District Administration October 2017 - 30

ASSESSMENT SHIFT
sure of how students are doing in their
learning trajectory, and use the results to
adjust instruction-and if kids are also
aware of their assessment results so they
can make adjustments in their learning
tactics-then they can double, triple and
quadruple the learning that goes on,"
Ainsworth says.
Students in the driver's seat
New Hampshire schools had given
Smarter Balanced tests in math and
English each year to students in grades
3 through 8. Since launching the Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) initiative three years ago,
the state has sharply reduced the number
of standardized tests taken in about one
quarter of its 84 districts. Now, students
in about 20 participating school systems
take only the SmarterBalanced English
test in grade 3, math in grade 4, and in
both subjects in grade 8.
The new regimen of formative assessment allows teachers to track students'
progress toward mastery of standards
through evaluations that are embedded
into everyday instruction.
In traditional project evaluations, for
instance, teachers measuring progress
might review a checklist with students to
see if they have included all required elements, such as a PowerPoint presentation
or a glossary of terms.
In a competency system, teachers are
expected to push students to focus on
the quality of their work, rather than on
completing a simple to-do list, says Ellen
Hume-Howard, the PACE curriculum
director in the New Hampshire Department of Education.
This approach "puts kids in the driver's seat," she says. "You're no longer just
assessing kids on lower-level knowledge
and recall. You're asking them to be independent, to make choices, and to apply
and transfer their skills."
Formative assessments shift focus to a
students' growth and away from a single
year-end grade or test score-when it's
too late to intervene, says Michael Horn,
an assessment expert and co-founder of
30 October 2017

Clayton Christensen Institute, a think
tank with a focus on education.
"The future is more frequent, smaller,
less obtrusive assessments that are more
helpful for learning," Horn says. "We
know that tests are important, but more
useful testing leads to better understanding of what learning we ought to be
doing next."
Don't grade everything
Computer-based formative assessments
allow students to keep track of their own
test data and, in reviewing it with educators, monitor their own progress toward
learning targets, says Martin, the director
of instruction in Sylacauga schools.
It also allows the district's students
to be more active participants in parentteacher conferences.
"We're trying to take the mystery out
of data," she says. "When students have it
in their own folder and can explain their
progress to adults, that's the best-case
scenario."
Since Sylacauga expanded use of formative assessments, the number of students held back in ninth grade-a rate
that had reached 20 percent six years
ago-has dropped to under 2 percent.
The district held back no seventh- or
eighth-graders in 2016-17.
Perhaps most significantly, the graduation rate has risen from 78 percent to 92
percent.
Special education students also have
benefited. The ability to track their own
progress has given them a sense of independence and insight into their own
learning that they've never had before,
says Leslie Bonds, the curriculum facilitator for secondary campuses at Ector
County ISD in Texas.
"We've seen unbelievable success in
that [special ed] population," Bonds
says. "They are better able to make midcourse corrections and they are exposed
to higher order, more rigorous questioning-and the long-term effect is more
meaningful learning."
Carolyn Gonzalez, Ector County
ISD's assistant superintendent for curric-

ulum and instruction, adds that the shift
to formative assessment has allowed the
district to eliminate two of its four highstakes tests.
Formative assessments can put students in a better state of mind for learning by allowing them to make mistakes
without academic consequences, says
Susan M. Brookhart, an educational consultant and testing expert. "Formative
assessments are more powerful because
they're not always graded," Brookhart

OPT-OUT INSPIRES
TESTING CHANGE
IN NEW YORK DISTRICT
In New York, an aggressive optout movement-wherein about 60
percent of third- through eighthgraders skipped high-stakes tests-
has forced many districts to rethink
their assessment methods.
Hauppauge Public Schools on
Long Island set out to become "selfsufficient" on testing through the
use of adaptive learning software
and 20-minute, in-class assessments
given on iPads and other devices,
says Donald B. Murphy, the
district's assistant superintendent
for curriculum, instruction and
technology.
It saves instructional time
because teachers don't have to
line up students and walk them to
the testing lab, Murphy says. "The
goal is that assessment becomes
embedded in the instructional
process to such a degree that it's
seamless," Murphy says. "It serves
students better because it's not
done in a separate testing location-
it's done in class and done quickly."

District Administration



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration October 2017

District Administration October 2017 - Cover1
District Administration October 2017 - Cover2
District Administration October 2017 - 1
District Administration October 2017 - 2
District Administration October 2017 - 3
District Administration October 2017 - 4
District Administration October 2017 - 5
District Administration October 2017 - 6
District Administration October 2017 - 7
District Administration October 2017 - 8
District Administration October 2017 - 9
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