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Implementing Assessment Literacy – What Can Principals Do?It’s common knowledge that the word assessment conjures up negative thoughts but for those educators who truly understand assessment, they see assessment as an important part of their job as educator. For principals, this is especially true. Three members of The National Task Force on Assessment Education recently penned an article in Principal Leadership that is worth sharing and highlighting. The article – How to Implement Assessment Literacy (PDF) – dives into how the new federal law now describes literacy instruction in terms of how educators incorporate assessments before, during, and after learning.

Using a smart, balanced, and varied system of assessment educators can use the data to identify students’ learning needs, inform instruction, and monitor progress and effects of instruction. While many educators – 90% in fact – say that they use data to adjust instructional strategies, 30% felt they were not adequately prepared to interpret the data to make those adjustments. This certainly underscores the need for continual support and principals should be looking for ways to provide additional training and feedback so that teachers can better use assessment for student learning.

The article underscores three essential conditions that principals should be sure are in place so that the right assessment environment is realized. The article states:
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First, principals must embrace the concept of balanced assessment systems that rely on a combination of classroom, interim, and annual assess­ments to provide information needed by various instructional decision-makers.

Second, achievement expecta­tions should be defined in terms of standards arranged in logically sequenced learning progressions within and across grade levels in a manner consistent with the way learning unfolds.

The third essential condition is to make sure stakeholders involved in assessment selection or development are prepared to create high-quality assessment systems, as indicated by their ability to:

  • Select a proper assessment method that fits each relevant target.
  • Gather only as much information as is needed to inform the decision to be made.
  • Create quality assessment exercises and scoring schemes.
  • Minimize relevant sources of bias that can distort results.
  • Communicate results to the intended users in a timely and understandable manner.

With these conditions in place, principals can then shift to creating an environment of support and monitoring for teachers so that they can best utilize assessment-literate teaching practices. The article shares some examples of state sponsored professional development initiatives that can be models for principals as they look to put their own programs into place.

The piece ends with a strong call to action:

District and school leaders should take full advantage of the oppor­tunities under ESSA to provide the appropriate organizational context and support teachers’ use of assessment for learning. By developing sound assess­ment processes and skills, principals can capitalize on opportunities under ESSA to enhance student learning.