I had the good fortune this past school year of working with Bea Underwood Elementary teachers (Garfield County #16, Colorado) in helping them to create common assessments for their Power Indicators. Throughout the year, a core group of teachers diligently worked through identifying key standards that they wanted to commonly assess, collaborated with their grade-level teams to create activities and rubrics for assessing the students, and began the (sometimes) agonizing process of evaluating student work together so that they were all in agreement on the type of work that would earn a 1, 2, 3, or 4 on the rubric.
At our year-end meeting, the most poignant statements that the teachers made about the experience were those that talked about the critical conversations this project had spawned. One teacher remarked that one of her team’s biggest “ah-ha” moments was when they realized that they did not yet have a common language to use with students when administering the assessments. Another remarked on the many conversations she had had that year with her team regarding which skills were MOST important to assess in that particular grade. Most agreed that the experience had forced teachers to come out of their classrooms and have more collaborative conversations on student learning with their colleagues.
I believe that this one school is an example of a shift we are seeing in education: no longer are teachers expected or encouraged to do their own thing within the four walls of the classroom. A combination of technology, looking at best practices in other fields, and using data to inform instruction is positively impacting education in that teachers are exploring critical questions such as: “What’s really important?” “What really works?” and “What additional professional development do we need?”
Are there other schools or districts that are embarking on similar journeys? What have been your experiences? How has it impacted the culture of your schools? We would love to hear your thoughts.