the students are fairing in school. The local exams include the criterion-referenced tests (CRTs). Many schools in the district have used these tests for long. The main aim of these tests is to compare the students' performances to the standards that have been set out by the curriculum. They aim to find out if the students are acquiring the skills and knowledge set out by their curriculum.
Some other schools in the district also administer tests that are called diagnostic tests. Primary school students are often the ones who take these tests. The main reason for this test is to determine the students' strengths and weaknesses. After the strengths and weaknesses are identified the teachers then, embark to find ways to improve on this identified weaknesses. These tests are beneficial because they are able to identify skills at an early age and nurture them.
This assessment programs have their strengths. They are said to be reputable and of high integrity in testing the knowledge and skills achieved by the students in those schools. The second advantage is that they can easily be followed from one grade to another and help to tell whether a student is average or excellent from an early stage. The tests are also used in making comparisons of the students' results to those of others in a national or state level. This way a school knows if they are failing or excelling. They are also able to determine what areas they can be improved to raise the performance of their students and school.
The major weakness that this assessment mode has is that it does not align with the set curriculum and standards. The tests fail to match what was talked about in the classroom by the teacher and what is in the textbooks. Others argue that the results obtained from the tests are not put into full use. The results end up having wasted the teacher's and students' time because they do not improve many things. The other problem is that the students usually have a hard time to cope with this testing and they usually find it stressful. This even makes some of them not to take these tests seriously.
The best assessment method according to experts is the use of portfolio tests. These tests are said to incorporate everything that is relevant to a student in the tests. They usually have skills and knowledge and proficiency in them. These tests are also said to incorporate what is in the curriculum. They also involve both teachers and students as they develop the portfolio. Although portfolio testing takes long for teachers to evaluate or mark, they are worth trying. Results show that portfolio testing helps improve the students' skills, knowledge, and they even give the students interest to learn.
In Illinois district, this mode of assessment has not yet been incorporated in schools. Although the number of assessment should be reduced so as to create adequate time for covering the curriculum, portfolio assessment should not be left out of the assessing program. The current program in place is failing because it is wasting too much time and costs and it is not meeting the set standards and curriculum. I would recommend the introduction of this method of assessment into the testing program of our district.