United Federation of Teachers
Professional Development Program
2002! Are We Ready?
By the year 2002, all students in New York State will be required to pass a series of new Regents exams in order to graduate from high school. The first of these will be the English Language Arts Exam to be administered in Spring 1999. The new exams will require our students to demonstrate their learning in more comprehensive ways.
The new State exams are the result of a national movement toward higher standards and different ways of measuring what a student knows and is able to do.
At present, we know English Language Arts exams will contain on-demand components as well as an extended task -- an authentic assessment -- which will assess skills required by new standards. Despite the many concerns that these new standards and Regents exams raise, most educators are in agreement that a traditional pencil and paper test can only measure student performance in a limited way. Inclusion of other kinds of tasks -- projects, portfolios, videos, real-life writing assignments, etc. -- can provide opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know in more extensive ways, taking into account students' diverse learning styles and multiple intelligences. If designed effectively, these tasks will integrate curriculum, instruction, and assessment in support of standards.
Teacher Center Prepares
Assessment Liaisons from UFT/New York City Teacher Centers Consortium, NYSUT and Teacher Centers throughout the state meet on a regular basis with representatives from the State Education Department in Albany. They explore ways to use the NYS Pilot Assessment as a means of promoting the integration of curriculum, instruction and assessment (CIA) in support of Standards. Dr. Giselle O. Martin-Kniep, Executive Director of Learning-Centered Initiatives, facilitates the group and shares her research, drawing on the experience of classroom teachers throughout the state, who provide excellent working models of project-based learning and alternative assessment. Kniep maintains that the best projects are not only interesting for students but are also meaningful in terms of academic growth. She advises that when planning projects or units, teachers focus on:
(adapted from CSETL, 1997)
In all discussion about standards and assessment, Kniep advises, one guideline should be paramount:
Put the student first and in the center!
When are Students Most Engaged
Intellectually in the Classroom?
According to a Harvard survey, students say they are most engaged intellectually when:
Self-Reflection and Self-Assessment:
Keys to Life-Long Learning
Assessment is not merely a blind set of techniques, but a means to some valued end ... Assessment must capture essential educational aims: to help the student learn and help the teacher instruct. All other needs such as accountability testing and program evaluation, come second. Merely shifting from multiple choice questions to performance testing changes nothing if we still rely on the rituals of year end, secure, one-shot testing. Grant Wiggins, 1997. "Practicing What We Preach in Designing Authentic Assessment" Educational Leadership, ASCD
Alternative assessments can provide opportunities for students to experience the many ways in which problems may be solved and projects realized, thus preparing students for the world of work. Grant Wiggins, President of the Center on Learning Assessment and School Structure,asserts that the ultimate goal of effective assessment is to provide students with tools to become assessors themselves. In a classroom that promotes the value of self-reflection and assessment, students learn to create their own high standards of achievement and are able to monitor personal progress as life-long learners. Wiggins, in Assessing Student Performance Self-Reflection and Self-Assessment, warns us that unless the values of the classroom change from that of teacher as judge and possessor of the single truth to student as self-assessor and self-reflector, these newer assessment models will continue to support the notion that standards, values and high achievement are the sole responsibility of an outside assessor.
We must constantly remind ourselves that the ultimate purpose of assessment is to have students become self-assessing (Costa&Kallick, 1992).
Creating a Culture Which Values
Self-Assessment and Self-Reflection
To What Extent Are Your Creating a Culture that Values Reflection and Assessment?
Tools to Help Your Students Self-Assess
Teachers need to have a variety of instructional tools in their kits to facilitate students' reflection and assessment.
Below are three useful strategies:
Learning Log Journal Prompts provide excellent opportunities for students and teachers to assess on an on-going basis across the content areas. Prompts such as these below help students make connections and identify confusions as they jot down in learning log journals what they think, question, understand, or need to know more about.
Pre (Formative) Assessment
Post (Summative) Assessment
PMI Assessments help students monitor progress and identify challenges in the creation of authentic tasks.
The Observation Checklist
The Observation Checklist is a powerful tool to help students (and teachers) assess authentic learning tasks involving higher-order thinking skills. Performance is observed and assessed through this checklist of behaviors. Students may design checklists to assess their own or others' performance.