There is a lot of discussion going on right now about what tests to evaluate student performance under the Common Core State Standards should look like.
A number of people, including some right here in Kentucky, are pressing for a return – yes, it will be a return – to something called “Performance Assessments.” The assessments being envisioned would feature more than a lot of open-response, or written-answer, questions. There is a push to use more radical ideas like “Portfolios” and “Performance Items,” the sorts of things Kentucky tried on its old Kentucky Instructional Results Information System (KIRIS) tests in the mid-1990s.
There is a big problem with this – Performance Assessment ideas, which have also been called “Authentic Assessments,” didn’t work very well in Kentucky. In fact, the “Performance Events” and the “Mathematics Portfolios” used in the old KIRIS only lasted four years before unsolvable problems relegated both to the dust heap. Later on, as part of the process that led to Senate Bill 1 from the 2009 Kentucky Regular Legislative Session, the state finally figured out that using student scores from Writing Portfolios in an assessment program didn’t work, either. In fact, using Writing Portfolios in assessment even acted in ways that undermined good writing instruction.
Also, the burden from failures of Performance Assessments may have fallen unevenly on minority students.
So, why are these failed ideas being pushed, again?