Sometimes it’s important, in our jargon-loving profession, to put things as plainly we can. That’s certainly true for a concept such as performance assessment.
A word that comes in handy is the word challenge. I use it for two key questions:
The first is, How are we challenging our students?
Schools and districts that are consciously building a performance assessment system tend to have crisp answers to that question: “We challenge our students to do a year-long research project.” “Our 3rd graders plan and facilitate their own conferences.” “11th graders must design and implement a statistical analysis with help from an outside expert.” “Our kids have to defend their learning every two years.”
The second question is then, How are we challenging ourselves and our system to prepare our students for their challenges?
Again, I am encouraged by crisp answers: “We look at student work and calibrate on our rubrics once per month.” “Our grade level teams meet in the summer to design two multi-disciplinary projects per year.” “The science department will be using a Next-Gen-aligned rubric for assessing inquiry projects next year.” “We’re investing in PD so that our teachers can teach public speaking across the curriculum.”
Try it. As you build your performance assessment system, keep asking, “How are we challenging our students?” and “How are we challenging ourselves?” Tighten up your answers. Then live them.
Justin Wells, ELP Executive Director