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THE NEW COMMON CORE ASSESSMENTS
What should schools plan for when designing their formative assessment models? | By Michael King
THE NEW COMMON CORE ASSESSMENTS
What should schools plan for when designing their formative assessment models? by Michael D. King Additional Resource Link on Topic of Common Core Transitioning to the Common Core According to the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers new summative assessments will make use of a blend of test questions and performance assessments with "sophisticated multiple-choice questions, constructed-response (or 'fill-in-the-space') questions, ondemand performance tasks, and--to the extent feasible--classroom-based performance assessments." It is the intent for those states implementing common core assessment practices to provide teachers with support materials and tools such as curriculum frameworks, syllabi, and banks of curriculumembedded performance tasks, and a reporting system for monitoring progress.
In this process of assessment design SBAC (The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium) along with state agencies will take an aggressive approach to include computerized adaptive testing. Scoring test will involve a blend of objective machine-scored items and open-ended constructed responses scored by amalgamations of artificial intelligence and individual teacher scoring. The common cumulative assessment would incorporate performance events of one to five days to assess the common core standards more holistically. In the near future as the target date has been set for 2016, test structures could involve the use of advanced computer-based simulations.
Use of Technology The most pressing concern that evolves from these new ideas on assessment types is the lack of technology integration methodologies currently applied in the majority of our schools. If students do not have the opportunity to spend sufficient time experiencing performance based task using technology then this might impact the students ability to complete online authentic assessment task. What may need to occur in the near future is helping teachers build instructional units that simulate performance based task built around rubric assessments. (See referencing articles: "Teachers' Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools: 2009" "Are We Ready for Testing Under Common Core State Standards?") Randy Elliot Bennett, Chair in Assessment Innovation in the Research & Development at Educational Testing Service in Princeton who is currently working on ways to integrate advances in cognitive science, technology, and measurement to create new approaches to assessment sums the approach up in the following report. (Recommendations for Deploying Innovative Technologies to Create Better Assessments.
Designing Methods of Assessment A performance assessment can evaluate students who are demonstrating their skills by performing certain tasks, or it can evaluate products that students have produced to demonstrate their knowledge According to the CCSO (Council of Chief State School Officials), “performance assessments are ways to measure students’ knowledge and skills that go beyond asking them to answer multiple-choice or fill-inthe-space questions. Typically, students are asked to complete a hands on task that can take 40 minutes or can be completed over several class periods. For example, students might be asked to research and write a magazine article or to conduct and explain the results of a scientific experiment.” Performance assessments can be activities such as science experiments and lab procedures, essays, speeches, computer programming, and so forth. Constructing performance assessment rubrics and applying these assessment strategies to the school program will enable students to demonstrate their basic skills through a real-world application. Together, the assessment task and the scoring method comprise the performance assessment. (The performance assessment could consist of a single task and a scoring method, or it could consist of multiple tasks and one or multiple scoring methods.) Following Messick's (1992) conceptualization (and modifying it somewhat), performance assessments can be divided into two rough categories:
Task-Centered performance assessments that are primarily intended to tap into and evaluate specific skills and competencies.
Construct-Centered performance assessments that are intended to tap into and sample from a domain of skills and competencies.
Task-centered performance assessments tend to consist of tasks that allow little student control and specific scoring rubrics for judging student performance on the assessment tasks. On the other hand, construct-centered performance assessments consist of tasks that may allow a fair amount of student control; they often utilize a generic scoring rubric (or some other, non-specific criteria) for judging student performance. Learning Time Devoted to the Common Core Learning is one of the most valuable of all human activities, while time is the fundamental key to all learning activities. Increasing the amount of time available for learning and making it more productive are keys to improved learning. Both learning and time is central to the teachers responsibility to manage. Yet, American students have less learning time allocated to them than do students in other industrial countries. The idea of time and learning describes scheduled time as the umbrella component from which the allotted instructional time and learning time are achieved. Scheduled time, therefore, must be maximized so that ultimately high amounts of instructional and learning time can be obtained.
For these reasons, educators must think carefully about how allocated time is used and distributed throughout the parameters of a school year when using Common Core assessment strategies. Before constructing a performance assessment, the designer must decide on the time length for the performance based assignment, which could range from one class period to a week, or even a month for assessments that require extensive research. This leads us to the next level of complexity, when utilizing metacognative principles are associated with common core performance based assessments then allocated time will certainly need to be considered. In other words performance base assessments may take larger blocks of time that are not traditionally built into a school scheduled day. In this case two important action decisions would need to be considered as we look at time allocations and performance based assessment. The first is to give larger blocks of time to individual teachers allowing for performance assessments to occur within a school day or to quantify time outside of the classroom for additional learning time to be allocated to the student. In any case performance based assessment will increase the amount of learning time normally associated to a traditional school year. Lexile Framework The Common Core State Standards Initiative places a strong emphasis on the role of text complexity in evaluating student readiness for college and careers. The Common Core Standards devote as much attention to the text complexity of what students are reading as it does to how students read. As students advance through the grades, they must both develop their comprehension skills and apply them to increasingly complex texts. The proportion of texts that students read each year should come from a particular text complexity grade band. Students must also show a steadily increasing ability to discern more from and make fuller use of text. Lexile Framework Designing a Construct-Centered Performance Assessment Performance assessment refers to new assessment techniques that require students to construct a response to an open-ended problem or task. In the case of both traditional and performance assessment, the task and the assessment should be closely aligned to the common core. By emphasizing required achievements, the new Core Common Standards leave room for teachers, curriculum developers, and schools to determine how goals should be reached and what additional topics should be addressed. Thus, the Standards do not mandate such things as a particular writing process or the full range of metacognitive strategies that students may need to monitor and direct their thinking and learning. Teachers are thus free to provide students with whatever tools and knowledge their professional judgment and experience identify as most helpful for meeting the goals set out in the standards.
The designer must select the performance modes that the task will require, such as developing a reasonable argument, how data will be collected, how issue analysis will be constructed and what elements of cause and effect will be portrayed within the core content. The designer must also decide how the students will participate in performing the task, for example, if the task is a 21st Century task involving technology or a classroom task that is assigned individually, in pairs, or in small groups. What is imperative in the process of assessment design is that the same level of expectations are followed as they are matched to key questions of quality that should include the following; Are the assessments representative of appropriate rigor and expectations? Are multiple types of assessments available? Does the material include application-level assessment as well as developmental level? Does the material provide guidance to teachers regarding the integration of assessment into classrooms? Are the purposes of the assessments clear, measurable and usable?
Step 1: Choosing a Proficiency. Proficiency is an ability or skill that students can demonstrate, usually in a variety of ways. Using the performance assessment worksheet, the assessment designers can outline the desired proficiency as it relates to the unit topic or to the content of the subject to be taught. In Exhibit ?–?, the proficiency is described as it pertains to a unit entitled "Measuring Our World." In this unit, the culminating activity will require proficiencies in written composition. The actual process of designing performance assessments varies depending on the complexity of the task and the availability of time. "Despite all the talk about Common Core and establishing consistent content standards across states, we don’t hear much about establishing consistent proficiency standards. While content standards (including common core) establish what will be taught in schools, a state’s proficiency standards are the criteria used to evaluate student mastery (and consequently, school or teacher performance). Put another way, common core standards establish content, while proficiency standards establish the grading scale. If the goal of having common standards is to establish consistency, then the lack of attention to proficiency standards makes no sense. A fifth grade student with sufficient mathematics mastery to be proficient in Kansas should be able to meet standards in Oklahoma, Ohio, Louisiana, or any state in the country. But so long as states continue to set independent proficiency standards, a common core will not prevent U.S. schools from producing fifth graders proficient in Michigan or Colorado math, but not in North Carolina or New Mexico math." See Resource Link: Kingsbury Center "Proficiency-Not-Common-Core-StandardsDrive-School-Accountability-Part-2"
Step 2: Specifying Elements of Standards. Assessment designers must then select the standards or expectations for student performance that will be used to reflect the various levels of performance. In step two, the assessment designers must decide what level the students will be held to according to a performance rubric such as "Excellent," "Highly Competent," and "Incomplete." For three separate assessment levels, the student's performance will be evaluated using these standards as a performance scale. Each standard can be assigned a point rating of 3, 2, and 1. (In designing the performance standards, the assessment designer should begin to make choices on how student learning will be measured. The decision on how performance standards will be measured will determine the overall development of the assessment strategy.
"Setting performance standards is an area that different constituencies see quite differently. The choices of elements for a particular standard depend to a large extent on the purposes the standard is intended to serve. Standards can be used in certification, as predictors, as descriptors, and as motivators. While performance standards indicate how much of a domain has been mastered, content standards define the extent of the domain to be tested. The bridge from one to the other is of central importance in validating performance standards. Performance standards must reflect content standards. The psychometric problem of determining just where a cut-point should be placed on a scale is important, but deciding what to test and how to test it are more important. In prediction, placing the standard on the right scale is important, while for description and motivation, the placement of the points is less important than having enough points to be descriptions and goals for the full range evaluated. Finding a way to map content standards onto performance standards is an extremely important challenge in standard setting." Resource Link: Educational Resource Center: "Setting Performance Standards: Content, Goals, and Individual Differences"
Step 3: Selecting Content/Goals In step 3, the assessment designer should begin to select or target specific standards that will be required to complete the task successfully. Assessment designers should choose from the unpacked common core standards that are articulated by the district. The number Core Standards should be limited, depending on the complexity of the task. For example, the assessment designers may choose a Common Core standard that is related to the expository writing process and to developing basic grammar skills. The basic grammar skills that are to be assessed should be specifically stated on the assessment worksheet to help define future learning for the student essential questions to consider would include: Does the material represent appropriate rigor? Does the material display clear development of conceptual understanding?
Is the content language appropriate? Does the content lead students toward appropriate content discourse? Does the material support appropriate skill development and problem solving skills?
Step 4: Writing a Task. A good task is authentic, in that it will require the students to perform in a real-life context. It can be multidimensional, in that it requires not only cognitive skills but also interpersonal skills and abilities. When developing a task, the assessment designer should always keep the outcomes in mind. What is it that the students need to know? In regard to the example given in step three "expository writing", the students will need to know how to implement the writing process through an expository mode and how to demonstrate their knowledge of basic grammar skills through their writing. If composing a news release is an authentic task and it requires the students to apply their expository writing skill, the news release becomes the product by which the students can demonstrate their skills and abilities. Key questions to consider would include: Does the material support multiple opportunities for students to experience the content? Is it engaging to the student? Does it allow for multiple learning styles? Is technology available for use with or in lieu of the hardcopy material? Is the reading level appropriate for students?
Step 5: Providing the Rationale. An assessment is only as good as the teacher's understanding of the purpose of the task and why it is an effective assessment of the desired proficiencies. Students also need to know the rationale for the task, and teachers should take the time to explain it. The purpose for providing a rationale on the assessment worksheet is to help the assessment designers justify their assessment as it relates to the desired performance. If the task lacks relevance or a real-life application, this step in the process will reveal that. Step 6: Describing Specific Knowledge. After designing the task, the teacher must ascertain that the students have all the needed knowledge and skills to perform the task. It may be necessary to review or reteach some portions of the previously selected Common Core standard before introducing the task. In step 6 the assessment designer must identify any knowledge the student will need to complete the assessment successfully. Specifying this knowledge will ensure that all Common Core Standards are delivered to the students prior to student assessment. The task will not elicit quality work if it requires knowledge and skills that the students do not have. It will also result in considerable frustration on the part of the students and the teacher.
Step 7: Defining Performance Criteria. In step 7, the assessment designer defines the performance criteria as they relate to performance expectations. Each of the performance criteria will be measured against the previously established performance standards. The standard levels for each of the criteria (in this case, Excellent, Highly Competent, and Incomplete) must be described for the student. After this is accomplished, the assessment designer has actually created the scoring rubric. Performance Criteria and Levels of Performance Both the performance criteria and the levels of performance should be given to each student when the task is assigned. It is important that students know the criteria and standards governing how they will be assessed before the task is actually initiated. Students will use the criteria as guidelines during the research and preparation of the task. When the task is complete, students will use the performance level descriptions to evaluate their own work and the work of their peers. This kind of assessment strategy communicates to the students at the onset of the assignment exactly what is expected of them in terms of their own performance. It removes subjectivity from grading and helps teachers ensure fairness and equality in their grading practices. Below is an example of performance criteria developed by King and Harrison and their levels of performance for an expository writing assignment based on a Common Core ELA Standard.
Authentic Assessment Performance Criteria by King and Harrison Essential Question 1: Has the writer established a suitably limited subject? IDENTIFIED PERFORMANCE LEVELS LEVEL 3: Student establishes a subject that lends itself well to explanation and is narrow enough to be developed in one paragraph. LEVEL 2: Student establishes a subject that can be explained adequately in one paragraph. LEVEL I: Student establishes a subject that is too general to be explained in one paragraph. Essential Question 2: Has the writer presented a strong topic sentence? IDENTIFIED PERFORMANCE LEVELS LEVEL 3: Student creates a topic sentence that contains a factual. direct statement of the main idea and is not an opinion. LEVEL 2: Student creates a topic sentence that expresses a main idea and is not an opinion. LEVEL I: Student either does not express a main idea in the topic sentence or there is not a topic sentence. Essential Question 3: Does the writer have supporting material that provides facts, examples, or steps in a process? IDENTIFIED PERFORMANCE LEVELS LEVEL 3: Student has supporting materials (facts, examples, details) that thoroughly and specifically develop the topic sentence. LEVEL 2: Student provides supporting material that adequately develops the topic sentence. LEVEL I: Student provides inadequate supporting material. Essential Question 4: Does the paragraph have clear organization? IDENTIFIED PERFORMANCE LEVELS LEVEL 3: Student arranges the supporting information so that it will present the explanation clearly and effectively in a logical order. LEVEL 2: Student arranges the supporting information appropriately in a logical order. LEVEL 1: Student has no apparent organization for the supporting information. Essential Question 5. Does the writer provide the reader with unity? IDENTIFIED PERFORMANCE LEVELS LEVEL 3: Student has included only those sentences that clearly relate to the topic sentence. LEVEL 2: Student has occasionally included details that are unrelated or unnecessary. LEVEL I: Student has frequently included information that does not support the main idea; therefore. the paragraph lacks unity. Essential Question 6: Does the writer provide the reader with transitions? IDENTIFIED PERFORMANCE LEVELS LEVEL 3: Student has effectively used transitions to help connect ideas smoothly and logically. LEVEL 2: Student has used a few transitions. LEVEL I: Student has not used transitions.
Essential Question 7. Does the writer have a strong concluding sentence? IDENTIFIED PERFORMANCE LEVELS LEVEL 3: Student creates a concluding sentence that successfully captures the main idea of the topic sentence but in different words. LEVEL 2: Student creates a concluding sentence that restates the main idea, using many of the same words and phrases. LEVEL 1: Student's paragraph does not have a concluding sentence. Essential Question 8. Was the paragraph edited for errors in grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling? IDENTIFIED PERFORMANCE LEVELS LEVEL 3: Student makes little or no mistakes in: o a grammar o h. usage o c. mechanics (capitalization and punctuation) o d. spelling LEVEL 2: Student makes some mistakes. LEVEL 1: Student makes many mistakes. Resource Links o Authentic Assessment Toolbox o Marzano Research Laboratory: Formative Assessment Standard Based Learning o Understanding by Design Slide Share Presentation o Core for All o The Journal: Are-We-Ready-For-Testing-Under-Common-Core-State-Standards. o On the Road to Implementation: Common Core Standards with Common Sense
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