I am ELP: Ruth Chung Wei

Describe what you do at ELP?

I serve as the Director of Research and Innovation.  My main role is to document the impact that designing and implementing high quality performance assessment systems has on outcomes for K-12 students, the learning environments that student experience, and systems and cultures that support student success.  The “innovation” part of my work has to do with developing new tools, frameworks, and methodologies for the work we do with the latest evidence from research and practice. What that really means is that I support our coaches as a thought partner as they develop new products with their district and school partners, and codify tools, products, and practices into a unique ELP-branded suite of resources. I also spend a lot of time writing, reviewing, and explaining rubrics! 

What experiences brought you to ELP?

That’s a long story, but I’ll give it a try! I started my career in 1997 as a history teacher in New York City, at a Queens high school that was part of the small schools movement in the city, and regularly assigned projects and performance assessments to my students, even before I knew what PBL and performance assessments were. During my graduate studies at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, I studied the impact of a teaching performance assessment (Performance Assessment for California Teachers) on the learning of preservice teachers, having been inspired by teachers reporting that the NBPTS portfolio assessment had a tremendously positive impact on their professional learning. During my graduate studies, I also began supporting the work of the School Redesign Network at Stanford which was supporting the Bay Area Performance Assessment Consortium (BayPAC), and that’s how I met Bob Lenz, one of the founders of Envision Schools and my current colleagues, Justin, Alcine, Rachel, and Abby, among other founding teachers. Bob requested technical support from the School Redesign Network team. That’s how I ended up facilitating teams of Envision Schools educators as they developed their suite of disciplinary performance outcomes, rubrics, and the portfolio defense, and as teachers got calibrated on the portfolio rubrics. When Envision had its first graduating classes, I conducted a couple of small studies to evaluate the impact of the portfolio and defense on students’ learning experiences and then a follow-up study to learn how graduates who had been out of high school for one or two years were doing. Later, I also participated in collecting data for another set of studies that included Impact Academy and City Arts & Tech HS called the Study of Student Centered Schools (completed by the Stanford SCOPE Center). Between 2008 and 2020, I worked as the Director of Assessment Research and Development at SCALE – the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity, which evolved from the School Redesign Network. SCALE’s primary mission is to support districts, states, and higher ed institutions as they develop and implement balanced, credible, and reliable assessment systems that include performance assessments. I started working at ELP part-time in January 2018, when SCALE staff merged with ELP.  I started working full-time at ELP in January of 2020. In many ways, it felt like coming back home, to a school organization with an assessment system that I was part of building. I am so proud of what Envision Schools have become and that we are a national and international leader in the performance assessment movement. 

What do you enjoy most about working for ELP?

I love working at ELP because I feel so much at home here. I truly feel that my colleagues are like-minded people with the “same heart.”  At ELP, I know my colleagues hold very similar beliefs about the potential of all students and a similar drive to do work that makes a difference in students’ lives. We rejoice and celebrate the same small victories, and we mourn and weep for the same systemic sources of injustice in our world. We geek out over backwards planning and all believe in the power of student work as a key lever for teacher learning. We support and care for each other, and know that even when we push back on one another, it is out of love. That’s what makes it feel like home.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I wish I had more time for all my non-work interests – but these days, when I’m able to come up for air, I enjoy making a delicious meal for my family, going for long walks, tinkering on my mandolin, piano, or violin (not all at once!), and shelter-in-place Karaoke nights with my family. Also, I enjoy cuddling with our long-haired Chihuahua-Papillon mixed pup and our aging tabby cat while catching up on the latest sci-fi or historical fiction drama on Netflix. 

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