I would like to share the information from our BOE presentation on assessments at RHS.
The topic of assessments has been and will continue to be a focus at RHS. I strongly believe that if we can’t utilize our assessments as tools of learning we are missing an opportunity to positively impact students. Realizing that a content laden crammable (totally made up word) test will not likely impact long-term memory we set out to design and implement noncrammable (also made up word) assessments. I must pause and give credit to one of our instructional coaches for penning the crammable/noncrammable description!
Year One Process (2012-13)
We realized that we were not using the data obtained from our assessments to design future instruction nor were we affording students the opportunity to learn from a completed assessment by giving them feedback and a chance to see and correct their own errors. We began paying attention to research from places like the Stanford Redesign Network at Stanford University that stated our current workforce needs to be able to problem solve and innovate, that schools need to rethink how and what they are assessing and switch from fact oriented to performance based methods so that students can be taught to use higher level thinking to perform, create and/or produce something with transferable real world applications. We utilized our
grading committee to begin looking at not only some area schools but research best practices as well. The committee consisted of at least one member of each department as well as instructional coaches, supervisors and building administration. We also had 3-5 students join us whenever their schedules allowed. Over the course of the year, the committee developed a transition plan for year 2.
Year Two (2013-2014)
All staff knew coming in to the school year that we were going to be transitioning from the content laden summative type mid-term and final and begin to move toward creating assessments that were going to provide students an opportunity to demonstrate skills and knowledge. In an effort not to overemphasize the impact of four benchmarks, we made the overall percentage 20% of the final grade – identical to the % given the mid-term and final. As with the first year of any new initiative – we hit some bumps. The grading committee and the HS Steering Committee met frequently throughout the year to assess and make suggestions for modifications.
Year Three (2014-15)
The result of committee review included the need to standardize each marking period resulting in the model we are using this year. Each marking period is 25% of the final grade with each benchmark (quarterly) receiving a weight of 20% of the marking period (5% of the overall final grade). The other major stipulation this year was that all assessments had to include a performance based component and had to be reviewed with the student. Teachers were also told that assessments must come with clear rubrics and expectations and like courses needed to collaborate on creating the assessment.
Year Four (2015-16)
The HS will continue to focus on assessments as a reflection of student learning- both formative and summative. We will continue to work with experts in the field such as Joe Ginotti from the University of Pennsylvania as well as provide in-house professional development through our instructional coaches. We plan to continue to visit the benefits of formative assessment as well as continue to refine the development of performance based assessments in all content areas. The idea of like courses collaborating on assessments will continue to provide students with like expectations regardless of the instructor.
Year four will also be a time during which we consider looking at our block times and applying some creativity to our schedule to allow teachers the opportunity for a longer uninterrupted block to implement more of the performance based/student inquiry based activities. (that’s another blog post :-))!