“Assessment helps the teacher have a complete understanding of the student so they can plan for instruction, monitor progress, group students flexibly, and help the student develop a self-awareness of themself as a reader,” said Terri Mulford, Boulder Valley Education Association President.
Following advice of the District Assessment Team, BVSD is communicating its purposes for doing assessment. But how does this translate to the classroom each day? There, the focus is to provide each teacher with information that helps shape how they teach to reach all students.
The Literacy and Math Departments use assessments in reading and math to see student progress on skills and standards throughout the year, identify students in need of extra support, and indicate areas of concerns at a district level. Starting last year, the district began to rollout writing and math end of year common assessments to provide a district-level view of programmatic effectiveness.
“When teaching reading, you need to know the strategies and skills each student currently has in place and needs to develop further, so the student can access the printed word and be able to read in a meaningful way with fluency and expression,” Mulford said. “Students need to be able to comprehend the material being presented; if they don’t understand the material, they won’t be able to access it fully. So, assessment includes determining what oral reading and comprehension strategies a student currently possesses to fully understand the nature of a student’s reading in order to provide effective instruction.”
At least twice a year in schools, elementary teachers and their principal gather to discuss the data in their class levels and brainstorm ways to adapt their instruction to support all learners.
In middle school, student reading levels are also assessed throughout the year. Students who score below grade level can then be monitored more often for growth and can be grouped accordingly for instruction.
In Math the district uses end-of-year assessments to determine recommended class placements when moving from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school. Starting last year, the district launched an Algebra 1 end-of-year common assessment for all students who completed an Algebra 1 class.
Libby Black, a middle school Algebra 1 teacher who first gave the test last year, was also in the workshop to score the test and tweak the rubric for this coming year.
“I found it invaluable to understand what other teachers’ expectations were,” Black said. “It is important to be very careful with the exact wording of the question asked of students, and for the rubric to be very specific, so teachers can score consistently. We ended up modifying the rubric for next year to improve consistency.”
Throughout the year, Black also gives ongoing formative assessments designed to monitor how well students understand what’s being taught that day.
“I do most of it through using technology--one problem sometimes at the beginning of class. I use it for grouping, and the technology is what lets me group immediately. I also use this as an exit ticket. Graded formative assessments (sometimes called quizzes) can be re-done by students at any time, so that students have an opportunity to show their proficiency on the content before they take summative assessments,” said Black.
“An important element of assessment is student self-assessment. I have students check a box on their warm-up sheet each day, after we go over the homework, saying how confident they are with the day’s content. It helps students process what they know and where they need more work.”
Data-based problem solving is one of the improvement strategies the district is emphasizing this school year. Assessments provide teachers information that helps identify individual students’ needs and adjust instruction to build upon student success.