Most of my students seem desperate to blend in, to look right, not to make a spectacle of themselves. (Do I have to tell you that those two students having the argument under the portico turned out to be acting in a role-playing game?) The specter of the uncool creates a subtle tyranny. It's apparently an easy standard to subscribe to, this Letterman-like, Tarantinolike cool, but once committed to it, you discover that matters are rather different. You're inhibited, except on ordained occasions, from showing emotion, stifled from trying to achieve anything original. You're made to feel that even the slightest departure from the reigning code will get you genially ostracized. This is a culture tensely committed to a laid-back norm.
Further, these assessments will need to align to the new standards for learning in English and mathematics. This has proven to be a formidable task, but it is achievable. By combining the already existing National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment structures for evaluating school system performance with ongoing portfolio assessment of student learning by educators, we can cost-effectively assess writing without relying on flawed machine-scoring methods. By doing so, we can simultaneously deepen student and educator learning while promoting grass-roots innovation at the classroom level. For a fraction of the cost in time and money of building a new generation of machine assessments, we can invest in rigorous assessment and teaching processes that enrich, rather than interrupt, high-quality instruction. Our students and their families deserve it, the research base supports it, and literacy educators and administrators will welcome it.