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Leveraging assessments for instructional change

By Brigette Blue, ANet coach

By now, most teachers and leaders in our partner schools have read the Flipping the Assessment article written by ANet founder, John Maycock. Most educators agree that assessments shouldn’t be a “departure from instruction” but, rather, an “integral part of it.” They’re on board with changing the conversation around assessments from student scores to what students have learned, and many agree that teachers should take the assessment.

However, in light of the ever-increasing demands on the time of teachers and leaders, the questions become when can this work be done? And, is this work truly worth it? 

Several ANet partner schools engaged in assessment previews before administering their A1 exams. This work was done with teachers in common planning sessions during the school day or PD sessions after school, and with leaders during individual meetings. Kiesha Kemp, an assistant principal at Van Siclen Community Middle School in Brooklyn, found that the previews support effective instuctional leadership:

“This experience helped me reflect on the texts I’m seeing in the classroom during my observations. Do they really reflect the level of complexity students are faced with on the assessment?

Teachers found the exercise equally meaningful. 

A seventh grade ELA teacher realized that she primarily thinks of figurative language as a feature of fictional texts. After reading and answering the questions for passages in two different grades, she realized, “figurative language doesn’t only show up in fictional texts. We need to ensure they see it [and analyze it] in all different genres.” 

A sixth grade ELA teacher observed the need to go beyond the traditional teaching of author’s purpose (to inform, to explain, to entertain, etc.) to exploring the author’s opinion about the subject: What is the author’s point of view? What words is he or she using to convey this? 

And a seventh-grade math teacher shared an important takeaway: he discovered that he’d been presenting unit rate problems to his students from a limited standpoint.

“For unit rate they’ve been seeing whole numbers and basic fractions; but the first three questions on that standard [from the assessment] are fractions divided by fractions. I’m going to make this type of question explicit for students in the days to come, maybe switching out some whole numbers in my problems.”

Instructional change doesn’t happen overnight. Teachers see value in using assessments to inform their planning, but they need their leaders to support them—including by carving out time for the work. Taking the assessments, discussing the texts, questions, and standards, and reflecting on instruction all provide insights that lead to powerful teaching and learning.

Concerned about over testing?

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