Race to the Top – Developing Assessments Aligned to the Common Core
By Mark Hansen | Eastland Superintendent of Schools
The Prairie Advocate News will feature an eight (8) week series of articles explaining the different expectations of all school districts who are participating in Race to the Top. This is the 4th installment.
I once knew a teacher who gave nearly every student in his class an “A.” He said he always told his students precisely what was expected of them, and then made sure that every one of them met those expectations. I knew another teacher who always had the highest failure rates in the school. She said that her standards were high, and that some students simply were not willing to work hard enough to meet those standards. Both teachers were very comfortable with their philosophies on grading, and both were highly competent professionals.
The tradition of reporting student progress using letter grades goes back to the one room schoolhouse. Educators, parents, students and colleges treat these grade reports as meaningful. They are used to award academic honors, to grant admission into college, to establish class rank, and to determine which courses a student is allowed to take. Yet if grades are a meaningful indication of a student’s academic progress, how is it possible for teachers to have individual grading philosophies?
Perhaps we can do better. Imagine a system of common standards for all students nationally; a system that says that all students who graduate from high school will meet certain standards for knowledge and skills. Imagine a system that measures student progress toward those standards at different points throughout the year. Imagine teachers developing their own assessments to help them evaluate if their teaching is working – if their students are, in fact, making progress toward those standards.
As a Race to the Top district, Eastland is just beginning the work of developing local assessments aligned to the Common Core Standards for math. The goal is to develop rigorous questions/problems that measure whether students have developed deep understanding of mathematical concepts and applications. In addition, Eastland students in 2013-14 will be piloting standardized assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). These assessments will be administered three times annually, the last administration serving as a summative measure of the standards that students have or have not mastered at the end of the grade level.
All Illinois schools will be developing local assessments aligned to the Common Core, and all will eventually administer the PARCC assessment. As an RT3 district, Eastland and 35 other districts will simply be piloting these efforts first.