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Three EL Education Schools Join Forces to Measure Deeper Learning Skills

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    April Hattori

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    Just a test

How can schools measure deeper learning skills such as critical thinking and problem solving?

Two Rivers Public Charter School, an EL Education Credentialed School in Washington D.C., recently kicked off a yearlong exploration of the question with a group of local schools, including two others in the EL Education network: Capital City Public Charter School (also an EL Credentialed School) and Mundo Verde Public Charter School.

Throughout the year, the Deeper Learning Assessment Cohort will hold three convenings which will focus on different themes: aligning instruction by integrating thinking routines in teaching practices; using classroom data to calibrate measurement of student learning; and sharing their learning in presentations at an Evening of Learning symposium in March 2019.  

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(L to R) : Rachel Owens (Two Rivers), Katie Mancino (TR), Meghan Sanchez (TR), Ama Teasdel (TR), Dominique Coote (Capital City), Victor Martinez (Mundo Verde), Gabriela Covarrubias (MV), Jacob Fishbein (CC), Berenice Pernalete (MV), Carolina Riveros-Ruenes (TR), Monica Powell (TR), Jeff Heyck-Williams (TR)

(Sitting): Susan Freye (TR), Molly France (TR), Cara Littlefield (TR), Khizer Husain (TR)  

Jeff Heyck-Williams, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Two Rivers, noted that his school has been on a multi-year journey to develop reliable performance assessments of deeper learning concepts. “These outcomes sit at the heart of our mission and EL Education’s dimensions of student achievement. If we are serious about helping students get better at them, we need ways of describing what these skills look like and language for providing feedback to students.”

He added that Two Rivers has created a series of rubrics and aligned performance assessments that help them determine where students are in their development of cognitive skills and how well they can transfer the skills from the setting in which they learned them to novel scenarios.  At the launch of the Deeper Learning Assessment cohort in July, Two Rivers shared an overview of what the school has learned so far with presentations by teachers in 1st grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade on how its building blocks were used in practice. Cohort members are adapting/adopting/creating rubrics and tasks for their own use during the school year.

“Through this cohort, we hope to deepen student-engaged assessment practices to embrace learning beyond just mastery of skills and knowledge,” Heyck-Williams said.

Berenice Pernalete, Instructional Guide at Mundo Verde, said her team is excited to learn new techniques to identify and assess the parts of their curriculum that are not always easy to verbalize. “As a dual-language EL Education school with a focus on sustainability, we have a big mission. We often grapple with how to best design a teacher development program that builds capacity in the various aspects of our model,” Pernalete said.

By participating in this program, Mundo Verde will develop its ability to communicate an instructional strategy and lead its teachers in honing their skills in operationalizing that strategy in classrooms. “We believe this will support our students as each of them builds upon our deeper learning competencies,” Pernalete said.

Jacob Fishbein, Director of Instruction at Capital City, said the cohort will enable his team to learn from others who share their commitment to finding new, innovative ways of measuring the immeasurable. “As educators, there are many qualities that we believe are essential for learning but we often struggle to clarify. We believe that developing reliable assessments for deeper learning will allow us to develop stronger curricula and instructional practices that are able to better balance students’ development of critical standards along with their development of qualities that aren’t so discrete.”