Mineola Superintendent's Blog

Some thoughts on assessments, APPR and student growth-

Why is measuring the effectiveness of a teacher so elusive?  As the State education department concludes its annual testing in grades 3-8, this question is at the forefront of NYS politics. There seems to be some consensus that teacher effectiveness centers on student growth; the amount of social, emotional and academic progress a student makes over the course of a year.  How growth is measured has become the quagmire. Growth cannot be measured by a single yearly summative exam; nor can these exams capture a teacher’s influence on a student.  Standardized exams have an important place in teacher and student performance but must be more thoughtfully applied.

The ideal application of standardized exams is to benchmark student performance in September and then assess student growth in June.  While not perfect, this method seeks to isolate a teacher’s “influence” on individual students. NWEA and STAR are some examples of these types of assessments.  Both of these exams leverage technology and are capable of adjusting the difficulty level of the questions to find a student’s “zone of proximal development”. While this is a much better indicator of student growth it still is missing a key component of assessment- actual student work.

The idea of student portfolios have been around for decades, but has never been viewed as a viable assessment tool because of the labor intensive nature of collating and documenting student work. Advancements in technology and the proliferation of one to one tablet initiatives demand a reexamination of the viability of e portfolios. Ironically the common core standards provide an excellent framework to organize student work and appropriately measure student growth in the standards.

Our partnership with School 4 One has produced an app that effectively measures student growth in CCS using actual student work. Progress within the standards is easily tracked throughout the year.  Teachers can provide feedback (audio and visual) to students and parents. All of the interaction between student and teacher is readily available to administrators via electronic dashboards.

By organizing daily student work by CC standards, the influence of a teacher is readily observable.  Does the teacher provide feedback to a student that leads to student growth in that standard? Have teachers helped student identify areas of weakness? Have teachers provided each student with differentiated and appropriate work specific to them?  These questions are embedded in the many rubrics used to assess teachers, but the evidence of teacher effectiveness is usually limited to teacher observations. The application of technology provides a wealth of evidence and data previously not readily available.

But even these advancements aren’t enough.  A robust portfolio should also account for all of the “non-cognitive” traits that teachers have influence over.  How do we demonstrate a teacher’s influence on student confidence? Perseverance? Grit?  These dispositions or habits of the mind are equally important to student development and teacher accountability.  Again technology provides a unique opportunity to recognize these dispositions via electronic badges. Micro credentials for adults for is now transitioning to students. As a member of Digital Promise’s assessment group, we are hard at work in developing methods to recognize student understanding of the habits of the mind, and more importantly giving students the ability to demonstrate they can apply these habits appropriately.  The intention is to include these badges in a student portfolio to provide additional evidence of student growth that would not necessarily be reflected in student work.

Finally teachers have a responsibility to cultivate a student’s interest and passion.  Many times these passions are not covered by existing curricula.  We need to find ways of building student choice in curriculum and/or provide appropriate opportunities for students to be recognized for something they are passionate about.  Again we believe electronic badges provide a vehicle for this recognition.

An electronic portfolio should record and display all of the items mentioned; only then will we be able to capture the multitude of items that make up well rounded, fully educated child. As adults when we reflect upon our best experiences in school they are seldom test scores.  They are usually memories of having fun learning new and challenging things; teacher evaluations should account for that. We should focus on a meaningful way to define student growth as more than a yearly summative exam.  The technology is available to broaden our scope.  Let’s revisit portfolios, and capture all of the things that encompass great teaching and learning.   Not only will it provide a much more comprehensive picture of teacher effectiveness, it will also refocus public education to provide all of the attributes that make up a productive citizen in our country

Posted in Around the District 4 years, 7 months ago at 7:14 am.

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