Changes in Reading Assessment
Significant changes are being made in the way reading and writing are assessed.
Tests given to large numbers of students, even state and national reading measures,
are moving away from the exclusive use of multiple-choice items to items that
require students to actively construct and examine the meaning of reading selections.
Classroom assessment procedures, those used by classroom teachers on an ongoing
basis, are also changing. Less emphasis is being placed on formal test measures,
and more emphasis is being placed on teacher observations, samples of student
instructional products, and student self-evaluation. Meaningful collections of such
observations, work samples, and reflections are assembled into portfolios, which
document student achievement and progress in literacy.
New Concept of Reading
Reading assessment is undergoing substantial changes
in order to reflect changes that have taken place in the
way reading is being defined and in the ways in which it is being taught. Numerous
writers and researchers have noted that there is a substantial disparity between the
way we now think about and teach reading and traditional tests of reading (Cambourne
& Turbill, 1990; Johnston, 1984; Valencia & Pearson, 1987; Winograd, Paris,
& Bridge, 1991). Increasingly, reading is conceptualized as a dynamic, interactive,
constructive process requiring thought and elaboration on the part of the reader.
Traditional tests that asked students to read short, artificially constructed passages
and choose from multiple-choice responses, or that attempted to measure specific
isolated skills, are seriously misaligned with recent theories of reading and recent
curriculum developments (Haney & Madaus, 1989; Wolf, Bixley, Glenn, & Gardner, 1991).
Two terms that are currently being widely used to describe newer forms of assessment
are performance-based assessment and authentic assessment. The two terms are closely
In a performance-based measure, the student is asked
to perform a task that is of interest to the evaluator rather than some proxy
(Meyers, 1992; Shepherd, 1991). Thus,
if we want to assess students' writing we ask them to write and do not ask them
multiple-choice questions about
punctuation and capitalization conventions. If we want to assess students'
ability to read an expository article
in order to gain new information, we ask the students to read a real piece of
expository text and then ask them to
tell or write about what they learned.
An authentic test asks students to perform desirable,
valued tasks in a realistic, natural context. An authentic assessment task is one that
could be worthwhile for a
student to do as an instructional activity (Meyers, 1992; Wiggins, 1992). For example,
if we are interested in
students' full range of writing abilities, we should give them opportunities to produce
drafts of their writing and
also allow time for revision. If we are interested in students' ability to read an
expository selection, we should allow them as much time as they need.
It is hard to imagine an authentic task that is not performance-based, but it is possible
to think of performance-based measures, such as artificially time-restricted measures,
that are not authentic.
Go on to Influence of Performance-Based and Authentic Assessment
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