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State Assessment Strategy Partnership Brings Clarity and Coherence to Districts

Following the recent national push for high-quality instructional materials, many educators are looking for ways to track the effectiveness of their new curricular materials and measure student mastery. We see many schools, districts, and systems that have

  • too many assessments that become redundant and take away from instructional time 
  • misalignment or misunderstanding of the intended purpose of each assessment or the use of assessment data
  • assessment items that don’t accurately paint a picture of student progress 

There are some assessments you can’t change in your school-year schedule, like your state assessments, but educators may be pleased to learn there are other strategic shifts you can make to get more actionable data and take back instructional time. 

Enter an assessment strategy. 

ANet Coach Matthew Dennis, who coaches many schools and districts across the country on assessment strategy, helped us hone in on the importance of taking the time to collaborate across your district or system to align on the purpose and schedule of your assessments. He shared, “It’s important each person understands what makes an assessment high-quality so they know what to do with it, they feel invested in the results, and that it actually drives, in this case, instruction.” 

The Texas Education Agency partnered with ANet to launch a pilot program and engage three districts in this work. ANet Coaches Matthew Dennis and Clarice Clash-Turner work with these districts to define quality assessments and goals, understand the importance and use of assessment data, and develop coherent assessment strategies. While the essence of the work is the same, the process and goals are unique to each district and its students. 

Defining Quality Assessments and Goals at Crowley ISD

“We know how important assessment is to student outcomes, to building teacher capacity, and to really looking at our entire systems,” said Anna Roe, Chief Academic Officer as we talked about why their assessment strategy process is important to Crowley Independent School District (ISD). Crowley ISD is located in Fort Worth, TX, and serves around 16,500 students. At the beginning of this process, Crowley educational leaders wanted to know how students could benefit from quality assessments. Their assessment strategy needed to be centered around both students and teachers getting an accurate picture of their progress. 

Crowley’s partnership with ANet helped them deeply study their current assessment system. Their recently formed working group began by defining what quality assessments meant to them. Through vulnerable conversations and analysis, the team kept coming back to the impact for student and teachers. Crowley wants their students to be excited about their growth and knowledgeable about their progress. This goal aligns with the district’s existing practice of student-educator one-on-one goal-setting already built into their instructional schedule. Chief Academic Officer Anna Roe mentioned that if their assessment strategy is successful, students often won’t know they’re being assessed because knowledge checks will be a regular part of learning, and when longer assessments are taking place students will know what the purpose of the assessment is for them. 

The Crowley team hopes their assessments will help build capacity for teachers. When their assessment strategy is successful, they want teachers to be able to make more informed decisions mid-year for their students. The goal for teachers is to have more actionable information to make better decisions and increase autonomy. 

“A quality assessment helps students reflect on their own learning, I think that’s one of the biggest, most impactful parts to assessment,” said Roe. 

The Importance of Intentional Data with Everman ISD

“I think that question of data vs. actionable data is a great question to pose, because I think that’s the purpose of our partnership with ANet,” said Dr. Kentrel Phillips, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction as we talked about the importance of utilizing assessment data at Everman Independent School District. Everman ISD  in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area serves over 5,000 students, and leaders at the district were eager to jump into the pilot program after their HQIM work. The goal of the assessment strategy work at Everman is to understand the data available from their assessments and the impact that data has on student performance. If successful, their new assessment strategy would build on the foundations of their HQIM work that helped smooth the transition between elementary and secondary education, address gaps from the pandemic, and better inform teachers of their students’ mastery of standards. 

“I think that’s the important part of an assessment–can you measure if a student is able to demonstrate what you intended for them to learn, and can you identify where they may have fallen short on that goal and be able to intervene at that point?” said Dr. Phillips. 

As they began to detail the purpose of assessments, ANet Coach Clarice Clash-Turner led the team through a series of exercises and professional development to better align their assessments to their district goals. Dr. Austin Smith, the Director of Secondary Education, detailed an exercise they did with their coach analyzing their assessment portfolio. In the first column, the team wrote down all of the assessments they employed for elementary, secondary, and districtwide. In the second column, they had to write down what the data was used for from each assessment. The team saw several items in the first list, but very few items in the second. This exercise was one step in helping the team understand what data they can use and what assessments can yield that data. 

“We’re able to now define, ‘Okay, we’re going to use this assessment as a curriculum-based assessment’ rather than a random assessment we were pulling from an item bank.” said Dr. Smith.

After evaluating the current state of Everman assessments, the district plans to empower site-based teams to coach the teachers using the curriculum-embedded assessment data in professional learning communities and classrooms. Buy-in from teachers, principals, and even students can yield additional success when educators begin to implement their new strategy, especially when the goal is to be intentional about using the data from curriculum-embedded assessments. 

School leaders, like Principal Luis Valdez and teacher Adriana Banks from Roy Johnson STEM Academy, see the vision and how it will benefit the students in their school. When talking about why actionable data from assessments matters for students, Principal Valdez shared, “We can have all the data, but if you don’t utilize it properly or you don’t use it intentionally to diagnose and provide the proper feedback you’re not going to be able to help the students move forward.”

Adriana Banks shared similar sentiments about the use of data for her students and understanding of the assessment strategy vision. During a conversation about the importance of the assessment strategy schedule, Banks said, “I think that it’s going to be essential, because the teacher needs to know by when certain material needs to be covered and then the student will also know when to expect that they’re going to be tested on that material.” 

Establishing the purpose of assessments and the data they will uncover, defining how Everman ISD educators will use this data, and implementing the assessment strategy schedule is step one of a multi-year plan to strengthen intentional data usage throughout Everman ISD. 

Developing a Coherent Strategy with Aldine ISD

“What we uncovered in this assessment strategy work is that sometimes the way the assessments are laid out, sometimes there is not time in between assessments to really take the action that’s necessary to improve the instruction for student,” said Dr. Lindsey Wise, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning at Aldine ISD Located in Houston, TX, Aldine ISD serves around 60,000 students. With the number of students it serves, a coherent districtwide assessment strategy became a necessity. Their new theory of action for assessments, a project Dr. Wise is most excited about, helps create coherence between high-quality instructional materials, instruction, and assessments. It provides clarity into how all roles connect to assessments and how to use the data from each assessment. 

Building and maintaining Aldine’s assessment theory of action takes a collaborative and cross-functional approach. The assessment strategy work at Aldine ISD focused on developing a clear vision of the role assessments play in the district and detailing how each person contributes to achieving the vision. Their working group engaged in multiple conversations with stakeholders to create the conditions for buy-in during the implementation period and to gather valuable feedback on potential changes to analyzing student work. 

The group of Aldine educators who gave input into the assessment strategy helped illuminate the understanding of their current assessments and place them correctly in their assessment schedule. When talking to Christi Van Wassenhove, Executive Director of Literacy & Social Studies, she shared how useful it was to have a diversity of roles in the room as they worked together. One person could say from their seat they didn’t see the purpose of this assessment, but another person could share how they use that assessment. The insights they gained from each other helped connect not just the roles everyone plays in an assessment strategy, but helps the district determine how to adjust the assessment strategy in the future. 

“It’s important because it determines our professional development plan, what changes we need to make in our curriculum whether it’s scope and sequence or the curriculum itself, there’s a lot of reasons why it’s necessary to pay close attention to the assessments we’re giving our students,” said Van Wassenhove. 

Through the work they’ve already done with high-quality instructional materials, the assessment strategy work helped add another thread as Aldine educational leaders weave together their HQIMs, instruction, and assessments for better student outcomes. ANet Coach Matthew Dennis praised Dr. Wise, whom he worked closely with to accomplish Aldine’s assessment strategy, on her ability to tie in different initiatives and programs across the district to their assessment strategy and illuminate for the group the interconnectedness of their efforts.

“What is exciting to me about this is that it’s actually embedded in work they’ve been doing all along. They made a commitment years ago to adapt and implement high-quality instructional materials, much like a lot of districts across Texas have, and there’s a recommitment to be able to look at how assessment can really, meaningfully drive the work of implementation and the use of those materials,” said ANet Coach Matthew Dennis. 


Regardless of the size of your district, the populations you serve, or your location, the need for purposeful assessments centered around student mastery of learning and aligned across the district is ever present. The partnerships ANet has with Crowley, Everman, and Aldine continue as education leaders implement their improved assessment strategies and evolve plans to better serve their students. 

About the Texas Education Agency and The Achievement Network

ANet is proud of our four years as a Technical Assistance Provider (TAP) with multiple Texas LEAs and the work we’ve achieved together in pursuit of student excellence. As a Texas Education Agency (TEA) Technical Assistance Provider, we have served LEAs as an approved vendor for the Strong Foundations Math & Literacy Grant, all levers except 2.1 in the Vetted Improvement Program (VIP), and the Resilient Schools Support Program (RSSP). This past school year, ANet partnered with TEA to bring ANet’s cohort-based assessment strategy work to a pilot program in Texas. Crowley, Everman, and Aldine were selected as part of this pilot program to continue the progress made by HQIM implementation and align purposeful assessment strategy into their district frameworks.

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