Curriculum Update for January 17, 2014

posted Jan 22, 2014, 10:14 AM by   [ updated Mar 5, 2014, 5:40 AM ]

Why do we assess?

The widely accepted role of assessment is that it measures student progress in learning, when “in reality it plays an important role in focusing [student] attention and actually drives their learning”(Sainsbury & Walker, 2007). So how we assess student learning is critically important, and in many cases it can outweigh the importance of what is actually being assessed. That is not to say that content should be ignored; it is the contrary. Content should be explored more deeply through innovative classroom assessment activities such as performance tasks, inquiry-based activities, multi-stage developmental projects and exhibitions. Traditional forms of classroom assessment such as tests and quizzes still hold their place in the assessment arena, however their construction and purpose tend to solicit formative information at the first and second levels of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge scale.

All students need to be provided multiple opportunities to demonstrate their depth of learning by participating in different forms of classroom assessment. Each assessment must demand higher levels of expectation as triggered by Webb’s wheel, specifically levels 3 and 4, in order to be classified as “rigorous.”. All students deserve rigorous assessment activities - to not provide rigor for all students is to shortchange them of their aspirations. Naturally rigorous assessment activities are girded by high expectations for learning and quality instruction for all.

Traditional test questions should be aligned to a specific learning standard and be presented in a manner that best elicits the “demonstration of knowing deeply,” and the data from the assessments should be used to measure your effectiveness in instructing to the standards as well as the student’s progress toward mastery.

There is a wealth of research on assessment available to any action researcher, and understanding the role of it in our school district is the first step toward building a better experience for the students in your classrooms today.

Items from the IT Desktop

Save the Date: February 5, 2014 is Digital Learning Day!  Digital Learning Day is about engaging students and recognizing great teachers who use digital tools to enhance student learning.  Plan big or start small - beginners and experts alike are encouraged to participate. Look for more info at

Call for Participation: The Technology Resource Center will roll out a Teaching for the 21st Century (T21) program. Up to 25 teachers will have an opportunity to participate in this 2 year-long cohort. The program will focus on web-based tools for communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking (4Cs) with a predominant focus on Google Apps for Education and Google Chromebooks. A major cohort goal will be for teachers to develop projects that will help students learn key academic content while practicing 21st century skills. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks.

Digital Portfolio Survey: Are students in your classroom saving digital or digitized artifacts to an online portfolio? Please take this one-minute survey to let us know:

Curriculum Audit Progress

The District Standards and Curriculum Committee (DSCC) has been hard at work tackling the recommendations made in the Manchester School District Audit Report, specifically recommendations 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7. The policies that the audit has recommended are being drawn and five of them are on the agenda for the January 27 meeting of the BOSC Curriculum and Instruction Committee. These policies are pertinent to classroom teachers and their work around assessment, so I wanted to be sure that everyone had the news ahead of the meeting in the event there was some interest in watching. Naturally the minutes will be available from the meeting as well so don’t feel you need to change plans to make viewing happen.

A timeline is being assembled by the DSCC to outline the priorities of the audit with respect to the recommendations. These priorities will be mapped out by severity of need, primary/tertiary impact on learning, intensity, duration of implementation, and cost, in that order. Our hope is we will be able to report progress to the Board of School Committee on February 6, 2014.

URead of the Week:

O’Connor, K. and McTighe, J. (2005). “Seven Practices for Effective Learning” - Assessment to Promote Learning. Educational Leadership, Volume 63 (3), pp. 10-17.