Changing how we evaluate…utopic?

I was asked to think about this statement and how it can be considered an assumption:

The notion of systemic change in how we evaluate is utopic since it goes against parent expectations and societal values.

If this were true then women would never have gotten the vote and black people would still be riding the back of the bus and children would still be working in coal mines.

Any kind of systemic change is challenging but certainly not utopic or impossible! If that were the case then nothing would ever change. For this statement to be qualified as true then I must assume the following:

One at a time now.
Parent expectations and the values of society are homogenous and fixed
In my experience working with parents I know that their expectations are not fixed in favour of the stagnancy of how we evaluate students. Parents of students who have test anxiety, for example, would love to see formal, high-stakes summative evaluations bite the dust. And societal values? Which society are we talking about? Is there an assumption here that all societies have the same values when it comes to education and evaluation? I’ve worked in a few different social arenas myself and each one held different values. Even within the same school community I’ve experienced some parents who were in favour of rigorous testing while others were in favour of less rigorous practice. Oh and wait, don’t my values as a teacher fall into the realm of societal values? Am I not part of society?

The whole system of education is formed by these two elements alone.
As soon as we talk ‘systemic change’ we can not base our ideas on only 2 elements of a system. Theories about how systems work tell us that a system is made up of many parts and that none of the parts can be looked at in isolation in order to gain a complete understanding of how the system works. This is because each of the parts affects each of the other parts. Think of your own body. Do you think we could get a good understanding of why you have that headache by only looking at your head? A friend of mine’s headaches ended up being as a result of high blood pressure. If his doctors had only examined his head he may never have found out why they were happening.

By its very definition, a system is an arrangement (pattern, design) of parts which interact with each other within the system’s boundaries (form, structure, organization) to function as a whole. The saying, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” reflects the notion that it is not enough to focus our evaluative gaze on single goals, objectives, actors, processes, activities, and the like, without attempting to understand the larger system in which the initiative lives. From Evaluating Systems Change by Hallie Preskill

What educators have to say has no affect on any other element of the education system (esp. parents and society)
This assumes that as teachers/administrators/consultants we have no power within our own workplace, that our beliefs and practices do not count. When looked at within the concept of systems thinking, as briefly explained above, we see this is nonsense. While we may sometimes feel this to be true, we know that if we need to change something we can. Look at how a group of Catholic educators changed public policy on the teaching of ethics and religion in Quebec, look at the number of hits that come up when I google teachers as change agents.

What do you think? Is it erroneous to think that we can change evaluative systems in education?
What would you like to see change in how we evaluate in schools?

What do you think when you think évaluation?

Here are my explanations. Translated into English below.

Continuel – l’évaluation est un aspect de mon enseignement que je suis toujours en train de faire.

Conversations – l’évaluation pour moi est comme une conversation entre moi et l’élève, ainsi que leurs parents. C’est une conversation qui permet l’amélioration continuel.

Rubriques – On parle beaucoup de rubriques en évaluation. Je ne suis pas très pour les rubriques. Je trouve qu’ils limitent l’imagination de l’élève. En même temps je crois que c’est important que les attentes soient claires, alors c’est une idée dont que je pense souvent.

Bulletins – Souvent les évaluations sont liées aux bulletins et il y a beaucoup d’enseignant(e)s qui les font seulement pour les bulletins.

Auto-évaluation – C’est important que je m’évalue comme enseignante tout le temps. Les évaluations pour moi sont un genre d’auto-évaluation, car ils permettent une réflexion sur comment j’ai enseigné le sujet qui est en évaluation et comment je pourrais le modifier pour améliorer les situations d’apprentissages.


Ongoing – evaluation is a part of my teaching that I do all the time.

Conversations – I see evaluation as a conversation between me and my students, as well as their parents. It’s a conversation that allows for continual improvement.

Rubrics – I don’t really like rubrics because I think they limit the imagination of a student. At the same time I believe in the importance of clear expectations, so this is something I think about often.

Report cards – many teachers only evaluate when it is time to write report cards.

Self-evaluation – It’s important for me continually evaluate myself as a teacher. When I evaluate student work it is a way to reflect on how I taught the subject being evaluated and how I can improve learning situations in the future.

How is this normal?

True story. This is what I have witnessed over the past 2 weeks.

Students stress, get upset, cry or just give up and check out – there’s more than one way to deal with stress.

Teachers stress, get upset, cry – at least those who care about being accountable for how they report on their students’ progress. Others smirk, throw a dart and submit their marks on time with no lost sleep (those are the ones who give up and check out).

How has this become normal?

We are all connected.

Don't tell me we are not connected. Don't even try.

Don't tell me that we are not connected. Don't even try.

Education reforms say they focus on process (espoused theory – what we say we believe in, we value), that curriculum is student-centered, favouring communities of learning, communities of practice.

Yet professional development related to Education reform is focused on assessment and evaluation (theory-in-use – what we actually do, not what we say we do), we focus on the end product. We spend so much time focusing on it that process is entangled in the end product. When PD is all about evaluation, then our professional lives become obsessed with it.

Don’t tell me that students are not stressed because their teachers are. Don’t tell me you wonder why students always ask – will we be graded on this? Will this be on the test? Don’t tell me that there is no relationship between our obsession and theirs.

Don’t tell me that the system is not sick, is not creating learning situations wrought with anxiety and frustration, wrought with obsession with the end result.

Don’t tell me that because I won’t believe you.

How is this still normal?

How can I reframe this to generate change?

How can I change this true story?

Thanks to @monarchlibrary for introducing me to Alan Watts and this video, Music and Life.