Tag: assessment

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…)

Is There Enough Time for Learning?

November 4, 2014 by
Oliver Grenham

Oliver Grenham

Because of the growing number of mass-administered, required tests under state and/or federal law, there is an increasing and unsustainable demand being placed on student time in school. In recent years, these mandated test increases have affected students in Colorado at all grade levels, from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

While student assessment is vital to learning, excessive testing is not, particularly in the way it is handled today. The quantity and quality of instructional time is what matters most for productive learning to occur.

Our experience in Adams County School District 50 has shown that a mass administration of the same test to students of the same age at the same time does not promote learning. In fact, it penalizes students, their teachers, and their schools. An overemphasis on testing significantly reduces the quantity and quality of time that could be better utilized in closing the achievement gap: something our data shows we are successfully doing.

The Teaching Learning Cycle in a Competency-Based System

We all know that teaching and learning take place in the classroom. As educators, we refer to this cyclic process as the Teaching Learning Cycle.

Teaching Learning Cycle (more…)

Reflections after Two Years of Performance Assessment Cohorts in New Hampshire

October 22, 2014 by

Originally posted on September 22, 2014 for the Center for Assessment’s Reidy Interactive Lecture Series.

Let’s now return to the question posed in an earlier post: what have we learned about the possibility of sparking systemic implementation of performance assessment? These reflections come from the NH Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) districts, as well as recent check-ins with team leads who participated in 2012 and 2013 Performance Assessment Network Cohorts. Half of these team leads reported that the work has been brought back to the rest of the school, and teachers outside of the group that attended the institutes are using performance assessments, while in other schools, QPA implementation has been more limited to the teachers who attended the institutes.

A strong, coherent vision helps people see the big picture

Administrators need to understand the big picture first and then set up the enabling conditions for the implementation to happen and the work to be sustainable. Participating in the 5-day training helps administrators develop their own instructional leadership and understanding of performance assessment. As one team leader noted, “[we] need administration to attend sessions, to show the seriousness and importance of this work, and get a solid team of committed individuals.” A recent post by a PACE district elementary principal illustrates how one district has integrated the training into their vision.

It takes time and effective structures to create a collaborative professional culture

A collaborative culture enables educators to use QPA protocols to engage in quality design, analysis, and instructional decision-making. PACE districts and 11 of the other administrators reported having Common Planning Time (CPT) built into their schedules. About half of those administrators said that the CPT was being used to specifically develop the QPA work. Two other schools that didn’t have CPT had time for the QPA group to meet to advance the work on their own. Structures provide the space, but the CPT must be used effectively. As one teacher at a PACE district school noted, “If we hadn’t done all work in the past becoming PLCs [professional learning communities], setting goals for our teams and norms, having expectations of our teammates then we wouldn’t be where we are. We couldn’t sit at a table and talk about what happens here.”

(more…)

The Power of Deep Discussions around Student Work

October 21, 2014 by
Laurie Gagnon

Laurie Gagnon

Originally posted on September 15, 2014 for the Center for Assessment’s Reidy Interactive Lecture Series.

During the first week of August, thirteen educators from five states gathered for a three-day scoring institute as part of the Innovation Lab Network’s Performance Assessment project. The goals of the institute included attaining reliable scoring on the performance assessment the teachers had field tested in spring 2014 and informing the design of the emerging national task bank and accompanying resources to support implementation of tasks.

I had the privilege of co-facilitating the English Language Arts group. As we discussed the rubric and the annotated anchor work samples, and practiced scoring student work, the group gained a common understanding of the elements of the rubric and a level of confidence about how to apply them to student work. In the course of the three days several themes emerged that underscore some guiding principles for implementing performance assessment.

(more…)

Building a Body of Learning Evidence: English Language Development in Adams County School District 50

October 20, 2014 by
Alice Collins

Alice Collins

The following is based on an interview with Alice Collins, Director of English Language Development at Adams County School District 50, with a focus on their structures, approach, and insights for other schools, including a look at the challenges and opportunities.

Background

Building up a body of evidence of learning about your students is at the heart of Adams 50’s approach to English language development. Director of English Language Development Alice Collins explained, “Teachers have to understand where learners are in their language acquisition, their content skill development, and what they need. The only way to do this is draw together as much data as possible.”

As their schools underwent rapid and massive diversification, Adams 50 turned to competency education as they realized that the traditional approach to education wasn’t going to work. The district is now 18 percent White, with Hispanic, African American, and Native American students making up 82 percent of the student body. It has the second highest percentage of English Learners in the state, with 45 percent of learners in the ELD program (and they aren’t a very big district, with 10,000 students). Spanish is the dominant other language with an additional thirty-one other languages represented in the district.

Adams 50 is an English immersion district with one elementary school offering a transitional Spanish-English bilingual track. Collins explained, “In competency education, teachers are constantly building their skills. Given the higher percentage of our learners in the ELD program, teachers are building their skills to provide quality instruction to students as they acquire English and master content standards. It doesn’t happen overnight – its part of our constant attention to building our capacity to meet the needs of our learners.” It’s starting to pay off – ELD elementary school learners are improving their reading skills, as shown on the TCAP assessments.

(more…)

Considering Competency-Based Education? Reconsider How You Assess

October 16, 2014 by

This blog originally appeared here on The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) ed.review’s edudebate series on assessment titled “What Alternatives to Standardized Testing?”and reposted at Christensen Institute.

 

From Next Charter School website

From Next Charter School website

Testing reimagined: How and when we should be assessing competency

 

We can all remember the cycle of emotions involved in taking tests: trying to cram as much into our heads, sitting the test, and eventually receiving a grade, weeks later, already immersed in new subject matter. Our grades may have clearly communicated what we knew on the day of that test. But opportunities to go back and learn what we’d missed rarely presented themselves.

 

Competency-based education presents an alternative philosophy of when and on what terms students take tests and move on to new material. In competency-based models, students advance upon mastery. A different spirit of assessment sits at the fulcrum of competency-based approaches: students only move on to new or more challenging material once they can show that they’ve mastered more basic skills and concepts. This means that students will often advance at different paces, and sometimes along different pathways. This also means that a competency-based system requires paradigm shifts in both how and when we assess students’ mastery.

 

How are students assessed for mastery?

 

Competency-based high schools in the US use a variety of modalities to assess students. A number of these approaches are being used in the state of New Hampshire, which has mandated that all high schools measure credit in terms of competency rather than time. Some schools like Sanborn Regional High School still use many traditional pen and paper exams, but with one key difference: they offer “reassessment without penalty” for students scoring below an 80%. Therefore students do not fail, but rather revisit material until they are able to retake tests to demonstrate mastery. (more…)

Thank Goodness, A New Accountability Paradigm is Before Us

October 14, 2014 by
Thomas Saenz

Thomas Saenz

If you haven’t had the chance yet, now is a good time to dive into Accountability for College and Career Readiness: Developing a New Paradigm, which explains a new approach to accountability (and my bet is that it will be embraced as the replacement to the NCLB approach). You can also listen in on a briefing and webinar on Thursday, October 16th sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education. (The briefing will also be highlighting the forthcoming report, Next Generation Accountability Systems: An Overview of Current State Policies and Practices, authored jointly by the Center for American Progress and the Council of Chief State School Officers).

The briefing will be live streamed from 12-2 ET and the webinar from 3-4 ET.

The briefing includes Stephen Bowen, Strategic Initiative Director for Innovation, Council of Chief State School Officers (and a CompetencyWorks advisor); 
S. Dallas Dance, PhD, Superintendent, Baltimore County Public Schools; Linda Darling-Hammond, EdD, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University and Faculty Director, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE ); Lara Evangelista, Principal, Flushing International High School (New York); Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner of Education, New Hampshire Department of Education 
(and a CompetencyWorks advisor); Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy, Center for American Progress;
 Thomas Saenz, President and General Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
; and Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director, National Center for Innovation in Education.

The speakers at the webinar will include Linda Darling-Hammond, EdD; Lara Evangelista; Gene Wilhoit; and Charmaine Mercer, PhD, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, Alliance for Excellent Education.

 

Let the Lifting Begin

September 11, 2014 by
weight lifter

From wikicommons

This is the second post in the series on how to get started in converting your school to competency education. See Part 1, Just Start.

Futurist author Joel Barker said, “Vision without action is merely a dream.” Once upon a time, I had a dream of being an Olympic weightlifter. My name is called. I slowly rise. I adjust my weight belt as I approach the barbell. The red jumpsuit is really uncomfortable in all the wrong places. I squat with my back straight to make sure I use my knees just like my former supervisor told me when we unloaded boxes at the grocery store. I know he would be happy that his obsession with proper lifting had finally sunk in. I make the necessary grunting sound and heave upon the rod that connects the mere 350 pounds. Unlike the Olympic athletes I watched as a child, my barbell does not even budge. Sure I have a grand vision for how to clean and jerk that weight, but a vision is only the first step on a path to the true heavy lifting.So now that you have a great purpose statement for why your school or district exists –  something just short of “To make the world a better place” – and you have determined HOW you will work to realize that purpose, it is time to get to the heavy lifting.

To help move the purpose and the vision of the school from the dream state to a reality, we needed action. We created a three-year professional plan, identified what needed to happen the first year, and then created action plans for those items. The primary activities were developing a framework of skills, scoring scales and assessments. (more…)

No Laughing Matter: Productive Assessment and the Value of Taking a Pulse

September 10, 2014 by
Chris Rock

Chris Rock. Photo from Wikimedia.

Growing up, I was always a fan of standup comedy. From the comics of my father’s age, (Billy Crystal, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison….) to those that cut their teeth more recently, (Dane Cook, Chris Rock, etc…) the comedic skills that these players demonstrate is not always natural. It takes countless hours to develop material, back stories, delivery methods, articulation, and other tools of communication that help put the audience right where the comic wants them.

In practice, the content and the strategy develop over time. Mainly, this is due to the fact that they are consistently assessing where the audience presently is and they are adapting their show to get the most engagement. This engagement becomes the fuel for the comic and helps to build the relationship between the showman and the audience that are hopefully hanging on every last drop of the experience. (more…)

The Danger of Assumptions in Innovations: A Primer on Progress

September 3, 2014 by

comfort zoneAs an educator of the behavioral sciences, the lessons I most enjoy participating in with my students are those that hinge on progress. When we look at behavior, we can identify the indicators of both success and failure as well as identify, explain, and predict how things might have been different. We do this in hopes that the mistakes of the past can be used to circumvent the pain of repeating failure or missteps. After all, humanity is addicted to progress.

At a micro level, a school is the same as society. Each has its own structure, culture, and purpose. Similar to the major historical empires of the sub/counter cultures of American society, the living organism that is education also evolves elastically.

As schools evolve, we need to adapt, shifting perceptions and changing behaviors in order to reap the potential benefits.

Many of these changes can be difficult, as we are treading into an area of less understanding and predictability. Although difficult to do at times, we must get out of our comfort zone if we are to reap the benefits of positive change. (more…)

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