Smarter Balanced Assessments, change for the better?
Last week on Thursday, our school held Daytime Staff Meetings where we focused on released items from the Smarter Balanced Assessments. As we analyzed items, constructed response questions, and performance tasks, we considered the critical question “what does the learner need to know and be able to do to successfully complete this task?”
Collectively, we identified several key skills that students will need to do to succeed on the assessments they will see in the spring of 2015, including:
- Understand figurative language/literary elements/personification
- Make inferences
- Gather information by digging deep into text
- Know what the question is asking
- Critical thinking
- Give experiences with different texts/genres, and putting them together
- Provide/find/organize examples to prove their point
- Use/organize supporting details
- Stay focused on task
- Possess strong vocabulary skills
- Practically apply math concepts
As we considered our list, we saw a number of skills that we want students to leave our building with. As we moved on in our conversation to talk about what we need to do as an organization to get ready for this change, we realized that in many ways, Smarter Balanced Assessments could be a critical component leading to better professional practice. Our students will receive a better education if we begin to do some of the things we spoke about in our building, including:
- Give students appropriate opportunities to write, require them to support answers with evidence
- Give students the chance to use technology
- Teach kids to look at multiple data sources and synthesize/analyze them
- Teach kids the skill of taking notes, planning, and revising
- Be intentional. Teach kids the skills listed above and model them in our own practice
- Teach the process of approaching and answering a question
- Break tasks down. Teach kids how to break a complex task into components for themselves (also called “chunking.”)
- Create and assign performance task
- Provide real world examples in student work
- Teach kids to be good note takers
- How do we move away from “the right answer” obsession some kids have?
- Help kids develop better capability for time on task
- Provide students think time
- Teach kids about informational reading
- Change our interventions – less on work completion, more on learning
- Change our mental view of assessment – think of them as “thinking assessments.” Less multiple choice questions
Overall, I left our school on Thursday very optimistic for the future to come for our students. While many of the “to do” items are already in place in pockets of our building, their expansion as we work through the curricular shift already in progress will do nothing but make our school better.
Could it be that the Common Core and Smarter Balanced Assessments will lead to better professional practice?