Focus on Classroom Assessments
- October 16, 2020
Aligning Classroom Practice with School-wide Systems
School-wide systems exist first and foremost to support teachers to create effective classrooms. As we emerge from this pandemic, it will be more important than ever for schools to align their initiatives. To maximize learning for all students, schools must align efforts in support of standards and expectations, lessons, assessments, and data. Below, find an outline of these elements of classroom practice, with a particular focus on classroom assessments:
Element 1: Standards, Expectations, and Instructional Materials
Given the current impact on learning, high quality tools to support teachers are paramount. Teachers need quality resources and materials that align with high expectations for accelerating learning. Leadership needs to ensure that teachers are provided with excellent instructional resources. These resources should support consistently high expectations for learning while ensuring accessibility and efficacy for all learners. In this day and age of DIY curriculum design, teachers are inundated with streams, downloads, and pins. For this reason, it is important to provide teachers with quality, vetted ideas, and ideally, well-designed curricular materials.
Element 2: Lessons
As schools work to focus and align efforts, lesson planning and implementation must be central to the work. Schedule carefully to preserve teacher planning time. It is also key to reserve time to allow teachers to collaboratively engage with the resources with instructional specialists. Teachers also need time to learn to manage, implement, and differentiate instructional materials. When schools provide teachers with this time, it optimizes their classroom lessons, while ensuring that teachers align practices across teams and among teammates.
Element 3: Assessments
External assessments like state assessments are inevitable. On the other hand, internal assessment systems used for planning, grading, collaborating, and goal setting should be 100% aligned with school-wide initiatives.
As you consider this for your own context, think first about the other key elements of alignment discussed above: standards and lessons. Your most valid and meaningful assessments align directly with classroom lessons. Typically, teachers use these same assessments for grading and day-to-day planning. As classroom assessments are critical to the work of classrooms, they should be also the focus of your school-wide collaboration and goal setting.
“As classroom assessments are critical to the work of classrooms, they should be also the focus of your school-wide collaboration and goal setting.”
Misaligned assessment systems occur when leadership administer third-party assessments in addition to classroom assessments and then use these assessment results as the primary focus for school-wide initiatives: goal setting, collaboration, and MTSS/RtI efforts. Teachers spend ample time scoring, grading, and providing feedback on classroom assessments. Then, for school-wide work, they use a different set of assessments. Consequently, staff devote time in collaborative meetings and professional learning to assessments that are not linked to instruction, leading to school-wide inefficiencies. The more assessment systems your school implements, the more resources you devote to assessment rather than instruction.
Element 4: Data
School-wide leadership need data to inform where to devote efforts and monitor the effectiveness of those efforts. State assessment results are not an option: these results are not timely. Third-party assessment systems, such as those discussed above, often have more timely results and a variety of reporting tools. The disadvantage is that these assessments are not directly linked to classroom instruction. Thus, in addition to the cost of the assessment systems themselves, they require additional resource investments to try and help teachers understand the data in these systems and how it can be related back to instruction. Not all data is good data. Invest in data systems to collect information that is meaningful for your teachers, accessible to all, and allows your school to systematically understand student learning.
“Not all data is good data. Invest in data systems to collect information that is meaningful for your teachers, accessible to all, and allows your school to systematically understand student learning.”
Classroom assessments are the most frequent and targeted assessments to help us monitor and guide this recovery. When classroom assessment data is the center of attention, it provides a focal point for professional collaboration, making it more targeted, efficient and meaningful. Invest in a data system that enables your school to use a single set of assessments for planning, grading, collaboration, and school-wide goal setting.
Interested in our own tools to systematically collect and visualize classroom assessment results? Explore a demo of our program today.
Leveraging Classroom Assessments
As we plan for the long recovery, recognize that classroom practices are vital to that recovery. School-wide and district-wide efforts need to align to support teachers in teaching well. In order to do that, leadership needs to consider the most practical things that they can do:
- Provide teachers with high quality teaching resources that help them to engage all students while maintaining high expectations.
- Provide teachers with structured planning time and access to experts to ensure excellent lesson planning and delivery.
- Align assessment systems to ensure that assessments align directly with the lessons and units of study.
- Align your data systems to enable the use of a single set of assessments for planning, grading, collaboration, and school-wide goal setting.
By improving alignment between school-wide systems and classroom practice, you will improve efficacy, efficiency, and, most importantly, directly support teachers to improve student learning.
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Our team and tools help schools implement standards-based grading, streamline assessment systems, and use meaningful data to drive decision-making.