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Assessment and the Vote

Written by Wendy Sanchez and Nicole Ice
(News Bulletin, October 2004)

Great responsibility comes with teaching mathematics and working with preservice and in-service mathematics teachers. Great responsibility also comes with being a citizen of the United States. As citizens, we are called to participate in elections to select representation and make important local, state, and national decisions.

Since it is imperative to be an informed voter, you may wish to consider the presidential candidates’ positions on assessment. We are not supporting a particular candidate but reminding you that our careers as teachers and educators are significantly affected by the policymakers we elect.

High-stakes testing is a central educational issue in this presidential race, as well as in local and state elections. Candidates have different perspectives on this issue.

Information about the presidential candidates’ positions on assessment and other educational issues can be found at www.georgewbush.com and www.johnkerry.com. Go to state and local candidates’ Web sites to read and consider their views on education issues. As you listen to and interpret the candidates’ thinking about assessment, you might also reflect on NCTM’s high-stakes position statement and revisit the Assessment Principle from Principles and Standards for School Mathematics.

The following recommendations are from NCTM’s position statement on high-stakes testing, which was approved by the Board of Directors in November 2000.

  • Multiple sources of assessment information should be used when making high-stakes decisions. No single high-stakes test should be used for making decisions about the tracking, promotion, or graduation of individual children.

  • Assessment methods must be appropriate for their purposes.

  • All aspects of mathematical knowledge and its connections should be assessed.

  • Instruction and curriculum should be considered equally in judging the quality of a program.

  • Assessment should advance students’ learning and inform teachers as they make instructional decisions.

  • Assessment should be an open process with everyone knowing what is expected, what will be measured, and what the results imply for what should be done next.

  • If tests are used as one of multiple measures in making highstakes decisions about students, those tests must be valid and reliable for the purposes for which they are used; they must measure what the student was taught; they must provide students with multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency; and they must provide appropriate accommodations for students with special needs or limited English proficiency.

  • All standardized assessments of mathematical understanding at the national, state or provincial, district, or classroom level should be aligned with the NCTM Standards.

Election day is Tuesday, November 2. The votes add up—take advantage of the opportunity to have your voice heard.

Your feedback is important! Comments or concerns regarding the content of this page may be sent to nctm@nctm.org. Thank you.