Eagle Rock Instructors Work Together on Formative Assessment

JanetJohnsonJenFrickeyBy Janet Johnson and Jen Frickey

Each year, our school’s instructional team fine-tunes its collective classroom practice by learning together. Instructors submit ideas for possible topics of study and the director of curriculum, in conjunction with our Professional Development Critical Friends Group, chooses an area of focus for the year.

The Critical Friends Group then meets weekly to plan for four instructional meetings each trimester. The members of the group — both instructional specialists and Eagle Rock Public Allies fellows who are seeking Colorado state teaching licensure — volunteer to study an annual theme, design and deliver engaging adult learning, and facilitate our weekly planning meetings.

A hallmark of these meetings is using School Reform Initiative protocols to share our instructional meeting plans and get feedback about them. We commonly use The Charrette Protocol (note: link opens a PDF) and Tuning Protocols (note: link opens a PDF) to examine our works in progress. These protocols — as well as those that help us to learn from texts, investigate teaching, learning and assessment, and examine student work — are often the backbone of our instructional meetings.

This year’s annual theme is Formative Assessment. For assessment to be formative, teachers and students must ask themselves where they are going, have a realistic appraisal of where they are now, and make a plan together for how to get there. These questions are central to our formative assessment approach.

We attempt to develop our skills in four distinct areas:

  1. Communicate learning targets and criteria for success
  2. Provide effective feedback
  3. Foster strategic questioning among students and teachers
  4. Promote self-assessment and goal setting

Formative assessment is student centered and transparent, with students and teachers working together to set learning objectives and collect evidence of meeting goals. The explicit result, of course, is improving student achievement.

Since the Critical Friends Group had varying levels of understanding and experience with formative assessment, we decided to ground our work together using two texts: Continue reading…

Why We Use The College and Work Readiness Assessment

CWRAIf you’ve read some of our blog posts about the classes offered here at Eagle Rock, you know we push the boundary of one’s imagination to create engaging classes for those who are disengaged (see This Trimester Offers Classes from Statistics to Dystopia and Eagle Rock Classes That Add New Meaning to the Term ‘Non-traditional’ for a sampling of our classes). This then brings up the question of how do we ensure students are demonstrating the knowledge, skills and attributes to make the most of their lives now and in the future? After extensive research, we decided to adopt the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA+).

As Larry Myatt (Co-founder, Education Recourses Consortium) wrote here on the Eagle Rock Blog back in October of 2013, performance-based assessments are difficult to measure but decisive nonetheless. As a result, the CWRA+ has been used by more than 300 middle schools and high schools throughout the United States and internationally. These schools work with students from all walks of life, from the most privileged to most severly disengaged. CWRA+  — which is an initiative of the Council for Aid to Education (CAE) — effectively assesses higher-order thinking and written-communication skills. These include analysis and problem solving, scientific and quantitative reasoning, critical reading and evaluation, developing an argument and critiquing various sources of information, as well as writing effectively. Because of our adoption of the CWRA+, we can stand side-by-side with other schools around the country in demonstrating we are graduating young people with the intellectual skills necessary for life success after high school.

Specifically, the CWRA+ provides evidence that the student being assessed has demonstrated critical-thinking skills throughout high school, thinks independently, and can come up with creative solutions to complex problems. We believe this is superior to the more familiar standardized assessments where the measure of student success relies on Continue reading…

Performance-based Assessments: Difficult to Measure — But Decisive

Editor’s Note: Eagle Rock’s connection to the Performance Assessment work in New Mexico is working with the New Mexico Center for School Leadership in helping both ACE and Health Leadership high schools understand assessment practices and the processes and structures that allow for high-quality performance assessments to take place. Today’s post, authored by Larry Myatt of Educational Resources Consortium, dives deep into what’s happening with this issue in New Mexico.

Performance-based Assessments: Difficult to Measure — But Decisive

By Larry Myatt, Co-founder – Education Resources Consortium

There is no standardized test for music performance, but that doesn’t prevent listeners from knowing a quality performance when they hear one. Music performance is frequently used as an analogy among a group of New Mexico educators who are seeking new ways to assess academic learning.

Their work is part of a growing national movement called “performance-based assessment,” which is centered on the idea that student learning can be systematically measured on the basis of what students can do — not what they can demonstrate on a standardized written test.

The educators from the New Mexico Performance Assessment Network (PAN) say their work is important because so many reforms – teacher evaluations and school grades, for example – rely heavily on standardized tests to measure what students learn.

What it looks like

Principal Gabriella Duran Blakey offered an example of how performance-based assessment will look at Health Leadership High School in Albuquerque, which has a focus on health professions. She said students might do a unit of study on “food deserts,” or areas where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain.

Based on demographic and other research, students might decide an area needs a new grocery store, and then they would have to explain and justify where they would situate that store, how they would market it and then develop a business plan for its successful operation. They would simulate its construction plan, decide which products to stock and what to charge. Students would then defend their work before a panel of professionals, which might include store owners, nutritionists and doctors who work with diabetes patients. The panel would assess the students, deciding the extent to which each student demonstrated mastery of particular skill levels and curriculum standards.

Their aim is to build a better test. Tori Stephens-Shauger, principal of ACE Leadership High School and founder and facilitator of the PAN, says that the network is not starting from scratch. Its efforts are based in part on the work of 28 schools called the New York Performance Standards Consortium. These schools only take one (English Language Arts) of New York’s many Regents standardized tests for graduation and have been assessing students based on performance since 1997. Several dozen schools await membership in the consortium, which cites lower dropout rates and higher rates of college acceptance than the overall rates for New York City.

Stephens-Shauger adds Continue reading…