Monday, November 14, 2011

Revision of Model Curriculum Units, Curriculum Embedded Performance Assessments

[This is the second post on Massachusetts Race to the Top Revision of Model Curriculum Units by a collection of 200 teachers on October 25th and 26th]

Taking a test at the Real Estate Investing CollegeAfter receiving a wonderful introduction to "genre-based pedagogy" from Meg Gebhard (see previous post), teachers transitioned into a second workshop on Curriculum Embedded Performance Assessments* (CEPAs from here on out). This is an exciting shift or broadening of the concept of student assessment in the state of Massachusetts and is an attempt to grapple with the following charge of Barak Obama:
“I am calling on our nation’s Governors and state education chiefs to develop standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking, entrepreneurship and creativity.” -President Barack Obama, March 10, 2009
What will this actually look like at this scale? How will governors and state education chiefs develop an accountability system that incorporates performance assessments that happen within the curriculum throughout the school year?  Where to start?  Massachusetts is starting with teachers.  In the U.S. the "beyond-the-bubble-sheet-assessment" has been done locally day-in and day-out by teachers, and to many teachers their day-to-day assessment of learning is far richer than a single two hour session that assesses students primarily via bubble sheet responses.

Each of the model curriculum units created by committees of teachers representing each discipline will incorporate a CEPA.  CEPAs are tasks or series of tasks integrated with curricula that require students to use their knowledge and skills to effectively create products or performances that demonstrate their understanding and ability.  These tasks will take place during and after relevant instruction, can include multiple tasks, and may take up to several days or even weeks to complete. The following is a further list† of possible design principles at play that focus on the "assessment" function of CEPAs:

  • –  Should include both formative and summative components
  • –  Should directly relate to classroom instruction so that it will lead to a greater understanding of the covered topic(s)
  • –  Will be subject-specific, but should incorporate other subject areas when appropriate
  • –  Should result in multiple, individually-produced, scorable products (there will be group work as well, but this would be scored locally)
    –  Should include assessment of communication skills and research 

Clearly this change will not assuage some engaged in the reform debate around assessment, but it definitely marks an inclusion of student performance that can be welcomed by many.  These assessments may be based on multiple products done individually and in groups that may include videos, business proposals, presentations, portfolios and the list of other products go on and on.  Much of the design framework used to develop these performance assessments are grounded in the training provided by Jay McTighe around his GRASPS format from Understanding by Design as well as the ongoing work in cohorts of Massachusetts' schools by Building Quality Performance Assessments Initiative.

The development of CEPAs within the model curriculum units are works in progress from their final look and feel, scope, pilots, implementation, local and statewide scoring, etc.  Despite the considerable list of items that remain to be figured out, it is a fascinating and new adventure that has been spawned by the common core standards and the funding provided by Race to the Top.  I am hopeful that this will lead to students demonstrating their learning both through the bubble sheet and a diversity of performances that occur within their classroom.  I am hopeful that the inclusion of teachers in the design, piloting, and implementation of model curriculum units will lead to a strong foundation for the future of this new endeavor in Massachusetts.

*Through a Looking Glass: Lessons Learned and Future Directions for Performance Assessment
Balanced, Multilevel ScienceAssessment Systems:A Massachusetts Perspective

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