Monday, November 15, 2010

Some elaboration required . . .

Once again Ethan in his comments to yesterday's post has posed some interesting questions and thoughts.  I don't know, however, that I totally agree with his experience from the state level work about the need to separate the work of defining what the standard is from how the standard will be assessed.  In their work to create learning standards and assessment tools for students I don't believe that the students played an active role in the work.  They are the recipients of the work done by adults and the ones held accountable.  The adults create the tools, but do not have the responsibility to implement the work and be held accountable to a standard as the teachers do in our context. 

I believe that initially we were engaging in conversations about both what the standard is and how it will be assessed and that work did become confusing.  It was not, however, this confusion or concern around accountability that resulted in the decision to not assess growth this year on the goal.  This statement from Ethan's comment captures the reason.

We should have maintained our focus squarely on defining what focusing on key content, using active learning strategies, and checking for understanding looks and sounds like until we were crystal clear on that. Only then should we have begun to think about how we might go about assessing mastery of these “standards.”

As of today, we are still not "crystal clear" on what it means for key content to be visual, stated in appropriate student language, be tied to unit goals or broader learnings, and be reinforced throughout the lessons.  We know more because of recent research we did that was shared last week with teacher leaders, but there are still questions that we have not yet answered.  We know more about checking for understanding because of Ethan's work and the teacher tools he created.  We also have identified teacher resources for active learning, but have only recently begun to document them for teacher use. 

The reflection tool is another resource that provides necessary information on what it looks and sounds like, but it has not yet been introduced to all teachers.  This tool and the "crystal clear" vision of the three characteristics should have been available when we introduced the goal.  Implementation should have followed creation of these additional resources with accountability to follow.  That is what I meant by not able to support the goal given the lack of clarity on the characteristics, the inability to identify resources to bring clarity to the work, the competing commitments that were not factored into the timing, and the expected questions on what accountability would be. 

We are better positioned today and will continue this year to focus on bringing clarity to this work.  Teachers will continue to focus on the characteristics without the accountability component.   We will learn from this work and apply that learning to creating tools that bring additional clarity and understanding to the work.  I don't know that we have taken a step backward, more of monitoring and adjusting our pacing to align better with our current reality.

Once again thanks to Ethan for pushing my thinking and assisting me in elaborating on my post.

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