Recently, while at an initial planning meeting to provide job embedded professional development, the leadership team shared their concerns about at risk students not making adequate growth to demonstrate proficiency on the upcoming state standardized test.
When my team began to ask probing and clarifying questions to gain a better understanding of the school’s approach to data collection and analysis, the leadership team collectively agreed that they would like for us to start with training focused on assessment literacy. After much discussion and collaboration, the leadership team realized that they needed to adopt a common language and strategy school-wide to narrow and close the achievement gap in reading for all students.
Following the first after-school professional development session, the teachers discovered that they didn’t understand the full range of assessment types and their different purposes.
One teacher commented that she always felt that the district and school was data-rich but information-poor.
She continued to explain that we administer so many assessments that there isn’t enough time to analyze and respond to the information. Trying to fit everything in can be challenging – can’t we all relate?
Identifying Learning Difficulty
Another teacher shared that using formative student achievement assessments to adjust instruction in real time and using a deliberate summative assessment strategy to understand what students are learning makes so much sense. This approach to assessment provides teachers with a variety of diagnostic information. Only then are they are able to identify where students are having difficulty with learning a particular concept and/or skill AND what the students have mastered so that they are working on the discreet concepts and/or skills that students need to reach proficient and advanced levels.
When schools are strategic and focused on developing teacher assessment literacy capacity, the impact on student achievement is immediate and they are able to monitor progress overtime. Subsequently, teachers are able to effectively communicate with students about their assessment results. Students, in turn, are able to use those results to better understand the areas that they still need additional instruction and supports as well as the content that has been mastered. This vital information provides students with the opportunity to own their learning outcomes.
Students should be included and actively engaged in understanding their baseline performance, setting their own goals, and monitoring their progress toward those goals.
Most importantly, this approach creates a growth mindset culture by shifting the conversations from what students can’t do to what they can do, which provides a supportive risk-taking school environment.
Communication and Collaboration
Another benefit is fewer discipline and behavioral issues because classroom environments are more supportive and positive to address the needs of ALL students. Teachers and students become partners and collaborate about the learning outcomes for each individual student by inviting them to take part in charting the course for their learning outcomes.
What makes a good reading instruction program? You might find some insights here: https://www.csas.co/reading-instruction-research-findings/
Most schools have multiple school improvement initiatives at any given time throughout the school year. When teachers and students are literate about the different types of assessments and their purpose when planning instruction, then aligning school improvement initiatives to student achievement becomes seamless. Teachers are able to plan instruction, differentiated and intervention strategies to address the needs of all students. What does this ultimately mean? Student achievement significantly increases. If we simply focus on and dedicate time for assessment literacy, we can effectively narrow and close the achievement gap.
If you feel your school or district could benefit from the services my team offers, I welcome you to reach out to me directly: https://www.csas.co/contact/