In an upcoming post I am going to focus on the complex issues associated with the collection and use of data in our schools. For this post I would like to keep it simple and merely address the importance of using teacher created formative assessments. In his book Effective Supervision: Supporting the Art and Science of Teaching Robert Marzano states:

“Not all of the assessments described previously can be used to compute knowledge gain. Because state assessments and end-of-course assessments are administered once a year only, they do not lend themselves to gain scores. Although benchmark assessments are administered more than once per year, they are typically not numerous enough to pick up knowledge gain across short intervals of time. Common assessments, if numerous enough, are useful vehicles for knowledge gain. They can be designed around fairly specific topics, which allows them to be used to assess learning within a specific unit of instruction. Scales can also be used to address fairly specific topics. Finally, teacher-designed assessments can readily be used to measure knowledge gain.”

The statement that common assessments, if numerous enough, are useful vehicles for knowledge gain, seems simple enough…and it is…if there are numerous enough assessments. With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, publisher and teacher resources aligned to the standards are sparse at best. When it comes to common/teacher designed assessments, teachers are starting from scratch. Teachers seeking to create “numerous enough” assessments aligned to the common core really have their work cutout for themselves. Here is a little math word problem to help illustrate my point:

Standard: 4.OA.3 Operations and Algebraic Thinking

Mrs. Jones, a sixth grade teacher, is adopting the CCSS for math. She notices there are 29 specific standards. If she creates a pre-test, post-test and a third test to be used to reassess students needing remediation, how many total assessments will Mrs. Jones need to create? If each assessment takes Mrs. Jones 30 minutes to create, how many minutes/hours will Mrs. Jones spend creating the assessments? If Mrs. Jones makes $25.00 per hour and she knows she will not be compensated for the time she spends creating the assessments, Mrs. Jones will donate $ of her time to creating assessments.

An isolated teacher seeking to overcome the challenges of gaining access to “numerous enough” common assessments may find this fourth grade math problem a bit overwhelming. A team of three or four teachers may combine forces and seek to tackle Everest. Many teams will start the journey upward and from time to time a few may reach the summit. More often than not however, the challenges of creating “numerous enough” common assessments will prove to be too much for three or four teachers.

What would happen if those three or four teachers were able to share assessments with three or four teachers at a neighboring school? The task may look a little less daunting. What if those teachers were able to share with teachers throughout their district? The task may seem entirely possible.What if thousands of teachers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia worked together to create and share “numerous enough” common assessments? We would call that MasteryConnect.

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