Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Going Beyond Summative Assessment Data...

Several of my latest blog posts have focused on standardized assessment data as this fall MCAS and PARCC data questions appear foremost on the minds of many teachers and administrators.  But beyond the summative assessments, what other data, already readily available, should schools and districts use to track student progress?  What other data resources should be used in identifying at-risk students?

As I've thought about this question I came across an article in Education Week focusing on the efforts of Tacoma, Washington's Superintendent, Josh Garcia.  Garcia has transformed the district's use of data by moving beyond attendance, test scores and graduation rates, to incorporating additional measures that capture the whole child.  Tacoma's accountability system now includes over 3 dozen measures of students, broken down by grade level and content area, from preschool through grade 12.

What I find most interesting about Tacoma's new accountability system is that it is both holistic and aligned.  The district identified 4 key goals to focus their efforts in raising the graduation rate, the climate of schools, and the achievement levels of all students.  These goals are defined in the areas of academic excellence, partnerships, early learning, and safety.  Realizing that, as a district, they were gathering very little data on their students, and not data to monitor progress, the district began to look at what additional data could be gathered to align with each of the four key goals.  Data is now gathered from the community, from students PK-12, faculty and staff.

A few examples of data Tacoma currently includes in the K-12 accountability system are as follows:

  • % of students accessing preschool and full day kindergarten programs
  • At each grade level: % of students meeting standards; 
  • Grade 8: % of students accessing extracurricular activities
  • Grade 9: % of students failing 1 class; % of students failing more than 1 class
  • High School: % of students accessing extracurricular activities; % of students receiving college acceptance letters
  • % of public visits to the district's website and social media pages
  • Community Partners, Health Youth and School Climate survey responses
  • % of registered school volunteers

More information on Tacoma's accountability system can be found at the following link:

Additional Resources:
The EdEval office has partnered with the MA Organization of Educational Collaboratives to organize a series of DDM office hours between January and May 2015.  DDM working group members (1-2 per district) are invited to attend these office hours to have their questions answered, learn about and share implementation strategies, and receive feedback on potential measures from ESE's DDM experts.  Space is limited.

Session Date
(2 hours)
Session Location
To RSVP, contact:
January 15th
Cape Cod Collaborative
418 Bumps River Road, Osterville, MA 02655
March 11th
Assabet Valley Collaborative
57 Orchard Street, Marlborough, MA 01752
May 6th
Collaborative for Educational Services
97 Hawley St. Northampton, MA 01060

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

PARCC Assessment Resources

PARCC tests are scheduled as early as March and districts have already begun receiving emails about registering their students for the tests.  So how can you find out more information and alleviate that PARCC anxiety your teachers may be facing?

The good news is- resources are out there!

  • Visiting PARCC's website, all teachers administering PARCC assessments this year should check out the tutorials and take a sample test  Learn about the different types of questions (e.g. drag and drop), the math and ELA tools (e.g. protractor, ruler, compass, line reader, text highlighter, and my favorite- answer eliminator).  The brief tutorials provide a wealth of information to help teachers know how to prepare their students for a different testing format.  Open response scoring rubrics and PBA descriptors are also available.
  • For administrators, you should have received an email on October 27 with your PearsonAccess account information.  By December 23rd you'll need to review and update all student files for accommodations and student transfers since the October SIMS submission.
  • How to explain to students how to take an online assessment:
  • How to prepare for PARCC once student data has been uploaded:
  • How to communicate with parents about PARCC:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Rethinking Student Assessments

This week during a PARCC training session I was able to try out the new online assessments in math and ELA.  My family is a family of educators, so it was pretty typical that I give them a rundown of my testing experience.  My brother, one of the few non-educators at the table, posed the question: Why are the tests changing?  But to what appeared to be a simple question, I found I didn't have a simple answer.  Rather, it led me to reflect on precisely why our summative assessments are changing.

As educators we do need feedback about how our students are performing on grade level standards.  And having that information at multiple times during the year, and in a mode that allows you to compare your students with other students from similar schools and districts is valuable.  And for an assessment to be truly useful, it needs to be a true measure of not just what we want students to learn, but what we want them to know and be able to do.  Thinking about assessments in this way helps us realign the types of questions and the level of rigor of items to what we expect students to be able to do.  We also need our assessments to:
  • provide timely data (preferably within 48 hours of administration) to allow for teacher follow up and reteaching;
  • provide data in a usable format for teachers to access to make decisions about instruction and flexible student grouping;
  • assess standards in multiple ways and at multiple cognitive levels- much of our current assessments ask few to no questions that require students to analyze, evaluate or create; and
  • provide more authentic assessment experiences, and ongoing assessment of proficiency.

Article: Rethinking Assessment to Improve Student Outcomes

If you, like me, missed this week's Askwith Forum at the Harvard Graduate School of Education on Closing the Gap with African American student achievement, check out the video on: 

The forum discussed the purpose and goals of the White House Initiative on Academic Excellence for African American students, led by Executive Director David Johns.