Assessment is a word that has come to take on a particular meaning in education. It has come to be synonymous with testing, evaluation, grading. But here is one traditional dictionary’s definition of assessment:
Assessment (n.): The evaluation or estimation of the nature, quality, or ability of someone or something.
This definition seems to carry less judgment and pressure than some of the ways in which the word assessment is often applied. To assess, then, is to really understand the current state of something. Assessment is about gathering information, noticing details, collecting ideas. It does not necessarily connote uncovering weakness, or ranking, or using data in a high-stakes way.
In his recent article, “Seeing Anew: An Invitation to Teacher Research” in Heinemann’s 2016-2017 Professional Development Catalogue-Journal, Thomas Newkirk wrote, “I have always thought this is the cycle of true research: to take something you think you 'know'—and through sustained attention, begin to see it anew.”
How true this is about all kinds of teacher research, whether one is researching a student, a teaching method, or a professional text. Certainly, a text as weighty as Reading Pathways,part of the Units of Study for Teaching Reading series for grades 3-5, is worth visiting and revisiting. Each time one does, one discovers more.
There has been much buzz about the findings of a Stanford University study on vocabulary development that suggests that the number of words that children have acquired by the age of two is a crucial indicator of their future language success. The study findings suggest that children’s socio-economic status is a key indicator of the number of words they acquire. Children from wealthier families acquire on average 30% more words between eighteen and twenty-four months of age than children in lower socio-economic households. This gap has cascading effects throughout children’s school, careers, and beyond.