One report, many revelations on teacher and student assessment

The Center for Teaching Quality’s New Millennium Initiative (NMI) teams should be writing education policy. The latest report by Washington NMI’s teacher-researchers How Better Teacher & Student Assessment Can Power Up Learning offers several crucial insights into the raging debate on assessment.

The whole report is worth a read, but here are a few highlights:

Every high-performing nation [represented at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession] has created a strong partnership between government officials, school administrators, and teachers in crafting effective teaching and learning policies.

We’re a long way from enjoying those strong partnerships. The NMI team of teachers examining policy can hopefully help to build some bridges.

From Katie Micek: I’m envisioning state testing to not be an end-of-year event, but a regular set of smaller assessments that relate to pacing guides set by districts and aligned to state standards.

Done right, this would be better for increasing learning and decreasing the heart-pounding stress that accompanies test season. However, the report does caution that Washington state’s WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) tests were developed constructively with teachers, only to be co-opted into becoming reductive high-stakes bubble tests.

The term “multiple measures” is a big term right now. Arne Duncan endorses the use of value-added test scores (which the Washington NMI report emphatically opposes) among multiple measures of teacher effectiveness. The NMI report spells out what those multiple measures should be: teacher self-evaluation, self-chosen artifacts, peer evaluation, classroom videotape or observation, measures of student learning, pedagogical/subject-area knowledge, leadership, student feedback, parent evaluation.

I like it. It’s like National Board Certification on steroids.

Perhaps the most illuminating piece in the report, though, is tying student learning to the support of professional learning communities of teachers. The strength of a school lies in its educators’ ability to function as a team. The report’s insight on the power of effective PLC systems is crucial. According to the report, PLCs require: supportive and shared leadership, collective creativity, shared personal practice, and supportive conditions including time and resources.

This is the right way to go. And the all-time expert on PLCs is TransformEd blogger Bill Ferriter. His  book Building a Professional Learning Community at Work: A Guide to the First Year is the road map for how to make this happen. (He also blogs about this stuff all the time.)

The Washington New Millennium Initiative teachers have offered up actionable solutions that take into account the realities of teaching. Their work needs to be shared as widely as possible.