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CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.

Leading the Way for Performance Assessment

Smack in the middle of July, the Quality Performance Assessment (QPA) team hosted its annual Summer Institute at Simmons College in Boston. Not exactly a riotous event, but fascinating and inspiring as 35 teachers and administrators came from around the country to learn and wrestle with the techniques of designing and implementing high-quality performance assessments. 

The institute had two frames. The first supported educators as they strove to understand and work with the basics of performance assessment: aligning to competencies, cognitive rigor, rubrics (OMG, rubrics!), engagement, analysis of student work, scoring calibration, authenticity, et many cetera. This was the foundation, the practitioners’ lens.

The second lens had to do with leadership, managing change, and bringing it all back home. There wasn’t a single person at the event that was not concerned with growing performance assessments in their schools and systems. Some were administrators, but they were all leaders, and the leadership lens asked important questions. How do you start the conversation with colleagues, with students, with parents, with school boards? How do you change a practice that also requires a change in culture?

Both lenses were touched on regularly through the four days, but on the third day we addressed it directly in a pull out session led by Karen White, a guest facilitator from CCE’s Personalized Learning Network team. The session had the feel of a seminar crossed with a professional support group. In the end, it exemplified the idea of thought partnership. Change happens one conversation at a time, and this was an important conversation. Participants shared common struggles and anxieties: how to get teachers onboard, how to communicate the ethical necessity of this work, where to find the time, etc.

Everyone recognized that these problems wouldn’t be solved in a one hour conversation, but hearing colleagues from around the country share their concerns and ideas proved a powerful experience. And, some tangible next steps were agreed upon. The first addressed the issue of time – there’s never enough of it – with participants sharing their own solutions to problems around bell schedules, professional development time, and team meetings. The second was the idea to create a task bank of performance assessments to support districts making this shift.

Leaders left for the next session – which was a break, with ice cream! – feeling supported and somewhat comforted.  Every change requires two supports. The first helps you out with the technical issues. The second lets you know that you aren’t alone. CCE and QPA are there to help out with both.

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