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Balanced Assessment System provides opportunity for tailored student learning

CASTLE ROCK – When the opportunity arose for teachers to participate in a group focused on the new Balanced Assessment System, Stephanie Crowe of Sage Canyon Elementary was quick to volunteer.
“Assessment has always been a passion of mine,” Crowe said.
During her 20 years of teaching, 17 of which have been here in Douglas County, she has served on many committees—but has really found her calling when it comes to those focused on assessment.
Years ago she served on the group that worked on the implementation of the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) representing Douglas County at the state level and now serves on both the Standard 6 Taskforce and BAS Advocates.
“[BAS Advocates] get a better understanding of what the Balanced Assessment System is to look like both for the District and the state and then we are to share that information at our school,” Crowe said. “It’s really great. A lot of people feel like, ‘we are so glad that they have someone that can represent us and bring back information to share.”
She has even recruited other teachers to become involved in the work.
“We needed people involved at various grade levels, so I was happy to get some primary grade teacher friends involved.”
While she says it is understandable that teachers are apprehensive about the changes, especially given the looming state-imposed deadlines, she says being involved really helps her understand the District’s assessment efforts.
“It is becoming more defined and more clear,” Crowe said. “It really does make sense for me. I really feel that the more the word gets out there and the more that teachers talk and the more teachers get involved the better they will understand it.”
Because of the laws listed below, every school district in Colorado, including DCSD is mandates to have improved student assessment and teacher effectiveness measures in place by next year:
Senate Bill 08-212 created and implanted new Academic Standards that better aligned with the state’s expectations that students have the skills needed to succeed in the global economy. It also demanded that state and local assessment systems provide accurate and timely performance data to drive academic support and guide development of student learning plans. 
Senate Bill 10-191 directed school districts to implement new evaluation systems that align with state definitions for educator effectiveness and incorporate reliable measures of academic growth. 
Senate Bill 08-163 mandated that all accountability systems within the state are aligned to a single system that met federal requirements and ensured that district and school performance information is modernized and aligned.
In Douglas County the goal has been to exceed the state's standards—so DCSD created the Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum (GVC).
“The Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum aligns to the standards, but goes one step beyond,” explained Justin Houck. “It requires that we explicitly incorporate 21st Century Learning, the 4 C’s and other components that are absolutely critical for our kiddos to be successful later on.”
Many schools have choice programming that meet the needs of their specific community of learners, for instance International Baccalaureate, so school leaders and teachers often work together to create additional standards, which again must be aligned to the GVC and Colorado Academic Standards.
Finally, teachers have specific areas of interests or specialties, which add to the curriculum of the school and therefore require additional classroom-level focused assessment.
While DCSD expects teachers to use a Balanced Assessment System, which includes certain elements determined by the District or their schools, Houck says the District has no interest in imposing more tests on educators.
“That is far from the case. We are a district of choice and we value choice very much,” Houck said. “We are really aiming at tailoring student learning around what the school and the teachers value. If they value a certain type of programming, that is what guides the assessment. Of course there are mandated components. We have to have a state assessment data point in there. We have to have interim assessments. Those are not the driving force of balanced assessment.”
In fact, he is encouraging the BAS Advocates to take a full inventory of all assessment tools they use at their schools, and consider whether all of them are effective. If they’re not effective, he suggests getting rid of them.
“Look at our practices and realize that there are probably some things that we do that are not the most authentic, accurate or efficient.” Houck said. “Some schools have realized as they’ve gone through this that they have 30 assessments and they’re all assessing similar concepts and skills. Do we need to have all 30? Could we increase the quality of our assessment system and thereby up the accuracy and efficiency by having fewer tests and more quality assessments that capture the assessments?"
The measures schools and teachers place in their Balanced Assessment Systems should best reflect student learning, not just at one fixed point in time, but throughout all of the time they spend in the classroom. Together they should be able to provide a good sense of whether teachers and the District are meeting the student’s needs, so that we can support them through their educational journey.
Houck says the goal is ensuring that teachers and the District can move quickly to address problems.
“With a Balanced Assessment System, we will have a much more comprehensive picture of how our schools are performing and we can make very deliberate movements every time we need to improve the performance or efficiency within a school’s assessment and instruction cycle,” Houck said.
Beginning next year, the role of BAS Advocates will change from informing to assessing whether the system is working.
October 14, 2013 | By Anonymous | Category:

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