In their book Seeing What’s Next, Clayton Christensen and his co-authors describe how the invention of credit scoring allowed the financial industry to quickly and easily determine who should get loans. Before credit scoring, banks had to trust the expert opinion of a loan officer, who had to laboriously assess the worthiness of each loan applicant for the particular loan they were applying for. This process was time-consuming, and didn’t allow information about the applicant’s credit-worthiness to be easily shared between institutions.
In education, we currently rely on a number of different assessment tools, software programs, and evaluations to determine what a student has mastered and is currently ready to learn. Unfortunately, there is often little agreement between these different tools and assessments, and even worse, little communication between them. A student may have mastered multiplying fractions according to one software package but not according to another, the classroom teacher may not use this data to inform her instruction, and the student may still fail the standardized test at the end of the year because the instruction she received wasn’t closely aligned to what was tested.
So, is it possible to boil mastery or understanding of a subject (or even a single topic) down to something similar to a credit score? It’s probably not be quite that simple, but it should be possible to have some kind of a valid measurement that can be summarized in a way that non-experts (such as parents and policymakers) can understand.
There are some interesting efforts underway related to this. For example, the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) is an effort to tag educational resources with metadata describing those resources. Standards alignment is one piece of metadata that is likely to eventually make it in, but metadata related to student achievement would potentially be even more useful. inBloom (the former Shared Learning Collaborative) is an effort to develop methods of sharing student data easily between software applications. Some schools, such as the Rocketship charters, are actually developing their own tools to share information.
One final thought- Christensen et al note that standards “pull back from the edge of what is possible in the interest of promoting speed and flexibility.” Is this trade-off worthwhile in the current context of education and ed. tech.?