SMARTER BALANCED READY: Big Idea #5

Sustainable Teams Continuously Improve

An infographic depicting people sitting around a table, and in the middle of the table a chalk drawing of gears surrounded by the words "goals," "teamwork," "skills," "vision," and "success."District staffs build key relationships among assessment, technology, special education, language specialist, and curriculum staff to support schools with a cohesive approach for sustainability. They make adjustments in preparation and planning for the assessment system based on evidence of student learning and experience with assessment administration. Most districts are able to sustain the assessment system in spite of staff turnover due to clearly defined job-related responsibilities that go with each staff position.

In the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District, Idaho, a Comprehensive Assessment Committee with representatives from staff stakeholders leads the communication and planning efforts to ensure sustainability of a comprehensive assessment system—formative assessment process, interim assessments, and summative assessment. This committee stays on track each year with a Comprehensive Assessment Plan (PDF) that is part of the district’s Annual Strategic Plan brought before the Board of Education and the community.

The Comprehensive Assessment Committee has representatives including curriculum coordinators; program directors; special education administrators; school administrators from elementary, middle school, and high school levels; representative teachers from each grade span; and union representatives. Their job is to keep their stakeholders informed about the assessment system and to get feedback to inform improvements in the assessment planning.

Continuous improvement in Lakeland District, Idaho, includes introducing the interim assessments to all staff. The principal, Director of Information, and coaches helped teachers to use at least one interim assessment to get everyone comfortable with the test sessions. This practice helped teachers and students feel more comfortable when it was time for the summative assessment. They also trained teachers to score the hand-scored items and submit scores in the Teacher Hand Scoring System. This helped teachers understand how the hand-scored items are scored for the summative assessment.

Next year they plan more use of interim assessments to support data discussions at monthly collaboration meetings. Once they appreciate the validity of the interim assessments to measure the learning of a cluster of standards, teachers are more likely to buy in to the continued use of interim assessments. District and school staffs have found that emphasizing the benefits of using interim assessments to get valid data to make decisions about instruction has been a successful message.

Tara Richerson, District Assessment Coordinator, Tumwater School District, Washington, initiated an open discussion of the purpose and use of all the district assessments. She undertook an assessment inventory with an analysis of the cost per assessment in terms of time and money. The staff evaluated the impact of assessments on several stakeholder groups and made changes this year based on the results of the evaluation and conversations with key users, including teachers. It has been empowering for teachers to make decisions about when and how to use assessments, including Smarter Balanced interim assessments. These discussions led to a look at the grading policies that specify the use of assessment data in grades at the secondary level. The staff formed a data governance committee to build proficiency scales (1–4) that align the academic standards, instructional materials, and grades. Next they are revising report card descriptors and assigning scores on common assessments to the proficiency scales.