Posts Tagged ‘Linda Darling Hammond’

Performance Counts: Assessment Systems that Support High-Quality Learning*

July 15, 2010

Performance Counts: Assessment Systems that Support High-Quality Learning*

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) commissioned this report from Linda Darling Hammond about standards, assessment and teacher evaluation. Educators will find her work relevant and compelling. While it is not the official position of the CCSSO, it will inform the discussion around recommends they make to Congress, the federal Department of Education and to the state departments of education.

The lovely thing about this 16-page white paper is that Darling-Hammond is writing to a policy audience and so the paper includes a highly accessible presentation of technical research findings. More importantly Darling-Hammond imagines a revision of not only standards, but of assessment, teaching and learning—in short, a whole new school system for America that could change the nature of teaching and learning in this country and the culture of work in schools.

As she explains in the forward,

“Contemporary efforts to create a set of common core standards in the United States have been grounded in a desire to create more internationally competitive expectation by benchmarking learning objective to those in high performing nations abroad. The Common Core State Standards Initiative aims for standards that are ‘fewer, higher and deeper,’ based on analyses revealing that higher achieving countries teach fewer topics more deeply each year, focus more on reasoning skills and applications of knowledge and have a well worked out sequence of expectations grounded in developmental learning progressions within domains.” p 2

From the forward by Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers,:

“This white paper describes what a student assessment system could look like if built from the principles and best practices found in current educational research and effective educational systems in the U.S. and high-achieving nations around the world…We believe this paper can be a tremendous resource to states as they design new programs that will engage educators and learners in new and powerful ways. But this will not be a quick fix. This new direction rewrites the rules about assessing students from a top-down concept to a more inclusive engagement of educators and learners in the process.”

Hammond summarizes an important finding about effective U.S. systems and international programs: High achieving systems seek to implement their standards with assessments that measure performance in authentic ways and with intensive teacher engagement throughout the assessment process, as teachers work with others to develop, review, score, and use the results of assessments.

In this report, she summarizes characteristics of effective programs, outlines new responsibilities for states and local education agencies and recommends several broad research based options for transforming teaching and learning in the United States.

*Written by Linda Darling Hammond. A joint project of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE)

Download the report.

Visit the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy.

Read more about the CCSSO.

Accomplished California Teachers Take on Professional Evaluation Issues

June 4, 2010

In the effort to rout ineffective teachers out of the system, teachers’ voices—even voices of some very good teachers—have been shouted down. Yet, what makes an effective teacher (one who can positively affect a student’s academic career) has neither been well-studied, described nor agreed upon, according to a number of studies cited in a new report by the Accomplished California Teachers, or ACT*.

More importantly, how do the good teachers become the best over the tenure of their careers?

At 41 pages, ACT’s report, supported by the National Board Resource Center at the Stanford School of Education and influenced by Linda Darling Hammond, is worth reading for anyone interested in improving teaching and learning in our schools. As the authors state in their introduction:

“We chose to begin here because we believe that without a common understanding of what constitutes teaching quality and how teachers should be evaluated, any further conversation about improving teaching will be inconsequential.”

The report makes concrete recommendations, based on “research, analysis of existing policies, input from academic experts, and our own experiences as promoters of quality teaching” in order to transform teacher evaluation into a tool that could “advance the quality of teaching across California.” (p iii)

Teachers and administrators will recognize many of the challenges and pitfalls identified in the current evaluation system under “what’s wrong with the current system?” including the lack of training and resources for administrators to support a cohesive and useful evaluation system, a focus on compliance rather than improvement, and a perfunctory approach that does nothing to improve instruction. (p 5)

One part of the solution proposed by ACT—a solution that could be put into place now by Professional Learning Communities— is to use the kind of formative assessments that  work for students in the teacher evaluation process. As they say in the report:

“Formative assessment in the hands of a skillful teacher not only helps the teacher keep track of student learning as it unfolds, but it also ensures that students are aware of the goals for their learning, know what constitutes evidence of mastery, and what they need to do to move forward. Unfortunately, few of us experience that kind of sophistication in assessments of our teaching. Teaching assessments are still top-down, superficial, and lacking meaningful feedback and recommendations for growth to the teacher. It is sadly ironic that the kinds of successful teaching practices that both teachers and researchers have identified as effective in promoting student learning are not similarly used to promote teacher learning.” (p 7)

Contrasting case studies (pages 34-35) offer helpful views of evaluation based on compliance versus evaluation processes that promote better teaching.

*Accomplished California Teachers (ACT) is a new teacher leadership network for the state of California funded by the Stuart Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation, and housed under the umbrella of the School of Education at Stanford University.

Visit ACTs blog.

Download the report from ACT

Anthony Cody is a founding member of ACT and an EdWeek blogger. Read Anthony Cody’s post about the report.


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