1. What do the assessments measure?
When it comes to the district writing assessment, and the fact that our rubric mirrors that of the PAT, it is fairly concise in how it assesses specific aspects of the program of studies. However, when it comes to everyday classroom assignments and marking, teachers should ask themselves about the extent to which their assignments are specifically assessing outcomes. In language arts, for example, one way to do this is to use provincial or district rubrics to mark performance (writing) tasks. That way, you're not having to reinvent the wheel when it comes to assessment.
2. How do the assessments help teachers?
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been meeting with grade level groups to discuss the pilot district writing assessment. At the beginning of every meeting, we took a look at the district's trends for the Part A of the ELA PAT. As we did this, we were able to come to some common understanding of where we are at and what we can do to help our students succeed. According to the article, "when teachers have timely and accurate data and information from assessments, they can adjust their instruction accordingly to differentiate instruction to meet learners' varied needs." Based on the meetings, we are starting to use PAT (provincial) data in more meaningful ways to inform our practice. The district writing assessment will provide more timely and relevant data to help us with this. The important thing is that we as teachers here learn to access and make sense of assessment data to help us make decisions when it comes to what we do in the classroom. This will be a process and will likely be a PD focus in the coming year.
3. How do the assessments help students and parents?
In addition to grade level meetings, I have also started doing a number of writing workshops with teachers and students around the district. During these workshops, I speak explicitly about how and why what we are doing is a benefit to students and their learning. I often put the lesson's objective on the board right away and help students know exactly why I am working with them and what is expected of them and their learning. This approach is in line with the article when it states, "research on student learning shows that students learn best when the expectation for their knowledge and skills are clear. Standards help provide clear expectations by spelling out what students should know and be able to do; assessments help make those expectations concrete by laying out exactly how students should demonstrate what they know and can do." Students should always know what they are supposed to be doing/learning and why. If they can't answer these questions, teachers should consider what they can do to help better direct their students' learning in the classroom.
The reason I am sharing this is because I want what we do at the NEA to be a blueprint for what should be happening and the school and classroom level. By modelling quality aspects of assessment, the hope is that principals and teachers can see how this is done and find their own way of doing the same. Remember, everything we do is for the benefit and learning of students; so it be-hooves us to seek best practice and make the learning objectives and expectations clear... as well as create and administer sounds assessments at all levels of education - provincial, district, school, and classroom.
eSchool News Staff. (2014). 4 assessment questions every educator should ask. eClassroom News. Retrieved on Monday April 7, 2014 from http://www.eclassroomnews.com/2014/03/13/4-assessment-questions-every-educator-should-ask/?ps=316611-00130000016QZLf-0033000001IQIhI.