Tag: assessment

New Hampshire Testing Pilot Breaks the Federal Accountability Mold

March 6, 2015 by

NHThis post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on March 5, 2015.

This week the U.S. Department of Education made a groundbreaking decision to allow four school systems in New Hampshire to pilot a new accountability regime based on a mix of local and state assessments. This first-of-its-kind policy marks an important policy development for competency-based systems and signals a move in the right direction for federal accountability.

New Hampshire’s Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) pilot will allow locally managed assessments to count toward federal accountability requirements. New Hampshire’s PACE project began in 2012 as an opt-in effort for districts to coordinate local approaches to performance assessment. Starting this year, the four PACE implementing districts—Sanborn Regional, Rochester, Epping, and Souhegan—will administer the Smarter Balanced assessment once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school (in three grades instead of seven). In all other years when students aren’t taking Smarter Balanced assessments, the PACE districts will administer carefully designed common and locally managed “performance assessments” that were developed by the districts themselves and validated at the state level.

Although there is a range of definitions of what constitutes a performance assessment, according to the New Hampshire DOE, “[p]erformance assessments are complex, multi-part tasks that ask students to apply what they have learned in sophisticated ways.” The state emphasizes that different mediums may qualify as evidence of mastery. The Department explained that these assessments vary by context and subject, and sometimes by a student’s particular interests: (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

February 3, 2015 by

From the States

  • North Carolina: North Carolina New Schools is making the case for competency-based learning in North Carolina, as Angela Quick, Senior VP, explains in her blog. A convening of thought leaders was held in December to operate as a “think tank” to identify enablers, barriers, and readiness factors regarding North Carolina’s transition toward competency education. Mooresville Graded School District is now offering credit by demonstrated mastery (CDM) to middle and high school students. In 2013, the NC State Board of Education changed policy to enable mastery-based credits. (The Journal)
  • Michigan: Mary Esselman, former deputy chancellor at the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan, announced her resignation in January. She championed Michigan’s turnaround district by reshaping teaching and curriculum around student-centered, technology-focused models.

ESEA Reauthorization

New Reports and Resources (more…)

Two Sides of the Same Coin: Competency-Based Education and Student Learning Objectives

February 2, 2015 by

This paper is also available in PDF form here

Introduction

Coins

We are in the midst of two major reform initiatives occupying the attention of school district leaders throughout the country. Teacher evaluation has been the most prominent educational policy issue of the past five years, and evaluating teachers in the so-called “non-tested subjects and grades” has been one of the thorniest challenges in the design of these new educator evaluation approaches. Student learning objectives have emerged as the most common approach for documenting teacher contributions to student learning (Hall, Gagnon, Thompson, Schneider, & Marion, 2014). Competency-based education has taken hold to help ensure that students have mastered critical knowledge and skills before becoming eligible for graduation or moving on to the next learning target rather than simply occupying a seat for a certain amount of time. Unfortunately, many school leaders do not see the strong relationship between these two initiatives and feel like they have to do “double-duty” to meet both sets of policy goals. I describe each of these initiatives below and then illustrate how the close connection between the two can create coherence and efficiencies.

Competency-Based Education

While there are potentially many definitions of competencies and competency-based education, I rely on the following from Patrick and Sturgis (2013):

Competency education is an approach to teaching and learning in which: (more…)

Negotiating Release

January 26, 2015 by
Ollie and Tobey

Ollie and Tobey

My husband and I have two dogs. Ollie is a springer spaniel; Tobey is a rather unfortunate cross between a Yorkshire terrier and a miniature husky. We live near water and enjoy spending time in the lake when the temperatures rise.

Ollie took to the water immediately. In no time she figured out swimming, and she could be counted on to paddle leisurely until we were ready to leave. Not the case for Tobey. He surprised us with his reluctance to put a paw in the water.

Tobey did eventually learn to swim and now enjoys a quick lap or two, but it involved a process. We had to introduce him gradually, making sure he had the skills and confidence to move from the beach area to deeper water.

I mention my dogs because they serve as an example of how we make assumptions. I assumed that all dogs instinctively knew how to swim. After all, they enjoyed going down to the beach with us. As teachers, we are tempted to make the same assumption: because our students like to use technology, surely they know how to use it effectively.

A tenant of proficiency-based teaching and learning is that students will determine how and when they will “show what they know.” This implies that the student will be asked to direct their own learning. We avail ourselves as facilitators, flip our classrooms, determine pacing guides, and do less direct instruction. Time, not mastery, is now the variable. (more…)

Helping HELP: Paul Leather’s Testimony on Assessments and Accountability

January 21, 2015 by
Paul Leather

Paul Leather

Earlier today, Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner at NH’s Department of Education, testified at the Senate HELP Committee Full Committee Hearing on “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability” about improving assessments and accountability systems. His testimony is provided below or you can watch here. Additional resources on ESEA include:

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Chairman Alexander, Senator Murray, and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify about testing and accountability in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

I am Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner of Education of the NH Department of Education.

In NH, we are working to explore what the next generation of assessments might look like, beyond an end-of-the-year test.

We have coordinated with the Council of Chief State School Officers on its Priorities for ESEA Reauthorization. These Priorities contain three important ingredients that are in line with the work we are doing:

  • First, it would continue to support annual assessments of student performance to ensure every parent receives the information they need on how their child is performing, at least once a year.
  • Second, it would allow states to base students’ annual determinations on a single standardized test, or the combined results from a coherent system of assessments.
  • Third, it gives states the space to continue to innovate on assessment and accountability systems, so important when the periods of authorization can last 10 years or longer. (more…)

In Search of the Goldilocks Scale

January 15, 2015 by
Porridge

Too hot? Too cold? Just right!

We have learned a lot over the past five years as our district has implemented a competency-based model of grading and assessing. Competency-based grading and assessment requires a significant shift in the way we think about assessment—its purpose and its meaning. Our school, Memorial School in Newton, NH and our district, the Sanborn Regional School District, moved to this model five years ago. We continue to learn more about what assessment of students truly means as our overall understanding of assessment practices (our assessment literacy) increases.

When we moved to this model of grading and assessment, our elementary teachers made a wholesale change to grading with a four-point rubric. There would be no number scale (100 point scale) and there would be consistency across grade levels horizontally and vertically. The grade scale rubrics we used would identify the expectations around each level. Our learning curve was steep as we created the rubrics, but we found that our learning was not going to stop there. It continues to this day.

Our first year, we identified our rubric indicators as E (Exceeding), M (Meeting), IP (Inconsistent Progress), and LP (Limited Progress). The chart below reflects this first attempt at our rubric scale. The first roadblock came after the first progress report was distributed. As an educational staff, we looked at IP as what the descriptor outlined—inconsistent progress. A student was able to demonstrate competency, but it was on an inconsistent basis. Many parents provided feedback that it just “felt negative” (the word inconsistent). We decided that “In Progress” was also an accurate indicator, and parents agreed. We made the change immediately within the “Level” while keeping the performance descriptor the same. (more…)

Tackling Work Study Practices in a Competency-Based Educational System

December 9, 2014 by
Sun

Responsive Classroom

Last year, teams of teachers within our district, the Sanborn Regional School District in New Hampshire, became deeply involved in building Quality Performance Assessments. These assessments are designed to truly assess a student’s competency, or transfer of learning. Our teachers have worked incredibly hard at building high-quality, engaging assessments. Their overall assessment literacy, and the learning that has occurred throughout these processes, has been significant. However, it has also raised additional questions.

The most recent questions have had to do with Work Study Practices (also referred to as work study habits or dispositions/behaviors). The State of New Hampshire defines the four work study practices in New Hampshire as Communication, Creativity, Collaboration, and Self-Direction. For the past six years, our district elementary schools have identified the Responsive Classroom CARES (Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-Regulation) as the behaviors we will assess in each student. These fit in well with the work study practices the State has identified. Within each performance assessment, teachers have been identifying a specific behavior as the one that will be assessed within the performance assessment itself. For example, a performance assessment may lend itself to having cooperation/collaboration of students assessed, so teachers are including this to be assessed, complete with its own indicators within a rubric as part of the scoring within the assessment (separate from the assessment of academic competencies). (more…)

The Case for Performance Assessments in a Standards-Based Grading System

December 5, 2014 by
DeLoreto

Louis F. DeLoreto

If only measuring students meeting academic standards in the classroom was as easy as it is in the performing arts or athletics. Concerts and games are authentic performance assessments. They provide the opportunity for students to demonstrate their skill levels and grasp of the concepts before an audience. Observers can see and hear the results and make judgments on the level of performance using their knowledge of the criteria commonly used to determine proficiency levels. If only we, the audience, could see how well a student is performing on authentic challenges in the classroom like we do at an orchestra concert or a basketball game.

The principle of demonstrating performance on an academic standard is the same as in the performing arts and athletic arenas. The “audience” wants to see what the student is being asked to do and to be able to understand how they did. However, the traditional classroom performance assessment is not as readily identifiable as the complexity of a musical piece or the competitive level of an opposing team. Therefore, the degree to which the student grasps an academic standard in a classroom is difficult for counselors, administrators, and parents to see and understand in today’s traditional high school assessment systems. (more…)

First Stop of the Magical Mastery Tour: Bronx International High School

December 4, 2014 by

BxIHS

This article is part of a series of case studies of schools in New York City. For the full story, start with my overview of the Magical Mastery Tour and the three biggest takeaways. You can also read the report on Carroll Gardens School for Innovation.

Inspiring. I know no other word to describe the students and staff at Bronx International High School (BxIHS). Arrived from all around the world, the 400+ BxIHS students come to the school with hope, drive, curiosity, creativity…and little or no English.

Designed as a high school to serve new immigrants, BxIHS “accepts students who score at or below the 20th percentile on the Language Assessment Battery (LAB-R) and have been in the United States fewer than four years.” Students enter with a wide range of academic experiences behind them, some having spent little or no time in a formal education setting.

Regardless of background, the two things all the students share is a desire to learn English and to complete high school. Staff members, many of whom were English language learners at one time in their own lives, work collaboratively and joyfully in an “outcomes” approach to ensure that students reach proficiency in language/literacy, content, and skills. (more…)

The Role of Assessment Instruments in a Competency-Based System

November 5, 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 7.01.11 AMNo matter how you approach it, you cannot mitigate the massive change agent that is competency-based education. It does not leave much room for “old school” notions of teaching and learning. It does not tolerate anything less than a committed belief that all students can achieve at high levels.

It certainly demands a philosophical and ideological shift in thinking about “best practice” in education.

When I had first embarked on this journey, I had prepared myself for these shifts as they pertained to my practice. How can I become more student-centered? What does that look like? How will I know if my students are ready?

The question I never asked: How will I assess it and grade it? (more…)

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