On March 26th, Supt. Cyndy Taymore and Asst. Supt. for Teaching and Learning Margaret Adams, in conjunction with the Melrose Education Foundation, sponsored an interactive evening allowing attendees to learn about and explore the concept of using assessments to help teachers improve their teaching and students improve their learning.
Supt. Taymore and Dr. Adams began by setting the expectations for the evening in the same way that teachers set expectations when teaching a lesson - by detailing what we should be able to do by the end of the program ("Describe the assessments used in the Melrose Public Schools and name their purposes. Explain how assessments are being used by teachers, principals, and other administrators to inform instruction, curriculum, and assessment for individual students, groups of students, schools, and the district overall").
Really useful: they defined "assessment" ("a general term that refers to the process of gaining information about student learning" like scoring, reporting, analyzing the results, etc.) and "instrument" ("a specific type of data collection tool or mechanism used in an assessment process"). Some assessments are "on-demand" (at a specific place and time like an SAT) and others are performance- or project-based (like science labs, open responses, etc.)
Following a 30-minute powerpoint review of a wide-variety of assessments at different grade levels; an explanation of "District Determined Measures (DDM's)" (where each district in the state decides separately on how they will measure how much students learn, like using portfolios, pre- and post-tests, etc.); and the concept and importance of the Looking at Student Work (LASW) protocol (that has teachers sit together and grade things like student essays, then compare, talk about, and agree how they would all arrive at the same grade for that work).
We then broke into six groups and rotated through six project-based tables facilitated by teachers and administrators and took a stab at doing some of their work, like comparing different samples of student work, answering math questions ourselves and then deciding how we would score, etc. (Wow - not as easy as it looks........)
Not only did we achieve the intended outcomes, but the evening allowed us to gain understanding around what teachers do in their common planning time, showed how parents should gain confidence that different educators that teach the same class are grading similarly, and gain more perspective on the media's portrayal of educational testing and data use. An outstanding learning experience for attendees!
Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.