What will be measured drives what will be taught. Any more reason needed for paying attention to the assessments being designed to align with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?
And there is hope. Dan Meyer (follow him on Twitter) posted this morning The Smarter Balanced Assessment Items which has a great example of an item that a) requires thinking b) shows the real-world usefulness of the concept being assessed and c) uses technology appropriately. Here’s the item:
Five swimmers compete in the 50-meter race. The finish time for each swimmer is shown in the video. Explain how the results of the race would change if the race used a clock that rounded to the nearest tenth.
Way better than a set of practice problems on rounding, isn’t it?
When I work with teachers on assessing whether tasks are high-level or low-level, I try to help them see that it isn’t the difficulty per se of a problem [Would this be more rigorous if the times were in thousandths? If there were more swimmers? Etc.] but whether students need to understand and apply the concepts, perhaps even demonstrating flexibility and use in different contexts. I have them sort tasks and come to agreement on their rigor.
Try it. Use the sample cards available here Academic Rigor Task Cards 2 or follow Dan’s link to the sample CCSS items. Let’s see if we can’t help students think!