Friday, February 6, 2015

On Assessment

As educators, there’s one question we ask ourselves over and over: have our scholars mastered the material?

Assessment is one of the most powerful components of our academic programming in that we, as educators, are able to evaluate the effectiveness of our methods.  Determining scholar mastery is our opportunity to measure the depth and strength of learning, as well as the gaps. In a sense, it’s our way of seeing how much sand the toothpick bridge will hold.

We feel strongly at BVP, however, that assessment is not only for us as educators.  Assessment is also for scholars and their families to understand what they need to work on in order to be on a path to success in college.  Together, scholars, teachers, and families form a triumvirate that when working together sets everyone up for success.

At BVP, we believe in being selective about our assessment tools, and striking a balance between gathering frequent, high-value assessment data and immersing scholars in meaningful teaching and learning.  

On a daily basis, teachers use a number of formative assessments in their classroom to monitor learning – some as simple as a thumbs up or down for basic understanding.  In addition, teachers use exit tickets at the conclusion of most lessons in order to measure individual and whole class mastery of the daily objective. Unit performance tasks and trimester exams are used as summative measures of scholar mastery of specific content knowledge and skill application.
As a network of schools, we utilize selected assessments in order to both measure individual scholar progress as well as to determine our effectiveness in teaching the required standards. For instance, we benchmark scholar growth using the nationally normed STAR assessment from Renaissance Learning in grades K-8, and measure literacy development in grades K-4 using STEP and Fountas and Pinnell. At the high school level, we utilize the MAP assessment--also a nationally normed tool--from NWEA. These data points are complemented by internally-developed trimester assessments.

by Kate Crowe and Drew Madden


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