Assessment of Standards vs. Learning Intentions: What’s the big idea?

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Assessment of Standards vs. Learning Intentions: What’s the big idea?

cactus-1063094__180This provocative question came from Dr. Paul Yovanoff and students in his Department of Teaching & Learning teacher preparation program at SMU: In light of controversies with the adoption of Common Core Standards, what are the critical issues for teachers to understand about aligning standards, learning intentions, and assessment? Here’s my response:

The two primary reasons for the pushback on the CCSS are one: they were designed by a group of professors, thought leaders, and corporate interests, many with insufficient classroom experience to understand the nuances of teaching and learning. Secondly, education has traditionally been a state and local responsibility. While a few states are declining to use them, many others are modifying them for clarity, alignment with curriculum, and local contexts. Balancing these multiple mandates with available resources can be challenging.

Below are two basic concepts followed by five fundamental actions for aligning assessment with any and all standards from in-the-moment appraisals of progress to international benchmarks.

  1. Most important is for teachers to be familiar with the expected outcomes and their relevance and feasibility in grade levels and content areas. Consider not only alignment with standards but also developmental appropriateness. The standard, “determine the main idea of a text” makes sense for 9-year-olds, but asking 14-year-olds to “draw on a wide range of world literature to understand author’s point of view,” (RL.9-10.7) may not be as reasonable or realistic.
  2. Be mindful of students’ foundations, needs, inclinations, and competencies. The first few years of teaching will be memorably challenging but, as with any new endeavor, knowledge and skills develop with time, practice, and support. When in doubt, return to these five foundations of quality assessment:

PURPOSEFUL in relation to big-picture standards as well as each day’s local learning intentions: Is there alignment between assessments and the goals of learning? Is there coherence right through from the big- picture standards to the strategies students rely on to show what they have learned?

ENGAGING: Do students have choice in displaying their learning outcomes? For example, in one class, José chooses to create a crossword puzzle of the vocabulary, Amara writes a poem that incorporates and defines the vocabulary, and Izzy creates a mnemonic device.

INFORMATIVE for both teachers and students in gaining insights into learning. Do assessments identify lingering gaps and guide responses for reducing and closing them?

BALANCED in using a range of assessment practices to gauge learning throughout the taxonomies, including preassessment, formative assessment, self-assessment, and standardized measures.

STUDENT CENTERED meaning fair, equitable, and realistic for all learners. For example, are students allowed to annotate their responses, explain points of confusion, or ask clarifying questions on the assessments?

Relying on these foundations provides all students with the opportunities they need to make progress towards the achievement of the big-picture standards, regardless of their source. More information on these topics is available throughout the assessmentnetwork.

Let me know if you have any questions, keep up the good work, and best regards,
Laura Greenstein, Ed.D. classroom4

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