As I mentioned a week or so ago, I'm reading Cathy Davidson's tome, Now You See It, which is a study in attention, brain science, and related issues, all within the realm of education.
Though much of what Davidson covers in this book is covered in other publications--and specifically in many blogs, her chapter on measurement has forced me to revisit (philosophically) my beliefs pertaining to assessment and measurement. The historical perspective was very helpful, in terms of highlighting the rise of the multiple-choice assessment as a response to the standardization and uniformity prevalent in industrial society. I won't go any further, lest you are reading the book currently.
Suffice it to say that I'm now very focused on assessment and measurement. In fact, I feel so passionately about it that I am ready to identify it as the issue in education right now. It touches all systems: public, parochial, independent.
There is much to be done here, if one is to move the needle and end up with assessments that speak to a student's ability to handle complex, multi-layered tasks over time rather than a "yes, this is right, and that is wrong" approach to measurement/assessment.
Perhaps the greatest challenge we face in rethinking assessment is rethinking measurement. How do we measure a student's ability to handle complex, multi-layered tasks over time? There are many options here, but how many schools are bold enough to begin moving in this direction, away from the "standardization machine" that drives so much of the testing world in the US?
I still believe, though, that content is important -- students need to have some base of knowledge from which and with which to work. Having said that, I think we can devise ways for students to acquire the content WHILE working on those skills that will prepare them for the complexities of life and work.