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December 20, 2019

2 min

Jade Fernandez

How Commitment to Assessment Can Change School Culture

Our ultimate goal at Method is to improve academic achievement in all students. This task is never easy in any school, but it is made even more complex when our teachers work with students online that are potentially hundreds of miles away. The nature of our online school model requires a concerted effort and investment in a systemized approach toward assessment. attention.

Helping the Individual

Method students are required to take diagnostic assessments that measure reading and math abilities and participate in quarterly assessments throughout the year. These assessments are critical for schoolwide planning and designing individual student learning plans. Based on these assessment results, teachers are able to look at student growth reports to determine missing standards and general aptitude. More than the act of testing our students, the more powerful practice comes after the test when students and teachers analyze their results.

An integral part of the schoolwide culture are the data chats directly following any schoolwide assessment. Teachers facilitate data chats where students guide in understanding how students are growing. Data chats become a meaningful part of a student’s school year where students are able to really understand what their own test results reveal about their own learning. Elementary school teacher, Ms. Feng says, "Data chats help my students look at their education through the lens of long-term growth. Together, we celebrate their strengths during our reflection of the results and create meaningful goals to improve identified areas of weakness."

The practice itself allows students to become the driver of their learning and they begin to understand their agency in their education. High school teacher Mrs. Schlotthauer explains how important this process is even beyond high school, “Self-reflection is essential to growth, and data chats encourage students to reflect on their progress and assess the appropriate next steps. This is a step that students often miss in education, and in reality, it is a skill that will help them continue to improve upon themselves into adulthood.”

These chats also allowed students and teachers an opportunity to connect through their commitment to improvement. Our high school math teacher, Mr. Brown found his chats with his students to open up that channel of communication, “In growth your only competition is yourself and I appreciated how these chats encouraged just that. By my students identifying what made the difference from one testing experience to the next, setting personal goals became more intuitive.”

Helping Schoolwide

Method also systematically takes a step back from individual student growth reports to identify schoolwide trends – which grades aren’t meeting our growth expectations and what grades or subgroups are exceeding their growth goals. Collectively, teachers identify these trends to adjust the added supports for struggling groups. Mrs. DeSena, our lead ELA teacher says, “The test results give us the opportunity to adjust and fill in the gaps for particular subgroups.” Even more powerful, looking at schoolwide trends also identifies which students are exceeding expectations and shines a spotlight on the teachers that are effectively. Teachers involved in this success are able to share their best practices and encourage their colleagues to experiment and stretch their own teaching styles with new ideas and habits.

Incorporating a process to assess and review results only adds to the culture of growth that Method seeks to foster throughout the school staff and its students. Though its “just one test,” it can make a substantial difference in the culture of a school if used wisely.

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