A New Puppy and A New Promise
This month, Amy Reilly, a mom to three and an assessment expert, added a new puppy to her family. But, Ellie was more than a birthday present for her 12-year-old son.
“He’s wanted a dog for years, so we made a deal,” she says. “He had to get better grades and not have any behavioral issues.”
Amy says she and her husband are impressed by the results.
“We’re seeing another side to him—he is more mature and is taking school more seriously,” she says.
“As parents, it’s exciting to watch him begin this new phase of who he is going to eventually become.”
Motivation From Motherhood
Amy says her work at Pearson, the world’s learning company, has always been motivated by her desire to make assessments less stressful and more meaningful for teachers and for students, including her own son.
“Watching him, in particular, deal with test-related pressure and anxiety activates that passion I’ve developed to consistently make assessments more engaging and less test-like.”
As a mom, a former teacher and an assessment expert, she’s taken on the work of making “fewer, better, fairer tests” a reality.
As a mom, a former teacher and an assessment expert, she’s taken on
the work of making “fewer, better, fairer tests” a reality.
Fairness in the Foreground
Amy’s path to becoming an education professional began long before she became a mom.
In 1998, she started work as a special education teacher.
“That instilled in me right from the beginning concerns over fairness for all students,” Amy says.
“As educators, we should strive to make sure we’re assessing each of our students in the best possible way, so we truly understand what they know and can do.”
Fewer, Better Assessments
Today, Amy is Director of Innovative Solutions for Pearson.
“My colleagues have had a tremendous impact on how I think about ways we can better measure student learning. I’m really fortunate to work with great people,” she says.
Amy says that improved technology has created increased opportunity to understand more about the processes students use to solve problems.
“I am very interested in exploring the use of assessments that don’t necessarily involve fill-in-the-bubble forms, but rather assess more the quality of student products and the sophistication of their processes,” Amy says.
“This is how we can create fewer, but better, assessments.”
Necessary and Continuously Improving
Amy says state-wide standardized assessments serve an important purpose by providing student achievement data.
Amy says state-wide standardized assessments serve an important purpose
by providing student achievement data.
“Without them, we can’t track if certain populations are performing poorly, whether that’s special education students, the economically disadvantaged, or other minority groups,” Amy says.
“When we look at assessments through that lens, they’re very much a civil rights issue. They allow us to monitor schools and districts to make certain all students are given opportunities to learn.”
Amy says part of the obligation assessment developers have is to make assessments fair, valid, and reliable.
A Moment of Clarity
Amy says a recent family moment caused her to reflect on the importance of the work being done to improve assessments.
When she met her son at the bus stop after school, he had a score report from a recent assessment.
“He asked over and over – ‘Did I pass? Did I pass? Did I pass?’” Amy says.
“I opened it, but I couldn’t figure out what the results meant. And I’ve been in this business for a really long time.”
“It occurred to me that if we can’t understand the results and take beneficial action, assessments won’t be widely perceived as valuable,” Amy says.
Part of being passionate about anything you do is that you constantly want to find ways to make things better.”