More than 15 years ago, I was a middle school principal trying to help my staff implement the four critical questions of a PLC. We purchased a technology tool that was intended to make the common formative assessment process easier for teachers. As principals sometimes do, I thought it was a great idea! Unfortunately, as we got more sophisticated with our own assessment work, the tool shortly lost its glamour because it couldn’t do many of the things we wanted it to. So, I’ve been really excited to see how far we’ve come in those 15 years. Read more
Chris Jakicic, EdD, an author and a consultant, was principal of Woodlawn Middle School in Illinois from 1999 to 2007. She began her career teaching middle school science.
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Over the last several years, I have had the privilege of working with schools and districts as they develop and use common formative assessments to help assure that all kids learn at high levels. I’m often invited to work with teams at their meetings when they use the data from these assessments. As I sit and talk with teams who are actually doing the work, I’ve noticed several specific mistakes these teams are making. The first is that teachers, while trying to save precious planning time, often each score their own assessments and respond to the data in their own classrooms. This eliminates the opportunity for teams to learn together from the assessment. Without the collaborative conversation, teachers fail to compare how effective different instructional strategies were when other teachers taught the same concepts. They also can’t learn together about how to respond to students who need help.
Teachers often talk about the pressure they feel to raise their school’s test scores, especially in the current environment which suggests that teachers should be evaluated on the results of high stakes state tests. However, because most states have now adopted the new Common Core standards, and because we don’t know exactly what the assessments for these new standards will look like, I believe that we have an opportunity right now to begin assessing our students the right way; the way we know will make a difference for their learning.