Driving Assessment Literacy Through the Development of Measures of Student Learning

Measures of student learning (MSLs) are used to factor students’ academic growth into educator evaluations. Thompson School District engaged teachers in developing their district’s MSL system to increase teacher ownership of the process and build assessment literacy. Teachers in each content area can choose assessments that best represent their grade or content, and/or develop assessments in areas where they don’t exist.

Who chooses and/or develops assessments for MSLs?

Teachers in each grade or content area organize a team to review and choose the assessments for their group. The process of selecting teachers can look different across grades and subject areas: Some groups will select a representative from each grade level, others will select a representative from each school, while others will select from only a few teachers who are capable of taking on this additional work.

How does the process work?

District staff facilitates the process by asking each team to participate in assessment literacy training designed by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and fine-tuned with a group of Thompson teacher leaders to fit the district context.

Then the team uses the assessment inventory tool (also designed by CDE) to review the assessments currently used to measure student learning for each course or grade level within that content area. Teachers use the assessment inventory to identify areas with many assessments as well as areas that lack an assessment to measure student growth.

When a teacher team identifies an assessment for their content area that is aligned to the Colorado Academic Standards, the team uses CDE’s assessment review tool to look at the assessment’s potential for measuring student growth based on:

  • The alignment of the assessment to the grade-level expectations for each standard.
  • A fair and objective scoring guide.
  • Formatting, vocabulary, and language that ensure the assessment is fair and unbiased.
  • The ability to use the assessment to identify learning opportunities for students.

When a teacher team determines that there isn’t an assessment to measure student growth for their content area, the team follows a process to create an assessment. Many teams start with assessments from CDE’s resource bank. Each assessment in the resource bank has been reviewed and/or developed by the Content Collaborative members. Teams pull items from assessments in the resource bank along with items from other district assessments to create the new assessments. Before piloting the new assessment in classrooms, the team runs the assessment through the assessment review tool.

How do teachers make time to engage in this work?

This process can be a lot of work for any grade or content area, especially one with very few standardized assessments in place. Whenever possible, Thompson uses teachers on special assignment, district staff, and other resources to help facilitate the process.

How has this changed teacher practice?

This process helps teachers understand what a standard is really asking their students to do and supports teachers in implementing instruction that is more standards-driven. It also affects how teachers develop and use their own individual classroom assessments. Since the assessments are directly tied to standards, teachers are able to focus their instruction and classroom assessment around these standards.

Will these assessments be used in teacher evaluations?

Currently Thompson is only using default state summative assessments for teacher evaluation. Teacher teams for courses that want to use the newly created assessments for evaluations submit an assessment proposal to the district, which is then vetted using the CDE assessment review tool and piloted throughout the district. After that pilot period, the district data is analyzed to revise the assessment based on item analysis, look at norming data, and create targets for each assessment.

What advice do you have for districts starting this process?

  • Identify teacher leaders and key players.
  • Generate teacher input and excitement.
  • Be very clear about purpose and implications from the beginning.
  • Make sure that all teachers find value in the process.
  • Give teachers assessment literacy training before beginning the assessment development process.
  • Ground teachers in their content standards and depth of knowledge before the assessment development process begins.

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