The Assessment

The Assessment

Instruction and assessment should be one and the same. To drive instruction, all members of a district, not just administrators, must compile and understand data.

[The scenario]

Ms. Heller is giving a test—but you wouldn’t guess it from the energy in her classroom. Students input answers to Ms. Heller’s open-ended oral questions about the new algebra concept with their interactive clickers. In the back of the room, Mr. Lanz, the district’s curriculum administrator, smiles as he records his own observations on his smartphone, which instantly feeds the information into the district’s learning-management system.

Ms. Heller used to get nervous when her principal conducted these classroom walk-throughs at the end of the semester, but now that her school has created the assessment team, which includes teachers, curriculum directors, students, and administrators, she knows that the data collected by the learningmanagement system will be used to support her teaching, not jeopardize her job. When she does get stuck on teaching concepts, she discusses them online with her personal learning network, a team of teachers that has become her go-to source for professional development. She’s also seen her students thrive since her school switched to the open-ended data-collection model. Students don’t even consider these “tests” anymore, just part of their classroom experience that they can add to their digital portfolios.

[Executive Summary]

Mention the year 2014 and many district administrators just shake their heads at the prospect of getting every one of their schools to 100 percent proficiency by this looming date. Most know that the teach-to-the-test model just doesn’t enable schools to prepare 21st-century thinkers. So how do schools transform their teaching and learning when they’re using the same tired paper-and-pencil bubble tests? The answer: They don’t. They throw them out.

Educators are not teaching and/ or assessing; these are the same thing. Assessment is a constant part of the teaching process. By aggregating smart data through online systems that provide real-time snapshots of teachers’ and students’ performance and supporting those data with specific resources, districts can do a better job of ensuring that curriculum will begin to drive assessment rather than assessment drive curriculum.

SchoolCIO Summit attendees identified key steps that schools can take to change NCLB-driven thinking: Build assessment teams so everyone has a voice. Include teachers, administrators, and students. Provide resources for your teachers to help them understand how to interpret data—including someone they feel comfortable talking to about what they don’t know, such as an instructional specialist. Create real-time and online professional-learning groups that teachers can use as a continual resource for development. Create job-embedded PD programs; show teachers not just how to use tech but how to use tech to improve specific classroom lessons. Make data collection a cyclical process. Instead of just having a principal walk through in April, when often it’s too late to make changes, collect curriculum-based assessments (CBAs) that use walk-through data more regularly—and have not just the principals but also the curriculum administrators, the APs, and others use them. These supportive models can remind teachers of why data matter and help them connect these data to the passion that inspired them to pursue teaching careers in the first place.

What They Said

“The weakest argument for why we should analyze data is because it meets NCLB or state standards. For maximum buy-in, leaders must connect data analysis to the major reason teachers entered this profession: to help students learn more. That is (or should be) the real reason why teachers must analyze data. It’s not about NCLB or Race to the Top. It’s all about student learning.”
— Ron Thomas, data coach, Center for Leadership in Education at Towson University, MD

“Classroom teachers must be taught how to interpret and modify instruction based on assessment data. Schools cannot rely on administrators or data committees for this important work. Data analysis is the job of classroom teachers working in teams. Leaders have an essential role, however, in developing the capacity of teachers to use data effectively.”
— Ron Thomas

“In my district, we are focusing on simplicity, clarity, and priority [Schmoker, 2011]. Rather than continuing to throw new programs at our teachers and continuing to have unsuccessful implementations, we are prioritizing on fewer standards/ programs and focusing on them. We are also focusing on common curriculum and assessments and working together in teams [PLC model] to ensure that all students are learning.”
— Jenith Mishne, director of education Technology, Newport-Mesa, CA

Working Group Take-Aways

6 Keys to Effective Data Analysis:

• Promote a culture of trust among and between faculty members and leaders.
• Provide a “compelling direction” for teams to analyze data.
• Have interdependent teams and help them establish and follow an explicit set of (ground rules) that promote collective inquiry and active involvement.
• Provide common planning time, structure, supports, and recognition so that teams can complete their work successfully.
• Permit teams the autonomy they need to act on their decisions based on data.
• Promote internal team accountability for follow through to implement the results of team databased decisions.

SOURCE: Ron Thomas, Center for Leadership in Education at Towson University

Find more take-aways from the School CIO summit in the program vault under (click on “Events”).


Steve Baule
North Boone CUSD 200, IL

Salvador Contes Jr. D
Director of Technology
Poughkeepsie City School District, NY

Charles Gobron
Superintendent of Schools
Northborough-Southborough, MA

Steve Young
Chief Technology Officer
Judson ISD, Texas

Karen Fuller
Chief Technology Officer
Klein ISD, Texas

Peter Griffiths
Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Dayton ISD, Texas

Mike Kuhrt
Dayton ISD, Texas

Jenith Mishne
Director of Education Technology
Newport-Mesa USD, CA

Ronald Thomas
Associate Director
Center for Leadership in Education