In the past 50 years, the U.S. and other countries have spent billions to develop information systems to measure P-12 student learning. In the U.S., states employ various standardized tests to determine what students know, and then disaggregate the data to determine how districts and schools are performing.
As ‘big data’ has begun to revolutionize education, some states are able to identify which teacher education programs their teachers attended, giving the programs more feedback on graduates’ performance than in years past and enabling them to make the programs more accountable to the public—good for the programs, schools, teachers, students, and the public. It has been a gamechanger in education, writ large.
This new data creates transparency in who is learning what, and which schools they are learning it in. As a result, districts hold schools more accountable, and schools hold teachers more accountable than ever before. Principals can examine student learning classroom by classroom. No longer can teachers say, “I taught it, but the students just didn’t learn it.” Teachers must be skilled in assessing student learning, diagnosing student learning difficulties, creating strategies in the classroom to assist students who need extra help, and working the system to engage specialists if indicated.
TEACH-NOW Focuses on Key Forms of Assessment
TEACH-NOW covers the waterfront on aspects of assessment critical for teachers and leaders in P-12 schools. We cover the following types of assessment, but we focus and reinforce formative and summative assessment throughout the program as candidates write lesson plans, differentiate instruction, and develop knowledge and skills in clinical practice:
- peer assessment
Research demonstrates that teacher effectiveness is the number one factor in student achievement, so teacher knowledge and ability in assessing and facilitating student learning is now the sine qua non in the profession.
Teachers today can’t wait to give an exam at the end of a unit to determine whether students have learned the material, and then move on whether they have mastered it or not—the norm when we attended school. They must be highly skilled in formative assessment: how well did the students learn that section of content; are they ready to move to the next? If they are not ready to move on, what types of learning strategies should the teacher employ to foster better understanding? Can the teacher devise additional appropriate assessments to retest student knowledge? TEACH-NOW prepares its candidates to do just that.
Candidates Practice Assessment throughout the Program
Throughout the program, we prepare our candidates to conduct formative assessments so that they can adjust their strategies and reteach content in different ways when students are not “getting it.” TEACH-NOW graduates do not give up and leave students behind, as untrained individuals entering the classrooms on “emergency” licenses may do.
Using formative assessment takes practice and skill. TEACH-NOW doesn’t ‘cover’ it in one part of the curriculum as some traditional programs do when they put all things assessment into one course. It is a key thread running throughout our curriculum as candidates prepare to use the skill in their own classrooms.
Candidates begin identifying appropriate assessments as they develop lesson plans and think about how to differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of students with disabilities, English language learners, and students that are not achieving at grade levels. Many of our rubrics in the program address the appropriate and effective use of assessments. We can disaggregate our data in various ways; for example, if we see that candidate scores in using assessments are not as high as we expect, we can quickly determine areas of weakness, examine instructor methods, and provide help instantaneously to the class.
During candidates’ clinical practice, instructors and school or virtual mentors evaluate candidates’ use of assessments. We have developed a rubric based on the InTASC standards that we use throughout candidates’ clinical work. Candidates move from a novice level to a beginning professional level as they progress through the program. By the end of the program, our candidates are ready to differentiate learning to provide extended learning activities to students who have difficulty mastering the material and to use research-based strategies to assist students and then re-assess knowledge levels.
Tech Tools Help Candidates Show They Are ‘Assessment-Ready’
Because TEACH-NOW is a digital program, we teach our candidates how to use the latest teaching and learning software. In the early weeks of their study, candidates may use a mind map or flowchart to define each type of assessment, and may develop an infographic to compare different types of grading systems used in schools. I use the subjunctive ‘may’ because as a digital program, it is easy for us to change our curriculum continuously. We place new readings and resources within the portal often. Our candidates’ feedback helps us to identify any activities that we need to change, add, or delete. We don’t have ‘sacred cows!’
Software can make formative assessment fun and fast. As their studies progress, candidates may use a class poll to get a quick read on student knowledge. They may use a wiki to share ideas on the use of RTI and identify interventions for helping struggling students. They can use Web 2.0 video tools to demonstrate how they would conduct a parent teacher conference to share test score results and academic progress with parents.
Our candidates gain practice in developing and using formative assessments throughout their program. Their ability to use technology to quickly understand where students are in their journey and to adapt instruction, creates added value for P-12 schools. We’re thrilled to be part of the 21st century solution to preparing teachers in the U.S. and around the world.