This past week, assessment was both a global and a local news-maker. On the local scene, my old friends at Education Evolving presented a paper called “Defining and Measuring Student-Centered Outcomes.” EE’s paper covers a very broad spectrum of assessment domains, strategies and purposes before suggesting a few action items. EE asks us to “imagine if the state test could be taken in separate parts throughout the school year rather than all at once at year end (as is possible under ESSA), with results available the next day. Or, imagine the state partnering with a company that produces formative assessments (like the NWEA MAP) so that the same tests currently used for formative purposes could also serve for accountability with, of course, important modifications and accommodations. Or—even bolder still—imagine giving districts the option to embed standardized state questions into end of course exams, with safeguards in place to ensure question security.”
All of those imaginings are actually already very possible and they can all be accomplished using free open source software for which the the state wouldn’t need to pay a dime, or even a penny. Somebody would need to host the software on a server and somebody would need to manage the software and the processes, which would be necessary, too, if the state ‘partnered with a company’ to use a less open and flexible assessment platform.
The state can do all of the things that EE is imaginining with Moodle. We know this because the United Nations is already doing something very similar on a global basis using Moodle. This week the UN Secretary General's Award for Innovation was awarded to an online assessment platform built on Moodle. The U.N. is using this platform to assess the skills and abilities of the thousands of applicants they hire to do the many different and varied jobs that the U.N. does in all of its divisions - the General Assembly, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, and all of the sub groups. Moodle is a learning management systems that has been used for over ten years in a large percentage of schools in Minnesota at all levels. This post describes a scenario that allows students to participate in selecting tasks that meet a set of criteria or standards. The schools in the State of Minnesota will likely have slightly different assessments needs than the U.N. but the beauty of open source software is that the users of the software, the schools and teachers, can define the specifics.
It’s important to focus on the actual tools needed to accomplish the daunting assessment tasks that EE is talking about because if a more global tool for assessment isn’t used at the outset, the state will likely end up with a system like they already have - a bunch of different systems that work differently, measure differently, report differently. It wouldn’t be necessary for every school to use Moodle, though. Schools that want to use a proprietary system from a vendor of their choice would only need to make sure the system they used was capable of LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) which is standard on most learning management systems. The nature of the particular assessments, their domain, strategic focus, and the timing of the assessments are all things that can be adjusted once the system is operating.
Let’s have our students become globally prepared by taking a cue from the U.N. on the next step in assessment. Make the system open source, and use a system that is already successful. Most importantly, create a system that allows for maximum control by the teachers and students.