How does focusing on assessment, evaluation,
and curriculum redesign differ from the traditional approach?
In an assessment-focused classroom, the role of the teacher shifts in a number of ways:
The role of the student also changes in assessment-focused classrooms.
| ||The teacher starts the planning of curriculum with a vision of what
he/she intends ALL students to achieve. |
When teaching tenth-grade social studies students about the Civil War, for example, the teacher begins
by specifying what students should be able to do at the end of the unit. For instance, a student who
participates in this unit should be able to present an expert speech with graphic aids about how the
Civil War affected and still affects New York City.
| ||The teacher reviews national and
state standards to ensure that her work fulfills the requirements. |
| ||The teacher should involve students
in the development of criteria for assessment. These may be in the form of checklists or
A rubric for evaluating the student's speech might include: primary and secondary sources are
researched; main points of the speech are noted on slides; student speaks clearly; and student knows
facts to back up her assertions. The scale for evaluating each of these might go from a low of 4 to
a high of 1.
| ||The teacher uses the results of assessment to
plan further instruction. |
If the teacher finds that a student's research skills need polishing, for instance, the teacher can plan
a unit based on finding and consulting primary sources. If the students need to develop better
presentation skills, the teacher might collaborate with the drama teacher on creating a project to
enhance the students' stage presence.
| ||Students have a good idea of what they are expected to accomplish and
how they can demonstrate their knowledge. |
For example, a student researching the Civil War's impact on New York City can direct his efforts
knowing that he needs specific primary sources and graphic images to support a speech.
| ||Students perceive the relationship
between content acquisition, skill proficiency, and assessment opportunities. By setting their sights
on a demonstration, students can more readily see the connections and the relevance of their
A student whose knowledge of the Civil War will be measured solely by a multiple-choice/matching
test, in contrast, may find little intrinsic value in adopting the tools and role of a historian. He
may well devote more energy to reviewing copies of a test provided by students who previously took the
| ||Students work toward
In addition to participating in criteria-setting activities, the student in an assessment-focused
classroom, for instance, might record her observations in a journal. On a field trip to Lower Manhattan, she might
sketch Civil War-era buildings and write reflective notes about how this activity helps her to
understand the historian's role.
The student assumes the role of a researcher and uses critical thinking skills as he or she finds facts and makes inferences to reach more conclusions. They are not receiving information passively and then simply giving it back to the teacher after memorizing it.
A focus on assessment also implies changes in the role of the administrator.
| ||The administrator provides her staff with an overview of assessment
throughout the institution. She might explain how one year leads to the next, how students' strengths
are built on experience, and how one course complements another. She might also delve into how the variety of assessment practices balance each other, and how each course progresses and is developmentally appropriate. Some administrators have adopted a practice called curriculum mapping
involves collecting and publishing a record of what happens in each class during the school year.
This record gives colleagues opportunities to collaborate and support each other in the
assessment-focused design process. |
| ||The administrator adopts an
analogous approach to that of the teacher -- i.e., she begins by defining the desired performance, and sets conditions to facilitate its accomplishment. |
A curriculum director might want classroom teachers to be aware of the math curriculum in the grade
above and below them so that their instruction is part of the school's continuum. The director might
also develop an appropriate activity with the teachers that models the results she desires. She might
also furnish computers with appropriate software and training, and offer time at a staff meeting to
share curriculum maps.
administrator provides guidance in student assessment by ensuring links between classroom practices and standards at the
national, state, and local levels.
An elementary-school principal, for instance, might take a proactive stance toward her state's mastery
testing of the narrative-writing abilities of fourth-grade students by working with second-, third-,
and fourth-grade teachers to provide opportunities for student performance in narrative writing.
The administrators and curriculum
directors initiate and support a dynamic approach to curriculum planning. Scope and sequence
publications are fine for a content-oriented approach to the curriculum and documenting an activity. But they are too static for an assessment-focused curriculum. |
An assessment-focused curriculum director, for example, updates the curriculum frequently. She
supports the idea that curricular change grows from an examination of assessment results. She develops
a structure where educators understand that the goal is continual improvement in students'
The administrators must reevaluate their views about staff development. They must allow for common preparation times so teachers can plan curricula together; allocate more money for substantive staff development and training; and facilitate discussions and work as a collaborator. Administrators need to do more parent education about different forms of assessment. Many still think that testing is the only way, and they don't understand portfolios. Administrators also need to support what teachers do in classrooms, especially when/if parents complain.