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Measuring student success

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ChrisCarter_Concordia_2“I believe that a basket of metrics is needed to gain a fuller understanding of what a student is capable of both academically and social/emotionally. We will continue to use standardised testing because no other evaluation can be so consistently applied. It will continue to be an imperfect gauge of academic ability, but all practical measures have weaknesses. By including portfolios and letters of recommendation a fuller picture of the student emerges” – says Chris Carter, Teacher, Tech Coach, EdTech Reviewer and Editor at the Concordia International School Shanghai. 

While test scores provide valuable insights into student achievement, can institutions go beyond this single definition of student success to recognise skills that are important for today’s workforce? We caught up with Chris Carter, who shares his views on effectively measuring student success.

Tell us a little about your role and what do you enjoy the most about it?chris

Like most of us I wear many hats. First and last, I am a teacher and lifelong learner. I work at the
Disneyland of schools, where the administration supports teachers exploring their interests so I am able to coach teachers and students in EdTech. I also podcast EdTech roundtable discussions, reviews, and interviews. Oh, and I am the chief editor of ICT in Practice, a quarterly EdTech ePub. What I enjoy most is collaborating with outstanding students, colleagues, and administrators of great intellect and character.

What do you think is the best way to measure student progress?

We do not have objective metrics, practically speaking, that measure student progress in the context of the whole child. Schools have always had a mandate beyond imparting strictly academic knowledge to their charges. K-12 schools are places where young people are expected to enter as children and emerge as active, knowledgeable citizens who can function productively in society. kids_jumping

In Latin three terms, excolo, expolio, and emollio, define the mission of schools: to cultivate, refine, develop, improve, polish, smooth, make gentle, … in short, to civilise. Grade Point Averages, SAT scores, and standardised tests, by themselves, are incomplete indices of a given school’s success in this regard.

I believe letters of ‘recommendation and evidence of leadership 
and service’ are so valued by college admissions officers specifically because seemingly objective,
academic metrics cannot measure the whole person. They seek evidence of character; the kind that Dr. Carol Dweck coined the “Growth Mindset.” Does this student persevere? How does she handle conflict with peers … with instructors? How does this student respond to failure? Is his heart oriented toward the needs of others? What will she give back?

So the best measure of a K-12 student’s progress is a basket of indicators.Of course academic success must be measured, but I would hope that skills are valued over content mastery.

Activities_CISSMUN

Google has made most content acquisition a just-in-time affair. GPAs and SAT scores are snapshots in time and alone cannot capture a child’s potential. Portfolios can reveal more of a student’s nature and skills. Letters of recommendation speak to a child’s maturation. No one metric can suffice and no basket of metrics will ever be wholly effective, but a balanced examination of several inputs may be the best, practically speaking, that we have.

Do you support standardized testing of students? If yes, why?

 Any answer that I give is fraught with contextual and perceptual perils. Battle lines have been drawn in
academic circles. Let me say this. Given a basket of metrics, standardised testing that captures a student’s longitudinal academic progress can be a useful tool. The caveats include that longitudinal information is valuable if for no other reason than to offset the “snapshot” problem of any one test. Further, such tests must be only one source of evaluation, not the sole or even primary metric.

At EduTECH Asia, Chris Carter will be speaking on “Why test is not a four letter word”. 

Join us to connect, collaborate, learn, and laugh! It’ll be an exciting two days of engaging and thought provoking content. Will we see you there?

The early bird discount for EduTECH Asia 2016 ends today, 15 July. This is the last chance that you’ll get to book your tickets for just S$415 for an individual pass, or as low as S$300 per ticket for a group of two or more. So wait no longer!

This is the first part of the interview, watch out for the next blog for further insights.

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