Assessment

Using Learning Targets as a GPS to Student Learning

Guest post by Drake Shelton

When I drive, my GPS helps me navigate to where I am going. It shows me multiple routes, an estimated arrival time, and the distance to my destination. My GPS has saved me countless hours of frustration by alerting me to traffic and helping me get back on track when I get lost.

But as Connie M. Moss, Susan M. Brookhart, and Beverly A. Long state, “a GPS can’t do any of that without a precise description of where you want to go.” (more…)

Advocacy Update: Tracking ESSA

SOAR Passes the House

This week, instead of tackling bills concerned with child nutrition or career and technical education—both of which are overdue for reauthorization—the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Reauthorization Act. SOAR is a private school voucher program for District of Columbia students. NASSP opposes voucher programs, and as a member of the National Coalition for Public Education, NASSP sent a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform expressing the harm that would be done to public schools and public school students in D.C. by the voucher program. (more…)

Keys to Differentiating Instruction Using Technology-Based Formative Assessments

Guest post by G.A. Buie:

Student homework has been a cornerstone for learning and evaluation for years. Even in our technology-driven classrooms, for students who are diligent and engaged in the learning process homework can be an effective method of evaluating their progress as well as a teacher’s instructional effectiveness. Unfortunately, not all students are diligent and engaged, and though the problems related to assigning homework have changed, the process of assigning homework hasn’t. Teachers are encountering a shrinking number of students completing their assigned homework—and, even if it’s completed, teachers must question whether the work is original or copied. As a result, homework becomes a very ineffective tool to evaluate a student’s progress.

With student and teacher accountability at a premium in today’s educational environment, it is imperative that teachers have a method of measuring a student’s progress and his or her understanding of content. Waiting for the summative assessment is too late; teachers need a tool that doesn’t take away from instructional time, yet doesn’t add to an already heavy teaching load.

Teachers need quick results that measure curricular objectives, and at times they need to be able to develop those activities on the spot. At Ignite ’14, we will explore a wide variety of technology-based formative assessment ideas which can be used in almost any classroom. These tools will be designed to gather valuable data for the teacher almost instantaneously, thus allowing the teacher the opportunity to differentiate their classroom using multiple forms of data. Best of all, these ideas can be implemented on any budget with tools already available to most schools or students.

G.A. Buie (@gabuie31) is the president-elect of NASSP. He will present at the Ignite 2014. For more information and to register visit www.nasspconference.org.

School Showcase Feature: Laconia High School

Laconia High School is implementing Performance Based Assessments (PBAs) that tie content learning directly to students’ college and career aspirations. This is done using a vertical design that consistently integrates students’ voices and choices into curriculum delivery throughout their four-year educational careers. In this way, we are working to ensure students graduate from our educational community with the skills needed to move toward their chosen goals.

Laconia High School has been part of the CCSR i3 Network for four years. Our original direction involved the development and implementation of Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs). The philosophy behind ELOs seemed to work well for those students who had the discipline to stick with the work they designed and the structured due dates that came with it. In the last two years, we have worked to integrate that philosophy into our overall four-year program so that students developed the desire to “own” their education. This has resulted in greater student engagement. Students have an increased awareness of the relevance of what they are learning, they are more aware of how their education can be connected to the future they want to have, and they are regularly asked to assess how their current performance is moving them toward or away from the goals they have set.

In the freshman year, all students participate in essays designed to get them to compare and contrast their perceived behavior and motivations with those of characters in the novels they are reading. The task is specifically designed to help students understand personal choice and the logical consequences that occur when these choices are made. During this year, students also participate in CareerCruising and discuss how motivation and choices determine opportunity. These assessments happen in our freshmen Algebra and English classes.

During sophomore year, students engage in the “What is Right for Me” PBA in the social studies program. This multi-week effort requires students to review their educational choices and develop their own college and career plan. Through research and discussion, they design their direction in a real-world way and formally present their projects in class.

As students enter their junior year, they, their parents, and their guidance counselors engage in “The Junior Review.” This is a comprehensive review of a student’s performance and choices he or she has made thus far in high school. It includes an honest discussion of the direction the student’s efforts are moving him or her in relation to the goals he or she set the previous year. In American Studies, our junior-level humanities program, students develop 12 essays that represent their understanding of what it means to be an American. This PBA requires all juniors to present a position paper on how they see themselves as citizens of the United States based on their work in understanding the development of our nation and its interaction with other nations.

We are currently developing a pilot for all seniors that requires them to complete an independent study that engages them in formally planning their post-graduation plans. This PBA, called “Where I am Going Next,” ensures seniors have a plan they understand and own for the day after they walk across the stage with their diploma.

It is exciting to see students engage in their own aspirations through real research and formal presentation. We look forward to sharing our vision with others in the upcoming months.

Laconia High School will be one of 22 schools featured at the Breaking Ranks School Showcase at Ignite ’14. The Woodbridge team will be presenting High School Redesign Through the Lenses of PBAs and Career Pathways on Thursday, February 6th.

School Showcase Feature: Tefft Middle School

At Tefft Middle School, we have a motto: Moving all students forward, whatever it takes… together. This motto has been our driving force in how we approach student learning and success.

Moving All Students
Tefft serves a diverse population of students. We strive to make all of our students feel comfortable in our building, to think of it as a second home. It is our goal to ensure that all of our students grow during their time with us, no matter their ethnicity, language, special needs, or income.

Whatever It Takes
Strategic supports, interventions, and initiatives help us to meet the needs of every student.

Data transparency is one thing had has contributed to our great success. Student data journals let the students analyze scores of school, district, state, and national assessments, decide what they did well and what can be improved, and make goals for that improvement. Their data means something to them and becomes more than just numbers to take home.

When students bring their families to school for student-led conferences, they demonstrate ownership over their work by creating portfolios to share with their parents. Parents hear about their children’s progress right from their mouths, and students feel accountable for their own progress. Parents are able to ask questions and help their children set goals.

In addition to these two initiatives, we also have common learning targets and academic vocabulary, which hold students to high standards and provide them with continuity of learning. Daily intervention classes, which utilize software for those students who are below grade level in math or reading, provide additional practice in the skills students need to grow. Common assessments in each class provide us—and students—with data to help set goals and drive instruction.

Together
Grade-level teams share the same students and therefore provide close relationships and a feeling of family within the school. Department teams ensure continuity of content and push each other to improve student performance. Professional learning communities at faculty meetings allow staff to discuss issues from all points of view and analyze student data. Our parent-teacher group provides parents the opportunity to share ideas about their children’s education.

Taking on challenges and initiating change based on our data helps us continually strive for success.

Tefft Middle School will be one of 22 schools featured at the Breaking Ranks School Showcase at Ignite 2014. The Tefft team will be presenting Harnessing the Power of Transparency and Data to Create and Sustain a Culture of Accountability on Thursday, February 6th. For more on Tefft Middle School, check out the article published in the May 2010 issue of Principal Leadership.