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Assessment For Learning-CFT Initiatives and Progress

November 14, 2010

The Center for Teaching is promoting work at Drew Charter School and The Westminster Schools on assessment. In both cases, we are helping faculty learn more about the assessment process using a professional learning community (PLC) model, as well as supporting their professional development in assesment. A cohort of 19 faculty from both schools recently attended the Assessment Summit sponsored by Solution Tree in Atlanta, GA. This conference attracts some of the most accomplished researchers, educators, and speakers on the topic of assessment.

In the JHS at Westminster, the Center for Teaching is facilitating a group of seven teachers who are working for the second year in a PLC format on assessment. Their first year was devoted to looking at the work of Richard Stiggins and his team at the Assessment Training Institute, Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing it Right, Using it Well. Along with studying the text, the study group also took assessments from their classroom and applied what they were learning from Stiggins work. A significant amount of time was devoted to learning how to function as a PLC and thinking about how to apply what they were learning about assessment, especially work on designing clear learning targets or essential learnings. The second year of the study group will be devoted to working more deeply on their own classroom assessments, deconstructing and reconstructing them using the principles outlined in Stiggins work. The group has decided to break up into three book groups during the year and read the following pieces on assessment:

1. Transformative Assessment, W. James Popham
2. Teacher As Assessment Leader, edited by Thomas Guskey
3. Classroom Assessment and Grading that Work, by Robert Marzano

Each of these books offers a slightly different approach to the study of assessment. Teacher As Assessment Leader is a series of essays by different authors covering a wide variety of topics on assessment. The other two books are well respected resources in the area of classroom assessment and grading.

In the Elementary School at Westminster, Laura Pattison, a former faculty cohort member, is leading two professional learning teams of four 2nd grade and four 4th grade teachers that meet weekly to discuss issues around classroom assessment. The entire group of nine faculty went to the Assessment Summit at Solution Tree for a common professional development experience. Each PLT is exploring how to build good common assessments. Doing this work requires that they coordinate curriculum and discuss the learning targets being taught and that will be assessed. They are using Kay Burke’s book, Balanced Assessment: From Formative to Summative, as their reference for understanding how best to build an effective assessment program.

At Drew Charter School, the CFT is working with the Administrative Team to explore the DATA WISE improvement program designed out of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. We are reading the book, DATA WISE, published by Harvard Education Press, and working through a series of ten, hour-long workshops studying the eight steps of the improvement plan. The DATA WISE program “shows how examining test scores and other classroom data can become a catalyst for important schoolwide conversations that will enhance schools’ ability to capture teachers’ knowledge, foster collaboration, identify obstacles to change, and enhance school culture and climate.” With the use of assessment data from high-stakes tests, classroom assessments, and other student data, we hope to develop a plan to improve teaching, especially our understanding of assessment, and thereby improve student achievement. One adminstrative team member, Nicole Tuttle, is working with the 2nd grade team on teaching strategies that will improve their vocabulary instruction. They are using resources, such as Robert Marzano’s book, Vocabulary Games for the Classroom, as well as other materials to design new strategies for teaching vocabulary. The 2nd grade teachers are also implementing peer observation to watch and learn from each other, collect data on teaching vocabulary lessons, share their observations, and collaborate on improving instruction.

If you want more information about our work on assessment or you want to discuss in more detail these initiatives, contact me at robertr@westminster.net or visit our website at www. westminster.net/cft.

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