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Leadership and Activism, Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings

Beyond the Assessment Institute…

I do think words matter. (See a previous post here.) I think how we define words matter and it’s important to have common definitions, language and belief systems when working together and sharing kids.

Joe Bower ended his post today with a quote from Socrates about the beginning of wisdom and defined, “…assessment as a process where the teacher and student work together to nurture a desire to go on learning…” That made me wonder…Is that how I would define assessment?  Is that how YOU would define assessment?

I KNOW it’s not how many teachers would define assessment. This summer, I’m going to participate in a professional development opportunity in my county, one we call the CAI (Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction) Institute and the topic is assessment.    Two of the outcomes are supposed to be:

  • A shared model for a process of assessment among stakeholders
  • Develop knowledge and skills for participants in assessment:
    • process
    • task and item creation
    • leadership

So, clearly the leaders of this work see assessment as a process.  But, is it a process “where the teacher and student work together to nurture a desire to go on learning” as Joe says?  Is it a process to find out what is known and unknown?  Is it a process to define future steps for learning and evaluate past actions? Is it all of those and more–or less?

Will teachers leave after three days with new skills in assessing? Will we have an opportunity to define assessment and come to a common understanding of the purpose of assessment? Or will we simply go back to our schools and continue to do weekly multiple choice tests to see what kids have learned in math, or drill kids with online programs like Spelling City and Accelerated Reader to define what they know and don’t know?

In looking at this year’s purpose of the CAI Institute, will we change our practice and how will we know whether it has made a difference? Will the representative teachers chosen to go then return to their schools and share what they learned to make changes in more teaching practices? Will we see language shifts in talking about student learning?  Will “item” mean a multiple choice question and “task” mean a real world one? Will we spend time on developing common language and exploring beliefs and building on current understandings to deepen knowledge and experience? Will there be opportunities to really delve into the work of creating high quality assessments that will make a difference in classrooms and in students’ lives? Will students see a difference in how they are asked to show their learning, or will worksheets still abound?  Will principals allow that to occur or will they be the leaders who set guidelines that drive a change to deeper ways of assessing?

HOW will the Institute be set up to forge common beliefs, to change the language we use in describing student learning and to refine assessment literacy to move beyond traditional methods to ones that make sense to the learner?  How would you set up a workshop like that?

What advice would you give the people who are setting up this opportunity, and how would YOU structure my day to have the biggest impact on students when we return to our schools to share what we’ve done?  How would you ensure that this three day institute would actually change what teachers and students do in school?


About Paula White

grandma, teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE), DEN STAR, Google Certified Teacher, camper, Gifted Resource Tchr, NETS*T certified, lover of learning


3 thoughts on “Beyond the Assessment Institute…

  1. Paula, So here’s my question for you. For you personally, what do you recall as a time when assessment has been an invitation for you to go on learning with a teacher? Can you make this concrete with a vivid story so that I can imagine this better and then share my own stories sparked by yours?

    In anticipation,


    Posted by kirsten olson | May 1, 2011, 9:41 pm
  2. Everyone reads An Ethic of Excellence and Wounded by School before attending.

    Read, write, and make stuff alongside kids. Learn along side them. Make sure teachers know its okay to break the mold of the traditional authoritarian delivery system model and that they will be assessed on co-learning and doing, not on performing a script written by themselves or others, per se.

    Evaluate our ROI on standardized testing given our state’s inability and unwillingness to win RttT funds. Do the minimum necessary amount of standardization – acknowledge that it may be none. Create more safe-zones and incubators for the kinds of work we rhetorically champion. Make student/parent opt-out of testing more clear so test-free cohorts can get to work in different ways.

    Reconsider how teachers and kids are teamed and scheduled to allow for flex grouping by interests so school participants want to be at school and stand a better chance of producing exceptional work by pursuing exceptional learning. Each comprehensive school should have a one-room, interdisciplinary project-based school-within-a-school.

    Inquiry and feedback without grades. Talk with kids. Let them see our Steve-J-Moore-esque open learning logs and let them give us feedback. Self-select items for publication or jurying. Accept that each year looks different for each kid. Accept that the fly wheel takes longer and longer to start and becomes harder and harder to keep spinning the older kids get unless we reboot their relationships with school. Figure out what kids are learning when they appear to be “wasting time” and use the mechanics to inform the classroom and its work. Gut the classroom into flex-space.

    Write fewer specific student assessments; engage more in an assessment of how to let kids do more of the incredible work we keep them from doing.

    And so forth.

    See you there,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | May 2, 2011, 9:14 am
  3. So glad I introduce you both to that book!!! 🙂


    Posted by dloitz | May 4, 2011, 2:57 pm

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