I had the incredible opportunity last week of spending several days in New Orleans with my son. As huge music buffs, we spent most of our time on Royal Street, just listening to the buskers in The French Quarter.
Busking is an incredibly brave act. Standing up in public and presenting your skills for the evaluation of anyone that walks by. The same rules apply to the artist with their work hanging for all to analyze and offer a formative assessment of each piece. Art is a public thing made to share, judged and personalized with every iteration. To play music or paint is to be open to critical evaluation.
Then we ran across busking wordsmiths, people who sit with funky old portable typewriters on funkier older TV trays waiting to write whatever you want written. Give them a topic and a format and then pay them what you think it’s worth.
I was struck by the courage of these ELA aficionados as I proctored the SBAC this week. Despite what the name of the test suggests, we don’t really think of ELA as a performance task, but more of a business skill and a communication skill. What strikes me most is the contrast in evaluation. Most of the assessments we make in life are still shots of moving targets, reflections of one moment of time, somehow, that seems easier to remember when the performance is music that drifts down the street than when it’s written in either tests or poems.