It’s not about the nail: Thinking about the assessment

Many of you are anticipating or have already administered the Kansas State History, Government, Social Studies summative assessment field test.  We just want to  remind everyone that it is a field test and so is more for us at KSDE and the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE) than for teachers and districts. 

This is KSDE’s attempt, a draft if you will, before the final edit of next spring’s assessment. We are using the field test to figure out if the format, footprint, items, and scoring are appropriate, proper and valid. No reports will be created, no scores will be given.

That being said, I sense a great anxiety among teachers around the state. I have presented many times throughout Kansas informing teachers about the assessment and the expectations associated with that assessment.  Teachers are concerned and have questions.  I am reminded of that great video clip popular several years ago called It’s Not About the Nail.

I understand that KSDE sounds a bit like the woman in the video, when we say things like:

Don’t worry about the assessment.


If you are teaching your classes using high-quality strategies, the assessment will take care of itself.

The anxiety and the nervousness in the field is, in part, caused by the nail (assessment). Many teachers and perhaps administrators feel that education is about the nail (assessment) and that the summative assessment is a measure of their effectiveness as teachers.

If we could remove the nail (assessment), life would be much easier. Alas, that is not the world we live in. But the assessment is only one of many measures of teacher effectiveness.  Have fun, challenge your kids to think differently about things, and work with primary sources.

You are in the most challenging yet rewarding professions in the world. Continue doing what you do for kids.

In the meantime, avoid wearing sweaters.

Don Gifford
Social Studies Consultant

About Glenn Wiebe

I work as a social studies specialist at ESSDACK, an educational service center in Hutchinson, Kansas. Before coming to ESSDACK, I taught middle school US History and higher ed social science classes.

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