This “renewal” has been evident in how we talk and act. In fact, over the last few years, our work has focused on innovation concerning the ways students demonstrate their learning. For example, topics like “balanced assessment,” “performance-based assessments,” and “presentations of learning” have all moved from niche practices to mainstream methods.
This month some colleagues and I came to an exciting conclusion about our profession. After discussing the use of data and shifting priorities, we agreed that education is experiencing an assessment renaissance.
We also agreed that the reasons for the shifts originate from multiple sources, including state, district, and school-based policies and practices. Most notably is the change in thinking about the use of assessment data. A previous, and I would say anachronistic, and practice would involve teachers going over multiple choice test answers together looking for patterns of incorrect student replies. This “data dialogue” would be followed by ideas on how to teach the unit or lesson better next year. Yes, next year!
The alternatives are much more appealing. What have replaced “data dialogues” are job-embedded practices that use formative assessment to impact current teaching, portfolios of learning with student artifact options, rubric design, and grading practices that seek to identify what a grade means concerning “mastery.”
Of course, not every school, district, and state across the United States is experiencing this renaissance similarly. But knowing where schools are regarding data collection, data use, and assessment practices will be critical for an informed support strategy. To that end, I have shared some assessment topics you should be informed about as you approach a school to support.
- No Zero: The elimination of the “0” as a gradebook mark with a minimum (often) 50% shows insight into the assessment philosophy regarding topics like remediation, summer programs, and other programs you could support.
- Student Retakes: The format for student retakes is typically the most significant hurdle regarding this topic. Providing alternative assessments for teachers or how your product or service can reduce the number of retakes needed in a classroom is indeed valuable.
- Testing Demands: Whether they are from the local, state, or federal level, or if the demands are from the AP, IB, or Dual Enrollment programs, knowing the types of tests students must take will provide insight into the types of data that is collected.
- Deeper Learning Models: This is a big one! They are the opposite of multiple-choice exams. Your school or state may be rethinking the best way to show student learning (content) and develop skill sets (writing, applying what you learned, etc.) is one of the most tangible shifts in education. More profound knowledge involves practices like an inquiry as a pedagogy, taps into a constructivist approach to learning, connects learning assessment to contemporary life and issues, and emphasizes reflection and refinement of work. Supporting any of those aspects of deeper understanding makes you valuable.
- Formative Assessment: This practice finds out where your students are with their learning during the unit – not at the end of it. Formative assessments are sometimes graded, but the data can always be helpful to teachers when the evaluation is framed correctly. Helping schools build these out and showing how to use the data they yield is an invaluable practice.
Whenever I discuss assessment practices, my thinking is illuminated by a “north star” belief, “whoever is doing the work is doing the learning.” This mantra reminds me that designing learning experiences should start with the content and skills outcomes we have for students. The pathways to achieve that outcome, class lessons, include information gathering by teachers. Hence, they know where students are along the path. That job-embedded data finding is essential for all students to succeed. What a great reason to be part of the renaissance!
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