All In: Are Our Children Learning?
Are our children learning? Are they learning enough? I’ve reflected on those questions continuously over my years as an educator, parent and grandparent. How can we provide answers?
Years ago, when I was a young student, those answers were the sole responsibility of the teacher. My teacher alone decided if my work was passing or failing, excellent or average. Her judgment was determined by whatever combination of tests, quizzes, homework, class participation or other projects she put together to provide a single grade on my report card. The report card communicated to my parents how well I was learning (or not).
To provide information in addition to a teacher’s assessment, schools began to administer common tests to assess student learning. With norm-referenced tests, student scores are now ranked from high to low with the middle score being the “norm.” Criterion-referenced tests, by contrast, align the assessment measures directly to curriculum standards. There are also performance assessments that measure students’ capacity to apply skills and practices connected to content and concepts (for example, writing tasks and problem solving that are incorporated into the ongoing instruction).
Which measure is the most reliable way to determine whether our children are learning and learning enough? The answer is none of them and all of them. That is, no one measure is perfect and consistently reliable; however, looking at multiple measures gives us a much better picture of a student’s learning status and progress. Teacher judgment and school and district assessments, together with external measures at state and national levels, provide a comprehensive set of data that we can use as evidence of student learning.
To help organize the various measures, Montgomery County Public Schools has developed an Evidence of Learning Framework (EOL). This framework of multiple measures allows us to answer learning status questions for individual students, groups of students, classrooms, schools and the district as a whole. In a series of videos, I explain the EOL framework—why we must act, how it supports excellence for all, and how it looks at student milestones and uses multiple measures.
Past practices have shown us that using a single measure or assessment for decision-making can limit many students’ learning opportunities and access. Multiple measures alert us to learning readiness that can be easily missed using a traditional single measure to identify program placement.
I am excited about our EOL framework. It establishes consistent standards for determining student achievement and provides multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate attainment of these standards. In determining overall student learning, the framework incorporates teacher judgment, district curriculum standards, and external state and national assessments. In addition, the framework delivers accountability information for our students, parents, community and ourselves.
In short, the Evidence of Learning framework enables us to answer the questions:
Are our children learning? Are our children learning enough? This will, in turn, give us the ability to ensure that all students have access to the most rigorous curriculum so that they can graduate with options and choices for college and career.