Journalists Linda Jacobson, Roger Riddell and Naaz Modan discuss new approaches to assessment, concerns over security and privacy, and reimagining what defines classrooms and
instruction as factors that will drive education in the coming year.
Continued innovations and shifts in assessment
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gave states and districts permission to try new assessment models in response to concerns students were being over-tested and that schools and policymakers had come to place too much emphasis on test scores to measure student and school success.
Only four states are participating in ESSA’s innovative assessment initiative so far, but efforts to exercise that freedom in other ways are likely to grow. The state of Washington, for example, has now approved seven pathways toward earning a high school diploma — not all of which include passing a test. Other states, including Georgia and Nebraska, are de-emphasizing end-of-year tests by measuring students’ proficiency levels on interim tests throughout the year.
While some experts are predicting the beginning of a “whole-child era,” attention will also continue to shift toward understanding reliable ways to assess nonacademic areas, such as social-emotional learning and the arts.
Clashes between safety efforts and student privacy
Parents and students may not fully understand the level of monitoring, surveillance and data collection that occurs in schools in an effort to identify those who may have the potential to harm others or themselves. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the number of school districts purchasing social media monitoring software is increasing.
And in the U.S. Senate last fall, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced a bill that includes a requirement for schools to operate “a technology protection measure that detects online activities of minors who are at risk of committing self-harm or extreme violence against others.”
Privacy experts warn, however, that the proposed legislation would require districts to spend time and money on unproven violence prevention strategies. “This broad language could encourage schools to collect as much information as possible about students, requiring already-overwhelmed faculty and administrators to spend countless hours sifting through contextually harmless student data — hours that could be better spent engaging with students directly,” according to an article from the Future of Privacy Forum.