Non-Tested Grades and Subjects: The Critical Step for Success
Interview With Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Lilian Lowery
"What is the role for practitioners (teachers) in designing solutions?"
Non-Tested Grades and Subjects: Take Action in the Beginning
Hope Street Group cannot stress enough the need to begin developing quality educator assessments at the very beginning of the planning process of a new evaluation system. The most difficult and time-consuming aspect of building a new evaluation program for most states will likely be designing assessments that are fair and comparable across all grades and subjects. The majority of teachers fall into the wide category of the non-tested subjects and grades (NTGS) — ranging from fine arts to early education to foreign languages.
NTGS development is also an opportunity to engage and deeply involve educators in the evaluation reform process by seeking their input and expertise in the design of new assessments.
The assessment challenge presents states with a unique opportunity to engage a cross-section of educators from an array of content areas to define a new process that will be both fair and hold all teachers to the same high standard. At the same time, states need to be fully prepared for the extremely difficult task of creating quality assessments for all teachers across all subjects and grades. It could take several months or years develop and pilot assessments. Delaware and Tennessee are both still working hard to develop reliable models to assess all teachers. Some states have underestimated the time and financial resources it would take to create assessments. Again, swift action is critical on this front.
- Which teachers fall into the category of the NTGS areas?
- How have they been evaluated in the past?
- What improved method to evaluate them will work best in the state?
- How will the NTGS assessments co-exist with the already tested grades and subjects?
- What have been the processes other states have used to develop fair and reliable assessments for all teachers and which might be useful in my state?
- What do the assessments look like in other states that have already implemented reforms?
- How can policymakers engage as many educators as possible from across the state to help define this new process?
- How will policymakers explain the goals and the details of new assessment systems to stakeholders to put concerns at ease?
- Does the state have a path with a realistic to developing fair and reliable assessments in time for implementation?
- Do policymakers fully grasp the challenges and the difficulties of developing quality assessments for evaluation programs?
- What type of financial resources are available to support the creation of fair and comparable assessments and how best can those resources be used?
- Make developing quality assessments a priority on day #1 of the planning process and take swift action to begin designing tests.
- Identify which educators will need relevant student-assessment data and which grades and subjects will need assessments.
- Estimate the financial resources that will be required to design the assessments and plan accordingly.
- Examine how other states have tackled the NTGS to see if a similar approach would work in your state. There is no need to reinvent the wheel if it’s not necessary.
- Explore various types of assessments states are considering, such as Student Learning Objectives or student portfolio samples.
- Assign a team or teams to begin creating assessments across all grades and subjects in the necessary categories. Provide the working groups with clear direction and guidance.
- Involve as many teachers as possible in the process. Tennessee assigned 12 teams including hundreds of teachers to create assessments in the various NTSG areas. Delaware appointed over 400 teachers in 35 content areas to design assessments across all grades and subjects.
- Establish a clear and realistic timeline for the working groups to develop assessments -- with enough time to pilot the proposals to ensure success -- before implementation.
- Develop communications strategy to share the goals and details of the process for developing assessments with stakeholders, and to recruit teachers to help with design.
- Pilot proposals and address issues or problems prior to widespread implementation.
- Keep working group(s) in place to correct issues and address problems during piloting and after full implementation for continuous improvement of the assessment systems.
- Consider the costs associated with the effort -- such as hiring technical advisers or covering teacher release time -- and budget accordingly.