[Assessment 1291] Assessment metaphors, the state of the art of assessment, and the America's Promise Alliance study

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David J. Rosen djrosen at comcast.net
Tue Apr 22 08:28:51 EDT 2008

Assessment Colleagues,

I would like to raise three (possibly inter-related) topics for
discussion: assessment metaphors, the state of the art of assessment,
and the America's Promise Alliance study.

1) Assessment Metaphors

In 2005 there was a discussion here about assessment metaphors. It
is archived on the ALE Wiki at


Here's a summary of what's on the ALE Wiki page:

1) Standardized testing may not always be the sharpest knife in the
2) Let's use the best knives we have, but also get some better knives.
3) Let's not use knives when spoons or forks are better.
4) Avoid using knives to hammer nails or fasten buttons.
5) Let's not use "the only knife in the drawer" to cut the throat of
learners in programs with just literacy level one ( whom *I* believe
it's unrealistic to expect will increase two grade levels in one
reporting period).
6) Let's train those with knives to use them properly.
7) Using a knife to eat peas or mashed potatoes is inefficient and
uncouth. If you don't have forks and spoons, don't settle for using
8) Utensils may help in cooking, but only if there's food to cook. (A
kitchen version of my favorite farming metaphor for testing, "You
don't fatten a calf by weighing it.")
9) We must understand the limitations of measurement, like viewing
the heavens through a bamboo tube or measuring the ocean with a spoon
10) Assessment can be like a ladder, measuring upward movement a step
at a time

Are there any other metaphors subscribers would like to add?

2) State of the Art of Adult Literacy Assessment

Do some of these metaphors prompt thoughts about assessment in adult
literacy education today? For example, do you agree with "don't
settle for using knives if you don't have forks and spoons" ? Do you
see that as relevant to what you experience as you use standardized
assessments in your classroom or program? If so, what should be done
about it? What is being done about it? Are there new, better
standardized assessments now than in 2005? Are we making progress?
Do we have better measures? Do we have better student performance, or
are we still weighing the calf without fattening it?

3) America's Promise Alliance Study's Findings

What's a good metaphor for the findings of the Gates Foundation-
funded America's Promise Alliance study, that we now have 30% of the
nation's youth, and 50% of urban youth being "left behind" without a
high school diploma?

Do you like

If you want better performance, it takes more than raising the bar

Or are there other metaphors you would like to suggest?


What are the implications of the America's Promise Alliance study
findings for adult literacy education?

David J. Rosen
djrosen at comcast.net

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