The ELA Grades 9-12 morning session, “Introduction for Experienced Module Users,” focused on how the approach to examining student work impacts teacher learning. Participants began by discussing how an internal or external locus of control can affect teacher learning, student learning and school culture. The conversation focused on how perception of control over student learning varies and can impact student learning and achievement.
Following the discussion, participants read an article called “Looking at Student Work” by Angie Deuel, et al. and talked about the argument made in the article. Participants discussed different approaches to looking at the data from student assessments. When educators look at the specifics of the data, they can focus instruction on what the students need. This would be a shift from looking at data to “prove that students have learned” and to looking at data to “improve student learning.” Classroom instruction would have to change to reflect this shift which would affect what students learn and how they think resulting in deeper understanding and better performance on assessments. One of the goals over the next two days is to build this mindset in ourselves and then in our home districts.
The Friday afternoon English Language Arts session, Adapting and Creating Additional Module Assessments, began with a discussion about why assessments may need to be adapted. Participants talked about their own students and experiences with assessment adaptation. This led to an activity where each participant drew a visual representation (flow chart, symbol, etc.) of their current practices related to creating assessments. Everyone shared their visuals with their table mates and talked about their thinking behind assessment development.
Teachers then participated in a Jigsaw activity which involved the reading, annotating and sharing of various texts. These included items posted on EngageNY.org that are meant to help teachers develop Common Core-aligned assessments. Participants read these texts and annotated for critical components of assessment design as outlined in Expeditionary Learning’s step-by-step process for designing effective assessments (included in NTI materials). They looked specifically at passage selection criteria, selection of authentic texts, NYS item review criteria, and annotated test questions. They then shared their findings with the other members of their groups so that everyone could learn from the assessment design documents. They talked about how relevant the documents are and what they could take away from the documents to use in their own practice. Teachers talked about taking an existing assessment, identifying the standards they are trying to assess, and then cross referencing it to the items in the item review criteria. This gives the documents another purpose; analyzing assessments you have already developed.
Participants then looked at a sample Grade 6 assessment from Module 3A, and identified the key words in three of the assessed standards that determine specifically what students should know, understand, and be able to do. After determining what standards that a teacher wants to assess, they need to find an appropriate text and figure out the type of assessment that would fit best.
Expeditionary Learning included a chart “Target-Method Match” that helps a teacher figure out which type of assessment would be most appropriate for assessing different types of learning targets: Knowledge, Reasoning, and Skills. Once the type of assessment is chosen, the teacher must decide what the task will be, and how to plan the lessons that lead to the assessment. One thing to remember is that if you have to adapt an assessment, you probably have to adapt the lessons leading up to the assessment.
Practice Designing SLO Assessments
Participants worked in pairs and drafted an assessment task based upon a standard to be assessed and chose the most appropriate text(s) for that assessment. They then had to write assessment items for that text and standard. Tables shared their thinking from the entire assessment session using a Back-to-Back Face-to-Face protocol.
On Wednesday morning, the ELA group for grades 9-12 kicked off with a focus on assessments in Module 10.1. These assessments are aligned with the Common Core, preparing students with the skills and knowledge that they will need outside of the classroom. Development of the module assessments first begins with an understanding of the learning progression — the skills and knowledge that students will acquire throughout a unit, lesson, or module. This then leads to a consideration of how the student will be asked to express that skill set and knowledge through the assessment.
In order to better understand this process, participants started by looking at the standards that are assessed throughout Module 10.1. These included:
Reading standards for both literature and informational texts;
Writing standards that focus on the writing process;
a Speaking and Listening Standard related to collaboration; and
Language standards that deal with command of conventions in writing.
In order to bridge the gap between the standards and the assessment, teachers must consider how they will know when students have learned what is necessary in order to succeed in other contexts. Teachers must keep in mind that there needs to be a logical progression of knowledge and skills that also are assessed along the way to the final assessment. Assessments should relate to each other and should be connected to the standards. The real-life skills and knowledge that the students will gain and demonstrate through the tasks should also be considered. To examine this process, participants looked at a chart of assessments embedded within the 10.1 module. They talked about how the standards are reflected in the tasks, how the assessments relate to each other and build upon knowledge and skills gained, and the frequency of the standards assessed. The final performance task is also aligned to the standards and is achievable for students. Reading and writing standards are evident in this task and it is a good example of a culmination of the learning progression through the module.
The session culminated with a deeper examination of the final performance task where participants had a clearer understanding of the content and skills students will need to acquire through the module and then demonstrate in the final assessment. This reinforces the idea that students’ learning progression should be at the forefront when developing assessments in the classroom. In addition to being aligned with the standards, tasks should build upon each other and should ask the students to demonstrate a specific set of knowledge and skills.
The first morning session (Traditional vs CCLS Approaches to Teaching Canonical Texts) included discussions about why we teach the literature we teach and what our pre-Common Core approaches were to teaching these texts. We talked about the potential pitfalls to teaching texts this way and discovered that in some cases too much time was spent on single texts. Our love for these texts would often make us lose sight of the instructional purpose of the literature.
Participants then looked at Unit 3 of Grade 9 Module 1 which focuses on Romeo and Juliet and talked about the different approach to teaching the play, starting with the prologue, including the assessments and standards addressed. The unit includes studying Marc Chagall’s work “Romeo and Juliet” and viewing scenes of the Baz Luhrmann film. This aligns with reading standard 7 which includes making comparisons between two mediums around a topic.
The second part of the morning ELA session was about aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessments. Regents Fellow David Abel talked about how the assessments in the modules are aligned to the NYS Regents Exam. Careful alignment of curriculum and classroom assessments to the Common Core will best help prepare students for the exam, including assessments like those that appear in the modules. The three parts of the Regents exam are aligned to the 11-CCR standards and include close reading and text dependent questions and responses. Reading comprehension, writing from sources, and text analysis make up the performance tasks required by the exam. A strong emphasis is placed on writing evidence-based arguments. Sample Regents items have been released on EngageNY.org.
The session on curriculum for grades three through grade eight ELA modules kicked off with an ice-breaker where participants discussed the Seven Norms of Collaboration and how these help to foster growth and improve student achievement. Participants practiced a protocol from Expeditionary Learning (EL) called Written Conversation. This protocol encourages students to pass notes between each other, but it forces them to write about a teacher-administered prompt relevant to the reading they are doing. This allows students to have a conversation about what they wrote which then leads to an engaging class discussion.
Participants explored the new EL curriculum maps, which serve as a “roadmap” of the modules for teachers to follow throughout the school year. They discussed how the modules progress over the school year and reflect a progression of the shifts. The curriculum maps will be revised after NTI member feedback and then posted on the EngageNY website.
EngageNY is working on developing alternate modules for ELA. These will be meant for teachers who may want to address topics with their students other than the ones in the existing modules. The alternate modules will give teachers more flexibility when planning their Common Core-aligned curriculum for the school year.
Participants split into groups of grades three through five and grades six through eight to conduct a Case Study of a Standard. They discussed the scaffolding of skills and standards to analyze how the modules increase in complexity over time. The groups focused on Common Core Standard RL.1: “Read closely to determine what the text explicitly says and to make logical inferences from it, cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.” Participants analyzed how the assessments in each grade level reflect the standard and even how assessments vary across the modules.
“The standard is not the standard, the assessment is the standard.” – A discussion on the meaning of this statement lead to conversation about types of assessment and the validity of some forms of assessment as opposed to others.
In the afternoon session on assessment, Dr. Kristen Huff began by presenting statistics to the participants about a study of New York State students who took the SAT/PSAT in 2010. It revealed that students’ scores fell at only about 25-35 percent, meeting the benchmarks. New York’s 2011 NAEP Reading scores revealed that Level 1 students increased between grades 4-8 as Level 4 and 3 students decreased. Another metric revealed that only 35 percent of New York State graduates are college- and career-ready. That results in more students taking remedial classes in college, leading to more students not finishing their degrees. All of this data resulted in the need for new standards and assessments.
The new Common Core 3-8 assessments are a NEW baseline. This year’s proficiency is different than last year’s. These scores reflect an honest picture of how our students, districts, teachers, and schools measure up to the new standards.
In order to define what it really means to be college- and career-ready, a panel was convened that included New York State educators, SUNY/CUNY faculty, and College Board members, among others. The standards represent a trajectory of learning, which this committee was charged with defining. The question was asked, how do you distinguish the student who is excelling from the one who is proficient? This resulted in Performance Level Descriptions (PLD), which outline the skills required to be considered proficient in the various academic areas.
The Performance Level Descriptions Panel tasks are:
Define Expectations – focus on what students should be able to do at each grade level according to demand of the standards.
Review Test and Benchmarks – panelists take, review, and discuss scoring of state assessments.
Provide First Judgment – panelists estimate percentage of students who are proficient based on the exam.
Training on Ordered Item Booklet (OIB) Method – items are ordered from easiest to hardest.
OIB Training 2 – check that all panelists feel comfortable with the training they have received to do this.
Make Round 1 Judgments about Cut Scores – panelists make judgments and discuss rationale for their judgments.
The second part of the meeting focused on using test scores to inform instruction.
There are testing and assessment resources available on EngageNY.org that contain rich information about assessment. Additionally, materials will be released on EngageNY.org to support score interpretation and use, including the PLDs developed by the panel. Talking points for principals and parents will also be released to assist in conversations about the new exams and scores. Released items will include annotations so that educators, students, families, and the public understand the kind of thinking that is demanded by the Common Core. The items are chosen according to what will be most useful in the classroom.