We continue to focus on the overall testing process at RHS to be sure that we are ultimately providing assessments that demonstrate to teachers and students that what has been taught has actually been learned. Previous blog posts (2014-15) from Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, Mark A. McDaniel) define learning as “acquiring knowledge and skills and having them readily available from memory so you can make sense of future problems and opportunities.” I personally like to include that when something is truly learned it has the power to shape our thoughts, words and potentially our actions. According to an October 2015 article in Edutopia, educational institutions at both the high school and post secondary levels are requiring more authentic measures of student learning and are focusing on the relevance of performance based assessments (PBA’s).
Our next early dismissal day (February 13th) will include a continued focus on analyzing our benchmark assessments specifically and overall assessments in general. In November, groups of teachers teaching like subjects sat with their actual benchmarks and critiqued them against a commercial rubric developed by Dr. Gareis, Associate Professor of Leadership at The College of William and Mary. I attended a session led by Dr. Gareis at the ASCD conference in October and he is a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to performance based assessments. When we meet in February, we will revisit and continue to analyze these benchmarks with the goal of continuous enhancement. Part of that day will include teachers from all content areas meeting in small groups to share benchmark assessments. The goal of this activity is to provide all teachers with a clear understanding of what students are being asked to accomplish across the board in all of their various classes. Teachers (and administrators) will also be offered the opportunity to see (remember)what it’s like to live the life of a student at RHS by shadowing students for an entire day. It is my hope that this view from the end users perspective will be enlightening.
PBA’s should be designed to tap into higher order thinking skills that include but are not limited to analysis, synthesis, deductive and inductive reasoning, evaluating etc. Assessments can be completed in a specified time period or extend over a period of time. They can be completed individually or in a group or a combination of the same. Examples could include conducting a controlled experiment, solving a multi faceted math problem, building a model, creating a supported argument. Our data at the end of each marking period continues to validate that students are performing on their benchmark exams in line with what they are earning during each marking period.
We continue to strive to adjust our teaching to be more in line with where employment trends are headed. We are seeing more and more research point toward the need for schools to move away from content laden, fact oriented teaching and assessing and incorporate more problem solving, authentic assessment and innovation. More information on our February professional development day is forthcoming.