Tuesday, August 9, 2011

21st Century Skills Assessments

“Right below what a student cannot do is what they can do”. The preceding was stated by Barbara Guy, Transition Specialist with the Iowa Department of Education, at the 2011 Summer Iowa Transition Conference. I had just finished reading Sir Kenneth Robinson's The Element and had begun investigating the 21st century skills outlined in the Iowa Core Curriculum. I typed in my macbook “21st Century Skills Assessment”. Ms. Guy was talking about the importance of balancing the reporting of students weaknesses with their strengths in the Individual Education Plan. Robinson challenged me to find how students are intelligence and challenge the linearity of education. I have often told my students that their disability depended on environment and many have proven this correct by being more employable than their typical peers. The 21st century skills provide a new playing field. Whether we like or not we are always comparing students in special education with their typical peers. Ms. Guy's statement motivated me to take the essential skills of all five areas (Civil Literacy, Employability, Financial Literacy, Health Literacy, and Technology Literacy) and turn them into assessments that with collaboration will lead to these skills being both addressed and elevated to the status of the traditional academic areas.
The assessments involved over one thousand items and I learned all about size limits and other technical issues with google docs. I made the decision to present the areas over the entire continuum ( except for Employability which at 422 items exceeded the size limit) as I wanted to find what students “can do” and I wanted to resist the traditional thought that education is linear. The Iowa Core indicates desired levels of performance which finally allows for a comparison of a student with typical peers in the areas of Living and Working.
The assessments are not without errors. I tried to find and fix as many as possible but I have decided to open the assessments up to collaboration. Please let me know of errors and suggestions and I will make corrections. To view and copy the forms, see examples of written summaries, resources and graphs, visit the 21st Century Skills Assessments page. Come back often as I plan to make revisions including shorter assessments by level.

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