18772761 - Dissolving the Line Between Assessment Ongoing...

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Unformatted text preview: Dissolving the Line Between Assessment Ongoing assessments for learning are a needed complement to standardized testing in early childhood classrooms. Gillian D. McNamee and Jie-Qi Chen n a Head Start classroom in Chicago, a group of children busy themselves in an assortment of learning centers. Mrs. McDonald, the head teacher, invites 4-year- old Hassen to sit next to her at a table, where she has placed a test booklet for the National Reporting System, a high- stakes achievement test being adminis- tered across the United States to all 4- and 5nyear—olds in Head Start. “Point to elbow," Mrs. McDonald instructs Hassen, and he does so correctly. “Point to rewarding," she continues. Hassen looks at the four pictures on the page of the test booklet and points to one—an incorrect answer according to the answer sheet. Mrs. McDonald marks a zero on the score sheet. The test takes about 15 minutes, and Hassen identifies the correct response 67 percent of the time. Later the same day, Mrs. McDonald calls the students to the rug where the class meets as a group. To settle them down, she asks them to choose a book from the classroom library and "read" to themselves for a few minutes. During this quiet reading time, she encourages individual children to pick their favorite book and read it to her. Hassen eagerly raises his hand, clutching Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? He has heard this book read many times and has memorized the words. As he reads the story to Mrs McDonald, Hassen happily chants and rocks his body in rhythm to the phrases: “Brown bear, brown hear, what do you see? 1 see a red bird looking at me. Red bird, red bird, what do you see?lseea. . .a _ . Hassen sneals a look at the next page, then continues, . . I see a yellow duck looking at me.“ While listening to Hassen read, Mrs. McDonald circles Level 4 on a perfor- mance rubric designed for the activity ofa child reading a book aloud. She also jots down a few notes describing Hassen's expressive tone of voice and his hand and eye movements. At Level 4 on this rubric, a students reading is a memorized rendition of the text rather than a true decoding. Hassen’s reading takesjust under two minutes. When hes finished, he looks at his teacher with a big, proud smile. Two Faces of Assessment Mrs. McDonald uses two kinds of assessments in her ciassroom: assess- ments of learning and assessments for 72 EDUCAI‘IOXAL LEADERSHIPINUVFMBER 2005 learning (Earl, 2003). The National Reporting System test she administered is an example of an assessment of learning. Such assessments typically involve a series of tasks developed by testing professionals, with student performance expressed in a quantitative score. The tests tend to be given at the end of a set learning period and aim to evaluate how much a student has learned as a result of instruction. These assessments are usually norm-referenced i or criterion—referenced and are used to ‘ hold learners, teachers, and schools accountable. Assessments of learning have received much attention in the wake of No Child Left Behind and Widespread and Teaching concern about the effectiveness of public education When used approprie ately, such assessments can yield usefttl information for developing programs, making funding decisions, and exanr ining patterns of student achievement. But such one—time testing provides little useful information for curricular devel- opment and classroom teaching, partic- ularly with young children, whose development is sporadic (Raver {Sr Zigler, 2004-}. This is where assessmentsfor learning come in. Assessments for learning improve teaching by showing teachers each student's developing abil» ities in relation to standards, key concepts, and fundamental skills (Earl, G SUSlE FlWHUGH 2003). Like Hassen‘s reading of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, these assessments are authentic and canied out in the context of familiar, meaningful classroom activities. They are also ongoing, repeated as often as the teacher needs additional informa— tion to track a child’s continuing devel- opment, information gained through such performance-based assessments is generally rich and detailed, ripe for use in curriculum planning. Yet assessments for learning have their challenges, too. Observation and documentation are at the heart of these assessments, but teachers are not always sure what to observe and docu— ment. A further challenge for teachers is how to use the insights gained through ongoing observation of chil~ dren's strengths and weaknesses to enhance curriculum and instruction. The Bridging Assessment Process What [5 Bridging? One example of an effective assessment for learning in the early grades is the Bridging assessment system, which we have developed as part of our work at the Erikson Institute. Bridging measures young students’ performance on 19 curriculum-embedded activities that signal readiness to learn in five key curricular areas The assessment package includes descriptions of each activity, detailed rubrics and recording sheets for each activity, and suggestions for teachers on how to extend and expand children’s learning in each The Bridging activities draw on a range of skills, giving children many Opportunities to become engaged in school. curricular area (Chen, McNamee, Masur, McCray, & Melendez, 2005}. During the last five years, about 300 prekindergarten through 3rd grade teachers in the Chicago Public Schools have participated in a yearlong profes« sional development seminar on using the Bridging assessment system. The participating teachers meet once a month. They learn the theories that anchor Bridging, strategies for imple- menting activities in the classroom, ways to assess and analyze students performances on the activities, and ways to translate these results into improved teaching and learning. Because seminar sessions span the course of a school year, teachers can try out various assessment activities in their classrooms, bring the results back to the seminar for analysis and reflec» tion, and return to the classroom with new ideas. Over the course of the year, teachers learn how to dissolve the line dividing assessment and teaching. The Bridging system has also been AthiLlAflON' FOR SL'f‘ERVlSiON AND (:L‘RRILL'Lth DEVELOPMENT 73 _—l Information gained through performance- based assessments is generally rich and detailed, ripe for use in curriculum planning. translated into Chinese and used successfully in early childhood programs in Beijing, Nanjing, and Shanghai, China. We are now in the process of publishing the Bridging materials and a training manual Assessments for learning that are based in authentic classroom activities help teachers remember the rich oppor— tunities for learning inherent in such everyday tasks as looking at a book, dramatizng stories, and working with pattern blocks. Such assessment complements standardized tests and gives us ground-level insight into what children are learning day to day. The 19 activities of Bridging, for example, cover five curricular areas: language arts and literacy, visual arts, mathematics, science. and performing arts, Within each of the five curricular areas, the activities draw on a range of skills, providing children with many opportunities to become engaged in school. This breadth of coverage enables teachers to see children from multiple perspectives. Many teachers are surprised as students reveal previr ously unseen strengths and interests. One teacher remarked, I couldn’t believe it when I saw Omar‘s pattern block pictures. They are elabol rate, colorful, and imaginative. Right now he is more skilled in using this medium to express ideas than he is using paper and penctl. Another teacher marveled at a student’s movement: Takane made. my day today He always looks sad and depressed. But in the Bridging Moving to Music activity, he demonstrated exceptional under- 74 EMULAIIUNAI LFADFR5Hll‘thH’tVllll'R 2005 O "OHM F3001 standing of rhythm, moving body pans and changing tempo in concert Willi the music. Seeing how much he enjoyed dancrng, two girls wanted to dance with him and that made him smile even more! Learning Profiles and Rubrics The Bridging system enables teachers to create an ongoing individual learning profile for each student, showing the students performance on each assess- ment activity (see fig. 1). A comparison with other students learning profiles reveals each child's unique and often uneven pattern of development across the curricular areas. Teachers can begin to consider how to further develop each student‘s strengths and use those strengths as a point of entry to address areas in which the child is less experi« enced. This focus on the individual is partic- ularly powerful for understanding chil» dren who are considered troubled or difficult. Omar‘s teacher, for example, built on Omar‘s newly revealed spatial ability by extending it to more complex explorations of blocks, math manipula- tives, puzzles, and even abstract paint- ings. Takarie‘s teacher drew on the rhythmic similarity between music and language to help develop his language skills, engaging Takarie in learning nursery rhymes by adding improvised music and beats. The whole class became excited about the activity and joined in. Both these students progressed because their teachers achieved a more complete picture of their abilities by assessing them in diverse curricular areas. For each Bridging activity, we have developed a lOAlevel rubric that places key concepts and skills for children ages 3~8 on a developmental continuum, We based these rubrics on research and verified their validity through field tests. For example, the rubric for the Child Picks 3 Book FIGURE 1. Sample Bridging Assessment Learning Profile Rubric Levels Language Arts 8: Literacy Visual Arts Science Performing Arts This individual learning profile shows a 4-year-old student's performance on 18 of the 19 Bridging assessment's tasks (student did not perform estimation). The student’s performance on each task was assessed on a 0-10-point scale (figure displays levels 0-8 only). activity that Hassen participated in is based on the stages of pretend reading developed by Sulzby (1985) and work by Fountas and Pinnell in guided reading (1996). These rubrics help teachers locate a student‘s current level oi development with regard to the key concepts and skills for the activity and guide teachers in what to look for as the student progresses to the next stage. Each rubric describes performance indica— tors—specific behaviors students demonstrate—for each level. For example, the rubric for the Child Picks 3 Book activity moves from Level 0 (Child Does Not Participate) to Level 10 (Independent Reader). At Level IO, the student is able to read the book fluently with appropriate intonation and with little or no support. Mrs. McDonald placed Hassen‘s reading of his favorite book at Level 4: Reading VerbatimrLike Story. Performance indi— cators for this level are "reading" the text fluently from memory, not being able to decode the print, and looking at pictures or even print to cue memo» rized phrases. Level 5 on the rubric is Initial Attending to Print; at this level, a student shows awareness of letters and words and understands that reading means decoding the print, even though the student cannot decode yet. Although reading development does not proceed in a linear fashion and every child functions on a number of levels at any given time, the Bridging rubric gave Mrs, McDonald specific information about where Hassen was and where he was headed next on the continuum. This knowledge enabled her to confidently select appropriate instructional materials and methods to support his progress. ASSOCIATION FOR SUPERVISION AND CURRICLLL'M DEVELOPMENT 75 Deepening Content Knowledge and Filling in Gaps Most early childhood teachers are trained and respected as education generalists. As generalists. they do not always have the opporttinity to develop in-depth understanding of key concepts in all the foundational content areas. Key concepts are the ideas and princi— ples that are essential to mastering a domain of knowledge. in mathematics. for example. key concepts related to number concept include stable order. one-to-one correspondence, cardinality, order-irrelevance. abstraction. mental number line. part-whole relations. and a grasp of word problems tBaroody, 2004'. Dehaene. 1997). Each Bridging activity is based on key concepts that we drew from nation— ally developed standards for various curricular areas. The Bridging assess— ment manual highlights the relevant COncepts for each activity so that teachers have a framework for conducting the assessment activity. interpreting the results. and revising and implementing curriculum. Many teachers have reported that their increased understanding of key Concepts in different curricular areas has helped them set clearer goals and objectives in the classroom. For example. after assessing Hassen on reading a book aloud. Mrs. McDonald recognized that his memorized recita- tion of his favorite book would give way to an interest in mapping this oral rendition to the written text in the near future. She began to guide his finger so that he pointed to the words on each page as he "read." Assessments like Bridging also help teachers identify gaps in their curriculum. One teacher who used Bridging noticed that almost all her students performed poorly on the number concept activity of estimating. 76 Eur t .»\] ltl.\.3t| She realized that she rarely incorpou rated estimation tasks into her group activities and subsequently added such tasks to her curriculum. Another teacher discovered in the process of charting her students' learning profiles that her class performed better in language areas than in science. She realized that this discrepancy mirrored her ovm strengths and interests. and she worked Willi colleagues to strengthen her scrence curriculum. Because Bridging assessment tasks are familiar classroom activities. teachers can tnore easily integrate their assess- ment findings into everyday teaching. The Power of Assessment for Learning Bridging is an example of an assess— ment for learning that supports teaching and learning while also providing data to track and verify chili dren‘s learning over time The philos- ophy behind assessment for learning is that assessment and teaching should I l'fll‘lillbllll‘fNrH Hiritrt Ztltli o 5rE=AME =Ecirt be integrated into a whole. The power of such an assessment doesn't come from intricate technology or frotn using a specific assessment instru- ment. It comes from recognizing how much learning is taking place in the common tasks of the school day—and how much insight into student learning teachers can mine from this material. References Baroody. A. j. (2004). The developmental bases for early childhood number and operations standards. In D, H. Clements {st}, Sarama (Eds). Engagingyoung chil- dren in mathematics Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaurn. Chem]. Q., McNamee, C... Masur. A.. McCray]. Sr Melendez. L. (2005). Bridging: Assessmentfor' learning and teaching in curly childhood classrooms. Vol. l. Chicago: Enkson Institute. Dehaene. S. (1997l. The number sense: How the mind creates trititlit'intttirs. New York: Oxford Universrty Press. Earl, l.. M. (2003). Assessment as learning: Using classroom assessment to maximize strident learning. Thousand Oaks. CA: Corwin Press. Fountas. l. C.. t3: Pinnell. G. S. (1996). Guided reading; Goodftrsl lE'Yflc'llli‘ig‘fiJl'fllf children. Portsmouth. NH: Heinemann. Raver. C C. LET Zigler. E (2004-) Another step back? Assessing readiness in Head Start. Young Children. 59(1). 58—63, Sulzby, E. (1985, Summerl. Children‘s emergent reading of favorite storybools: A developmental study. Reading Research Quarterly. 458—481. Authors’ note The work presented in this article was supported in part by grants from the Polk Bros. Foundation. McDougal Family Foundation. and Lloyd A. Fry Foundation. Gillian D. McNamee (gmcnamee @erlkson.edul and Jie-Oi Chen lichen @enksonedul are Professors of Child Development and Codirectors of the Bridging Project at the Erikson Institute. 420 N, Wabash Ave” Chicago, IL 60611; 312789377135 Copyright of Educational Leadership is the property of Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. The copyright in an individual article may be maintained by the author in certain cases. Content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. ...
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18772761 - Dissolving the Line Between Assessment Ongoing...

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