The Richmond School District has decided to put assessment at the top of its priority list. Superintendent Monica Pamer, has a blog about the subject, and the district is now looking at having schools develop their own statement of purposes and practices surrounding assessment and evaluation.
The school board has come up with some guidelines still in draft form, to be brought to school staffs for discussion. The first area (Policy 607) for discussion looks at the purpose of Assessment and Evaluation, and recognizes that it is not for ranking, sorting or categorizing students, but rather to support their growth, and enhance student learning and achievement. Another element (Policy 607-G), also still in draft form, discusses Assessment for and as learning having a purpose in guiding instruction and enhancing student growth, and the last section (Policy 607-R) looks at feedback as the key to student learning. The goal for the district in bringing these topics to the forefront is to have each school develop their own statement of purposes and practices related to assessment and evaluation by initiating these conversations through a series of guided discussions that staffs will engage in. Making schools create their own statement helps develop a shared sense of what schools are and should be doing, and involves the students and the community in the process. Creating this shared vision of purpose and the practices involved in moving toward that purpose is important, and consistent with what Terry Ainge is writing about being done in Delta.
Some of the guided discussion questions include looking at research on the topic of assessment, discussing Damian Cooper's 8 BIG ideas of assessment, and discussing individual practices and successes with one another. Also, discussion will look at some of the work by Ken O'Connor and his 15 fixes, as well as the strategies involved in Assessment FOR learning. All of these conversations will be based on the principles of assessment and evaluation that indicate assessment should: Be focused on clearly identified curriculum outcomes and criteria; Inform teachers as they plan for instruction; Include a clear description of learning intentions and standards for students and parents; Be ongoing and offer many opportunities for students to receive descriptive feedback; Respect the developmental differences of the learner by differentiating instruction and recognizing that students learn at different rates and in a variety of ways, as well as many others.
Ultimately, the conversations with school staffs and community will result in a common understanding of purpose and practices regarding assessment for teachers, parents and students. This is a massive undertaking in Richmond, and once each school has developed their own statement, it is to be reviewed annually with staff and community members. It will take some time, but in the long run, is a huge step forward in improving the educational experiences of our students, with the hope of moving assessment and reporting away from simple numbers or letter grades used most often for sorting and ranking, into more prescriptive feedback for parents and students. As a colleague often recalls, "When I get my kids' swimming lesson report cards, I know what they do well, what they need to improve, and why they did or did not meet expectations. In high school, I too often get a number or letter and a comment that does not always share much information about areas of strength or ways to improve."
It is an ambitious, but very worthwhile, conversation and project for the Richmond school district to undertake. Other districts have likely already begun similar initiatives. Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions for how to get the conversations started, or where they see them going? I look forward to getting your feedback.