During the holidays, we wanted to thank all of the readers, partners, and educators that make our blog a success. As a way of closing out the year, we wanted to share our top ten posts from the past 12 months. We hope you enjoy them!
Since the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) became law in December 2015, the role of assessments in accountability systems has been a hot topic. ESSA provides more flexibility to states in designing accountability systems and creating more balanced systems of assessment. In light of this dialogue, it seems like the right time for a quick refresher on the different types and purposes of assessment.
If you’re a practitioner of formative assessment, then you know that one of the foundations of smart practice is establishing success criteria in the classroom. Students must understand what they are expected to learn before they can take responsibility for their own learning.
Feedback is at the heart of successful formative assessment. It’s feedback from the student to the teacher, as well as from the teacher to the student. When teachers get feedback from the student, it helps guide instruction, but certainly feedback needs to come from teachers, and how it’s provided can make a huge difference in learning outcomes.
As with any profession, those in education – teachers, administrators, students, and parents – all have important questions that need answers. While the questions begin to broaden with each level you venture away from the classroom, all of them are focused on benefiting students. A balanced set of educational assessments can provide many of the answers to these questions, but unfortunately, there are so many misconceptions about what assessments do, how they do it, and why, that it’s difficult for all those involved to make sense of this balance.
There are major gaps that exist between how prepared teachers and district administrators are to use assessment data to drive learning, and this undoubtedly needs to change. After all, while district administrators have some say in what tools and curricula are used, it is teachers who are on the front line leading the charge. They are the ones who ultimately must impart the knowledge and learning that drive student growth. So what should we do? As district administrators, as teachers, as policy makers, as parents?
If you were asked to finish the phrase “Practice makes …” what is the first word that pops in your head? Did you say “perfect”? At least 99% of the people I have asked this question to in a professional development session of some sort have answered the same way. But is this actually the case? Does more practice make perfect?
Collecting data about students is not new for teachers. Teachers want to use data to support and inform instruction, and technology can help serve a practical purpose in improving the efficiency of this process. Data gathering can and should be in real time, present a holistic view of the student, and be viewable by all stakeholders, including parents and particularly the students themselves.
In a previous post (see above #7), Teacher Voices blogger Chris Hull talked about how to integrate data from a variety of sources – especially how to incorporate teacher observations into assessment results and other types of data. One of the ways in which he uses that integrated student information is to conduct monthly mini-conferences with his 7th grade students. Today, Chris expands on the topic of conducting student data conferences.
We sat down with Ruth Schackmann, a regular contributor to our blog and a middle school English/Language Arts teacher, to talk about the ongoing process of assessment in her classroom. We discussed involving students in their own evaluations and using these opportunities to understand and solve problems, rather than using them to rank students.
When most people think about assessments, they think of summative or perhaps interim, but assessment plays out in classrooms every day, and often it’s not unfolding the way it should. Many classroom discussions consist of lower-order questions that are answered by only a few motivated students. These questions aren’t rich enough to provide detailed information about student learning, and responses aren’t systematically collected from all students in the class—but formative assessment allows for deeper understanding and learning for each student.
We look forward to seeing you right here for a great 2017! Enjoy the holidays, and be safe!
Photo by Mike McCune.