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Rethinking Adolescent Reading Assessment: From Accountability to Care

By: Scott Filkins
Publication: English Journal
Date: September 2013

Summary: Scott Filkins provides a model for reimagining assessment not as an act of accountability, but as an act of care. He argues that well-constructed formative assessment, pursued for the right reasons and supported by the broader institutional setting, can actually be the foundation of effective, caring education.


Rearranging two of Bruner's 'homely resorts,' we get at the heart of what makes formative assessment work: timely, supportive feedback and always having another chance to use it. Offering students these gifts repeatedly is our best hope for increasing their competence at a reading task, and increased self- confidence will come along with it.[...]

Assessment, when enacted out of teacher care and supported with a system with integrity, fuels the feelings of competence and achievement for both students and teachers. As Noddings puts it, 'caring implies competence . . . teachers in caring relations are continually pressed to gain greater competence.' When teachers recognize that it is their informed decision making that leads to increased student achievement, the value and rewards of their efforts to assess thoughtfully become plainly obvious.

At a time when prominent policymakers behind standards and assessment in our country wish to impart to students that no one cares what they think and feel, teachers, curriculum coordinators, and professional development providers need to work together to offer a less cynical, more constructive counternarrative. What better way than to take the word assessment back from such power brokers?"

About the Authors

SCOTT FILKINS is a teacher in Champaign, Illinois schools, and is the co-director of the University of Illinois Writing Project.

Filkins, Scott. "Rethinking Adolescent Reading Assessment: From Accountability to Care." English Journal 103:1 (2013) 48-53. Copyright ©2013 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Reprinted with permission.

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