So You Want To Build An Assessment System? Part 3
In the second part of my three-part series, I discussed how a school district evaluated its existing assessment system. In this third and final installment, I discuss the implementation of the new balanced assessment system and what it has created for teachers, students, and parents.
Most classroom teachers had not been formally introduced to the work done to review the existing assessment system and to develop a new, more balanced one. The district used the opening days of the school year to train all teachers on the new assessments they would be administering in the classroom. In addition, assessments that would be administered by other professionals (e.g. reading specialist and special education teachers) were briefly introduced so that teachers had knowledge of them. To execute this plan, each member of the assessment team offered a different session that covered one of the new assessments. The classroom teachers, from throughout the district, cycled through these sessions to ensure that they attended all of them. As a part of these sessions, teachers were given a district assessment calendar that had been created by the administration for each grade-level. The calendar served as a means to create uniformity throughout the district as to what assessments are given and when.
Growing pains were encountered early on, as some teachers found adapting to the new system difficult. They were being asked to do things that they hadn’t done before and abandon some things that they had grown accustomed to. Throughout the process, the leadership stressed the need for flexibility as this was the first year of the new assessment system, and that its progression would be reviewed along the way. Nonetheless, feedback began to filter back through the building leadership to the district leadership and a decision was made to quickly reconvene the district assessment team to discuss the feedback and make any adjustments that were necessary. Surprisingly, the changes that were needed were small and the overwhelming feedback from the majority of the teachers was that the new system was providing them holistic data about their student’s academic abilities. It was decided that the assessment team would meet quarterly to provide feedback and make any changes needed to the system.
Perhaps most encouraging of all has been the feedback that has started to come from parents. Quarterly parent-teacher conferences have just occurred and district leadership has started to hear that parents are providing positive feedback to the information that the assessments are providing. In particular, they are excited to be informed, through the assessments, on what they can work with their child on at home.
The district has started to plan for the next phases of implementation of their balanced assessment system. Paramount will be the quarterly reconvening of the assessment team to address feedback and makes changes. At the end of the school year, an overall analysis of the balanced assessment system will be conducted to help inform changes going forward. Most ambitious of their next phases is to begin to digitalize as much as possible. They have begun talking to the district computer programmers about making the assessments digital for teachers and having the results instantly import to comprehensive student assessment records. This will make the assessment process easier on the teachers and the access and storage of student data more streamlined.
In closing, this district spent a full year reviewing its existing assessment system and building a new more balanced one. Early success has been achieved due to this thoughtful, yet time consuming process, and by involving stakeholders from each building across different roles. The support of district and building leadership has been crucial. Future success will hinge on continued collaboration and constant reviewing of the system to make sure that it benefits all students.
In case you missed the first part of this three-part series, you can locate it here.
About the Author
Scott Piotrowski has over ten years of experience in education. He has been a Certified Aimsweb Trainer (CAT) since 2007 and conducts trainings in both the
United States and Canada. In addition, he has worked as a School Psychologist and currently is a district-level Response to Intervention (RtI) and federal grants coordinator. He has been an aimsweb district and school manager in the districts he has been employed in.
Scott received his Master’s degree (MA) in School Psychology at Northern Illinois University and his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia.
Scott brings with him actual applied experience in Rti and aimsweb, having lead their implementations in his own districts. In addition, he has consulted with numerous other districts across the country, on their own implementations.