Rethink Student Assessment? What is the Measure of a Student?

Published On: February 15th, 2016·By ·

How do you grade a person? It's time we rethink student assessment.

Should we rethink student assessment? I took to social media to find the answer. I watch social media closely and it's my job to share some of the hot topics on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other outlets that teachers, principals, students, and parents are contributing.

Many leaders in education have questioned the way we currently grade and assess students. Currently, it seems like you could type any random assortment of letters and it would end up being an acronym for a standardized test somewhere.

PLEASE reread that again: Currently, it seems like you could type any random assortment of letters and it would end up being an acronym for a standardized test somewhere or for some sort of student assessment. 

Many teachers and educational leaders have pushed against that sentiment for many reasons. Urban Teacher provided a solid argument on his Twitter account for why we should not place as much value on testing as we do. He lists things no school test can measure, but which are incredibly important to future employers and for just being a well-rounded person in general. The list includes personality-focused aspects of human beings rather than book-smart intellectual type characteristics including terms such as “vision,” “compassion,” and “grit.” You can see the full list below.

rethink student assessment

Urban Teacher is correct. Our tests do not measure anything he listed, and everything on the list is essential in a good employee and decent human being. If school tests don't measure those characteristics, then how can you measure them? What's the difference between an “A” and a “B” in creativity or empathy? Can you really give a student a 78% in humility? Maybe. Even now, though, grades can be subjective, so can you imagine how subjective grades in “grit” would be? Or the kinds of emails you'd get from administration or parents?

Here's where we reach the problem. Everything on that list is essential, but it's difficult, if not impossible, to measure. Standardized testing works for measuring part of a student, but it doesn't give the whole picture. We're (hopefully) shifting away from relying solely on standardized testing, but what else are we going to replace it with? How do you measure those abstract and important aspects that make up a person? Overall grades in a class show a more complete picture than a single standard test, but even that isn't perfect. Is there a perfect solution? What ideas have you tried or seen others use? Please share your thoughts below.

Tori Pakizer is the Social Media Editor at She writes regularly about the use of educational technology in K-12 classrooms, and specializes in how teachers use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media. You can follow Tori and SimpleK12 on Twitter @SimpleK12. If you have ideas for using social media in schools, please send your information or tip to

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