Reclaiming Assessment: A Better Alternative to the Accountability Agenda
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"No Child Left Behind and accountability programs generally operate via assessment-driven instruction causing a de-professionalization of teachers and a disengagement of students. Chris Gallagher offers us an alternative: instruction-driven assessment with teachers as the primary assessment instrument. It looks like a way to restore teachers as professionals and to restore students as engaged learners . . . and it looks doable." - Gerald W. Bracey, author of "Reading Educational Research: How to Avoid Getting Statistically Snookered" "This is the most engaging, exciting, and useful book on assessment I have read in a long time. Chris Gallagher draws on the rich experiences of Nebraska educators to show why and how that state's teachers are leading a profoundly important assessment revolution." - Monty Neill, Executive Director, FairTest (National Center for Fair & Open Testing) "Reclaiming Assessment" details a more humane, more educationally sound way to conduct assessments than what is called for in national and state test-based accountability policies. It examines how Nebraska rejected harmful, high-stakes testing in favor of teacher-designed assessments through a groundbreaking local-control assessment system. Presenting vital conceptual details and practical information for any state, district, or school committed to finding something better for their students than filling ovals, Chris Gallagher focuses in on what makes Nebraska's plan work and how it can transform and has transformed classrooms and policies. In particular he homes in on four key aspects of successful teacher-led assessment: engaging teachers by reinvesting them with classroom- and curricular-level decision-making power engaging students through meaningful classroom assessment engaging colleagues through a new, energizing model of professional development engaging parents and other community members through school-community projects. In each instance, Gallagher combines lessons from Nebraska's school-improvement program with "portraits of practice," vignettes written by Nebraska educators that give a close-up look at how the state's assessment system works, why it works, the settings in which it's making a difference, and the leadership styles that match its goals best. Both a challenge to educators to take back assessment from politicized, top-level bureaucrats and a call to create a new agenda for contemporary education, "Reclaiming Assessment" is an ideal starting point for your efforts to return to student-centered, not test-centered assessment. Put your trust in educators' abilities to observe and know their students, then read "Reclaiming Assessment," adopt an assessment model that's already succeeding in hundreds of schools, and start improving how your students are assessed today.
Chris W. Gallagher is Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, where he teaches courses in writing, teaching, literacy, and rhetoric. In addition to articles published in Phi Delta Kappan, Composition Studies, JAC, Writing on the Edge, and other journals, he authored Radical Departures: Composition and Progressive Pedagogy (2002, NCTE).