Adding to the growing number of voices advocating assessments for learning rather than of learning, Stiggins makes an impassioned argument for better assessment mechanisms that will give more frequent and useful feedback about student learning. He warns that the high-stakes testing phenomenon, with its once-a-year attempt to measure knowledge, only serves to increase the numbers of students who throw up their hands in hopelessness.
"Our current assessment systems are harming huge numbers of students for reasons that few understand. And that harm arises directly from our failure to balance our use of standardized tests and classroom assessments in the service of school improvement. When it comes to assessment, we have been trying to find answers to the wrong questions. ... [O]ur concern for test scores must be preceded by a consideration of more fundamental questions: Are our current approaches to assessment improving student learning? Might other approaches to assessment have a greater impact? Can we design state and district assessment systems that have the effect of helping our students want to learn and feel able to learn?"