Assessment of and for Student Learning Narrative Essay

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Assessment of and for Student Learning

Narrative Essay
Dartmouth High School recently developed school-wide rubrics but has yet to develop a formal process to assess student and whole-school progress in achieving its 21st century learning expectations. Administrators, lead teachers, and instructional coaches drafted four school-wide rubrics to assess students’ abilities to set goals, communicate, analyze, and problem-solve effectively. The rubric for assessing academic goal setting has been used in all Freshman Seminar classes, and the results are communicated to families at the end of semesters. A handful of teachers have piloted the remaining rubrics and have provided valuable suggestions to improve their usefulness in evaluating student mastery of the 21st century learning expectations. The Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) has grappled repeatedly with how to revise DHS rubrics to make them applicable to all classes in all content areas, and an increasing number of teachers have tried to apply them to the work that their students do, both formatively and summatively. Despite these efforts, the faculty at Dartmouth High School has yet to agree upon and implement school-wide rubrics, and a formal process to assess student achievement of our 21st century learning expectations remains a goal rather than an accomplishment.

The Dartmouth High School professional staff continuously communicates individual student progress to students and their families, however progress towards the school’s 21st century learning expectations is not currently shared. With the exception of the academic planning expectation that is assessed in the required Freshman Seminar classes, student progress toward achieving our 21st century learning expectations is not yet formally assessed at Dartmouth High School. Therefore, students’ progress towards achieving these expectations cannot yet be communicated to families or the community. Student progress with academic planning and goal setting is assessed in Freshman Seminar, and the results are sent home with student report cards. Each year, a school committee meeting is devoted to a data presentation of MCAS, SAT, and AP results in an effort to share the school’s progress with the community. Once a formal method of evaluating the school’s 21st century learning expectations has been established, we will be able to share these results through the school committee data meeting.

The Dartmouth High School professional staff collects, disaggregates, and analyzes data to respond to inequities in student achievement. Dartmouth administrators hold an annual data PowerPoint presentation each September which the entire faculty attends. MCAS results are disaggregated and analyzed so teachers are aware of both students’ strengths and weaknesses. The Special Education Department then uses this data to identify which special education students are in need of additional tutoring during their academic support class. Another data presentation is made at a school committee meeting each year in which MCAS, SAT, and AP data is shared with the community at large. This information is used by each content department to adapt instructional methods. Data collected from the PSAT scores is used to identify potential AP students. More regularly, each department uses biweekly PLC common planning time to review student work and adjust instruction based on results. At the end of each semester, departments meet to make modifications to the common final exams that will be administered. After the final exams are taken by students, the staff follows a specific protocol to review the results and makes changes (both to the exam and to instructional practices) where needed.

In a variety of ways, teachers at Dartmouth High School communicate the 21st century learning expectations and unit-specific learning goals to students prior to each unit of study. The 21st century learning expectations are displayed in a poster that hangs in all classrooms. The 21st century learning expectations can also be found on the district website so that students, parents, and the community are aware of the goals and objectives for learning. At the beginning of each unit, teachers share specific content and skill objectives with their students. According to the Endicott Study, approximately 62% of students and 63% of parents agree that these expectations are clearly communicated to the students prior to each unit. Some teachers provide students with a handout at the beginning of each unit, while others write the agenda, objectives, and skills on the board. Many include the content objectives and essential questions on the first slide of each PowerPoint presentation. Many classrooms have bulletin boards devoted to listing the objectives and skills. In some math classes, students begin each unit with a rubric that provides a clear guideline of the 21st century academic expectations for problem-solving. Many teachers maintain class websites that post objectives and unit-specific learning goals. Students are aware that these rubrics are used to assess their work throughout the duration of the course. Additionally, many teachers review these expectations on a daily basis, so expectations and goals are clear to students at all times.

Students at Dartmouth High School are frequently provided with rubrics prior to summative assessments. According to the results of the Endicott Study approximately 74% of the students agree that they are provided with the necessary rubric prior to a summative assessment. The English Department provides clear expectations to students for most written assignments in the form of rubrics and exemplars of prior practice. Similarly, the social studies department provides rubrics prior to various projects and provides clarification on each requirement and exemplars of past student work. World language classes consistently provide rubrics to guide students for writing and speaking assignments, while business courses provide students with detailed rubrics when their classes begin large projects. In some math courses, the same rubric is used repeatedly, from unit to unit, ensuring students have a clear understanding of the expectations of the assessment. The DHS Unified Art and Physical Education Departments also provide rubrics to their students with clear expectations outlined.

Teachers regularly employ a range of assessment strategies, including formative and summative assessments, in each unit of study in all content areas. According to the Endicott Survey, 82.1% of teachers feel that they frequently utilize a variety of formative and summative assessments that combine course content requirements with 21st century skills. Examples of formative assessments include debates, mock test practice, short reading quizzes, focused close reading assignments, “Tickets to Leave,” quick writes and “Brain Bursts.” These assessments allow teachers and students alike to quickly assess understanding.

In addition to traditional paper and pencil tests, students are challenged to display mastery of subject matter in a variety of summative assessments that address diverse learning styles and interests. In social studies, debates, presentations, simulations and Socratic Seminars hone public speaking skills while actively applying content knowledge. Students engage in analyzing real world uses for math in a career project. World language assessments combine language, art and cultural understandings. Students in English language arts classes write research papers that make thematic connections between literature and contemporary society. In addition to art projects, unified art students practice self-assessment and writing skills as they reflect on their work. Some world history students create a French Revolution-era newspaper to demonstrate their understanding of the period while some U.S. history classes film 1950’s style sitcoms. Students connect to the real world of work while demonstrating mastery of technology and business through a poster making contest judged by the school community, and by a job applicant role play. Internships and portfolio assignments are assigned under the direction of the DHS Guidance Department. Physical education and health classes engage and assess students through a variety of assignments with students analyzing healthy decisions and living an active lifestyle at the forefront of instruction. Many assessments in these classes allow students to share their learning in a creative way, such as crafting informative posters about cyber-bullying pamphlets and domestic violence.

Teachers collaborate regularly in formal ways on the creation, analysis, and revision of formative and summative assessments, including common assessments. At Dartmouth High School, teachers have been given professional development time to analyze, revise and create formative and summative assessments, including common assessments.

Professional development opportunity focusing on literacy has been a high priority for the faculty at Dartmouth High School. There was an initiative to support literacy across the curriculums using instructional strategies from Thinkquiry Toolkit 1. This book provided teachers with many new formative assessment techniques for student learning. Teachers regularly reported out their successes. The administrative team coordinated professional development using literacy consultants Katanna Conley and Arnold Clayton, who worked closely with lead teachers to provide training for the entire faculty. These literacy strategies have been implemented in both formative and summative assessments by individual classroom teachers and across all disciplines.

Teachers spent numerous PLC meetings over the course of the past three years to implement common final exams. Currently at least two PLC meetings (one before and another after the finals) are devoted to revising the finals and analyzing student results. When analyzing these results, teachers use a data analysis form to guide the discussion. As a result, teachers are able to identify areas of students’ strengths and weaknesses and modify curriculum and instruction to improve achievement. By going through this process each semester for the past three years, it has become common practice and part of the culture at Dartmouth High School to regularly create, analyze and revise formative and summative assessments to improve student outcomes.

Teachers consistently provide specific, timely and corrective feedback to ensure students revise and improve their work. In the majority of mathematics classes, teachers structure classroom discussion around conceptual understanding as a way to correct students’ misunderstandings. Students problem solve collaboratively, giving the teacher the opportunity to observe and provide immediate corrective feedback. Teachers in the Math Department provide a formative assessment of core concepts to allow students to make mistakes, receive corrective feedback and master the correct method prior to the summative assessment. The Science Department provides regular opportunities for students to revise and improve their work. Often students are provided with a rubric to guide their writing. In turn, teachers provide feedback toward a revision. In some cases students are given retakes of power standard quizzes after the teacher has assessed the initial results and made appropriate adjustments. Another method for allowing students to assess their own weaknesses and improve their work is a quiz they correct collaboratively.

Across the Social Studies Department, teachers provide students with timely feedback on written assignments and allow revisions and improvements prior to the final product. This is done in a variety of ways; one example is the use of where students are evaluated on the originality of their thoughts and their teacher inputs comments and corrections. Another example is the use of individual student/teacher conferences focused on ways to improve the student’s essay. In many English classes students are provided with a rubric to guide their essay writing and are given the opportunity to submit two drafts; one is peer-edited and the other is teacher-edited. The Unified Arts Department uses rubrics to allow for student self-reflection as well as teacher assessment. Students read their teacher’s suggestions then revise and resubmit their work. Many unified arts classes also use “gallery walks” in which students hang their work so their peers can offer comments and suggestions using post-it notes.

Many teachers incorporate formative assessment into all units of study to inform and adapt their instruction for the purpose of improving student learning. Both the Social Studies and English Departments frequently use short quizzes, warm-ups and tickets-to-leave, all designed to efficiently gauge student learning. Teachers then use this information to determine what content needs to be retaught and which skills need to be further practiced in the following days before the summative assessment. In some math classes, each unit contains two types of formative assessment: a short quiz containing recent homework questions which the teacher marks and returns to the students to make corrections, and a “sample test” of core concepts given at least two days prior to the summative unit test—again marked and returned for corrections. In some science classes, teachers often use the results of short quizzes to form groups based on areas in which students need further instruction. The Unified Arts Department uses “quick writes” in order to determine how well students understand the concepts they are working on.

Teachers and administrators, individually and collaboratively, examine a range of evidence of student learning for the purpose of revising curriculum and improving instructional practice. Teachers consistently work together to analyze student work, revise instructional practices, and develop common formative and summative assessments. Much progress has been made in these areas, though sometimes a lack of adequate common planning time slows the pace of change.

In courses with multiple teachers, DHS administers a common standardized assessment (final exam) that is analyzed, revised and adapted collaboratively by grade level. The revision process involves teachers annotating exams based on the data generated from the finals. During the annotation process teachers edit questions that are clumsily worded or are unclear to students. More importantly, teachers analyze areas that students perform poorly on and then discuss and implement alternative strategies that could be used throughout the course to improve student learning.

A review of student performance on standardized assessments (PSAT, SAT, MCAS, common final exams) is used to determine instructional and curricular weaknesses. The reviews are also used to identify students who need interventions and supplemental classes. This year, each teacher was provided with an item analysis of their classes’ MCAS results. Some teachers, especially in the Math and English Departments, use this information to modify their instructional practices. DHS also administered the STAR Math and Reading exams to all students for the first time this fall and will retest students two more times before the end of the school year. This data will provide teachers with another tool to measure student learning and adapt curriculum and instruction accordingly.

Dartmouth High School does not currently receive data from receiving schools and post-secondary institutions. Data from sending schools is used by guidance staff as part of the transition process for new students to provide necessary placement, as well as to implement possible support services as needed. Survey data from current students is limited to the Naviance graduation survey; a formal process for surveying alumni is not in place.

Dartmouth High School employs a continuous process to review and revise grading and reporting practices, though schoolwide rubrics are not currently a required component in grading students’ work. As a result, Dartmouth’s grading practices are not tightly aligned with the core values and beliefs about learning. The administration at both the high school and the superintendent’s office developed a plan using a modern grading system that allows students and families to see formal grades throughout all the schools in the district. These were discussed in school committee meetings and were shared on local access television and the school’s web site. Revisions to the weighting of grades for standard, honors and advanced placement levels at the high school were discussed at faculty meetings in the high school, identifying and addressing a need in the school to weight the grades more appropriately. On the first day of school, administrators communicated these handbook changes to the students. Electronic versions of the handbook can be found on the school’s web site.

Dartmouth High School is currently in the process of developing a system in which our school-wide rubrics will be formally used and the results shared on quarterly report cards. As we have not yet systematically implemented the use of school-wide rubrics for measuring achievement of 21st century learning expectations, review and revision of grading policies based on these rubrics is not practiced at this time. The increasing use of formative and common summative assessments has facilitated discussions of grading policies and practices within some departments, but a formal or regular process for aligning grading practices with the school’s core values and beliefs is not yet a reality.

Executive Summary

Assessment of and for Student Learning

While much work still needs to be done, Dartmouth High School has made significant strides in the past several years to improve assessment of and for student learning. Over the course of the past year, teachers and administrators developed school-wide common rubrics to measure student and whole-school progress in achieving its 21st century learning expectations. These rubrics have been piloted in many classrooms and will become a bigger part of assessment in November 2013. A formal method of collecting data from the rubrics’ use has yet to be agreed upon and implemented. As a result, Dartmouth High School does not yet share progress towards the school’s 21st century learning expectations.

Over the past several years the administration and staff has improved their methods of collecting, disaggregating, and analyzing data to respond to inequities in student achievement. Two annual meetings are held to review MCAS, SAT, and AP results. More regularly, bi-weekly PLC meetings allow teachers to review student work, as well as results of common summative final exams and adjust curriculum and instruction where needed. This time is also used to share and create various types of formative and summative assessments.

It is important to the teachers at DHS that students have clear expectations before each unit of study and summative assessment. Many teachers post their objectives on the board, while others provide a handout. When assigning papers or projects, most teachers provide a detailed rubric and show exemplars to ensure students success. Students can expect to receive specific and timely feedback on their work, as well. Some classes allow students to retake summative exams, while others require drafts of written assignments to be submitted prior to receiving a final grade.

Teachers regularly use a wide array of both formative and summative assessments to provide students with numerous ways of demonstrating their mastery of skills and content. Formative assessments such as “tickets to leave,” quick writes, review games, and mini-quizzes allow teachers to quickly determine what students know and what students need to be retaught. Summative assessments vary greatly from unit to unit in many courses. In addition to traditional objective tests, students are assessed using presentations, essays, research papers, debates, and simulations.
Based on the Rating Guide the Assessment of and for Student Learning Committee judges its adherence to the Standard as DEFICIENT.


  • Courses use a wide array of both formative and summative assessments to gauge students’ mastery of skills and content knowledge.

  • Use of multiple rubrics and exemplars ensure that students have a clear understanding of expectations.

  • Bi-weekly PLC meetings allow for the regular analysis of student work.

  • Common final summative assessments administered each semester provide teachers with an opportunity to realign curriculum and adjust instructional techniques.

  • The Aspen online gradebook allows both students and parents to regularly monitor student performance.


  • A formal process is necessary to assess student and whole-school progress in achieving 21st century learning expectations.

  • An effective method needs development to communicate 21st century learning expectations to students and their families.

  • Common unit assessments need to be developed in each course.

  • Permanent, regularly scheduled common planning time that does not interrupt teaching time should be implemented.

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