Over the years we’ve had the opportunity to speak with a number of teachers and administrators, sharing our experience with the utilization of assessments and their function in a Collaborative Response Model. One primary concept that we find ourselves consistently repeating is the use of assessments to FLAG students for conversations.
In a Collaborative Response Model, assessments are an essential component, identifying students at-risk and tracking their progress over a period of time. For instance, individual teachers’ understanding of what a good reader is can vary, leading to situations where a teacher’s evaluation of the progress of a student may differ leading to certain students being missed in the conversation. School-wide assessments help to bring struggling students to the forefront and act as a common screen to generate conversations.
Assessments used as a way to flag students for conversation is critical. We would argue that the school-wide assessment tool that is utilized becomes less important than the function it serves when schools subscribe to the belief that assessments flag kids for conversations. Rather than becoming over-focused on the assessment scores or the search for the perfect assessment (if such a thing exists), when school-wide assessments are used to flag students for conversation, it really places the focus on professional judgment and problem-solving. Assessments provide one piece of the puzzle. Our response to the flag is what makes the difference in a student’s life.
Picture this – a grade three collaborative team meeting occurs and a principal states “Taking a look at the last month of scores, it looks like Lucas is not progressing. What is going on for him?” All of a sudden, the professional collaborative dialogue that ensues:
- places the focus on the child, not the assessment scores
- values the role of teacher assessment and professional judgment
- emphasizes a deeper investigation than any assessment could provide
- reduces the emphasis placed on a test score
When assessments are utilized in this manner, the focus becomes all about the student, the professional judgment of the people there to support him or her and the problem-solving capacity of the team. By focusing on assessments flagging students for conversation, the utilization of the tool as a call to action, rather than the tool itself, becomes the primary focus for supporting the learning of students.
Adapted from a previous posting – originally published March 8, 2012