Partner Profile: Antelope Valley Union High School District

How are you advancing your Performance Assessment System?  Is there one story you can share that illustrates how this work is benefitting your school, students or teachers?

The Antelope Valley Union High School District is located in the northern most part of Los Angeles County and covers over 1200 square miles. The Title I district serves approximately 21000 high school students at eight comprehensive sites and three alternative sites.  The Linked Learning approach of rigorous academic and technical coursework, student supports and work-based learning is foundational to ensuring all students are both college and career ready.  The district started work with Envision Learning Partners over three years ago with Lancaster High School’s Multi-Media and Engineering Academy and added the Biomedical Academy two years ago.  Both academies received recognition as Gold Certified Linked Learning Academies in the 2019/20 school year, comprising two of twelve statewide programs to meet this acknowledgement of quality. Prior to the implications of remote learning, over half of the students in the Lancaster High School Multimedia and Engineering Academy completed their senior defense in front of a panel of educators and other stakeholders. In their third year, the performance assessment rubric used had been through several iterations to address increased levels of proficiency in areas of mastery and application of knowledge, meta-cognition, and presentation skills. With the onset of COVID 19 guidelines, the students who had not presented face-to-face senior defenses were given flexibility to present how and to whom. The Biomedical Academy at Eastside High School is in their second year of the process.  The work done this year, facilitated by Envision, resulted in a revised performance assessment rubric that increased the level of rigor, relevance and expected outcomes. Additional focus to build capacity and increase fidelity of the performance assessment work around the district’s Graduate Student Profile was guided by Envision.  Similar to LnHS, the rubric remained constant. The EHS teacher team also modified their senior defense process for students to allow more flexibility and choice on how and when students presented.  Again, the decision aligned with the COVID 19 guidelines set forth from CDE and the district.  Over 90 EHS students submitted senior defense work via online videos. The teacher who has oversight of the senior defense regularly communicated with the students and mentor teachers to identify areas of need and support..  During the weekly academy planning meetings, the teacher updated the team on the process and student progress within this new virtual instructional setting.

What have you learnt during this process?

Both schools’ academies that implemented performance assessments culminating with a senior defense commented that the teacher teams learned how to be more flexible and take input from various stakeholders.  The acknowledgement of the increased level of stress amongst the team brought on by the uncertainties and impact of COVID 19 was balanced with the need and want to move forward for both students and teachers. It became important that they continued on the path even if meant modifications. At the district level, it was more evident than ever to let the process evolve from the teacher teams who were balancing many unknowns. They were the ones who understood their students and teacher team needs both personally and professionally.  Each school took a different approach but both were successful.  

What is the impact you are seeing on students and their work/teachers and practice?

Even with the interruptions, the majority of students were still committed to the process and wanted to highlight their learning/work.  Because they were vested in the work and learning outcomes, many were proactive, inquiring about the presentations.  There was a pride of reflection and accomplishment through a culminating assessment connected to their learning goals of their academy teachers.  Now more than ever the students’ stories reinvigorated the teachers, reminding them of why they are educators.  It allowed teachers to reflect on their practice, to find innovative ways to engage students and focus on the assessment piece. The work they had done throughout the year was on display instead of the daily challenges they were experiencing during a time of disruption. 

What is the impact of this work ON YOU as a practitioner?

It is difficult yet rewarding work to develop performance assessments through continued collaborative efforts. The work requires educators to reflect on their own teaching practices, purpose and beliefs regarding students’ knowledge, traits and abilities. Often it requires a change in mindset within a system dictated by other metrics of student success.  One teacher commented that it is a reminder that every student has a story, educators are part of that story, and even the smallest part can make a big difference in student outcomes/goals. The performance assessment through the senior defense highlights the teacher’s part.  Another teacher mentioned that it allows educators to focus on the end result, which is often difficult to see, “the forest among the trees.” She acknowledged that practice helps to shape our perspective. 

Is there one story you can share that illustrates how this work is benefitting your school and your students?

One student in the LnHS academy presented virtually and explained that he had not chosen the academy.  He had average grades and not chosen to be in the academy.  Through his senior defense, he explained how the rigor paired with the support made school “easy” for him.  His final performance assessment gave him the opportunity to highlight how far he had come and having been placed in the academy with a senior defense was the best mistake that ever happened to him. 

A student in the EHS academy addressed the proficiency of her being a collaborator.  Like many high school students she had pegged herself as an introvert.  The amount of group work with corresponding assessments and reflections gave her many opportunities to develop her assertiveness and give input.  Those in the group acknowledged her research and math knowledge that contributed to her self-confidence and ability to work with others.  Her video was shared with district leaders (Superintendent and Asst. Superintendent) who were dealing with all of the challenges and information during a time of transitioning the district to virtual instruction.  At that time, it was a much needed inspiring reminder for those who were deep in process that student learning was still taking place.

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