The Assessment for Learning Project.
Welcome to the Assessment for Learning Project (ALP) knowledge site!
This is where educator teams in the ALP network share what they are learning. You'll notice that this is not a highly polished website. That is very much on purpose. In true assessment for learning fashion we are sharing our learning as it happens, so that we can reflect and receive feedback to continually deepen and expand our understanding. This site will be continually updated as more resources, stories, and learnings are ready to be shared. It includes not only work that is directly funded by ALP, but also other relevant resources developed by ALP partners.
Consider this less of a toolkit, and more of an invitation to join in our learning.
For more information about ALP, please visit www.assessmentforlearningproject.org or follow us on Twitter, @alpinsights.
An Overview of projects supported by the Assessment for Learning Project
For quick access to resources from each of the ALP projects, click the drop down list in the upper right hand corner.
Below, you will find brief descriptions of each project organized by assessment practice.
Performance Assessment is an approach in which students carry out performance tasks that require them to demonstrate evidence of their learning. High quality performance assessments reflect some combination of the following elements:
- Complex tasks (allowing for multiple correct solutions and requiring higher order thinking)
- Relevant to real-world situations (emphasizing application of knowledge and skills)
- Drawing directly on curriculum content students are learning
- Tasks and rubrics developed collaboratively by teachers
- Teacher evaluation of student work is calibrated to ensure consistency
- The Center for Collaborative Education has designed a series of micro-credentials that allow teachers to lead their own professional development, learning performance assessment by experiencing performance assessment themselves.
- Two Rivers Public Charter School has created a set of K-5 performance assessments for deeper learning that assess problem solving, effective reasoning, and decision-making.
- The Large Suburban & Countywide District Consortium, which includes several of the largest districts in the country, has launched a Performance Assessment Collaborative of five districts who are working together to increase access to high quality performance based assessments.
While many understand formative assessment in terms of WHEN it happens (interim assessments), ALP defines formative assessment by WHY and HOW it happens.
We like the definition adapted by the WestEd SAIL team from Cowie & Bell 1999: "Formative Assessment is defined as the process used by teachers and students to notice, recognize and respond to student learning in order to enhance that learning, during the learning."
Formative assessment practices include student goal setting, clear and transparent success criteria for student work, student self assessment of their work, and specific, actionable feedback from teachers and peers. The following projects focus on formative assessment.
- The WestEd Student Agency in Learning (SAIL) project is exploring how formative assessment practices, especially self assessment and peer feedback, can cultivate student agency and support more equitable learning environments.
- Similarly, educators at Leadership Public Schools are using a Collective Feedback Process in which students can self-assess, give and receive peer feedback, and get feedback from teachers - in ways that empower students to feel safe and respected in their identities.
- The National Writing Project is using a student self assessment tool for source-based writing to deepen cultures of learning in which students view writing as a social process that helps them refine, support, and communicate their ideas.
- Henry County Schools in Georgia has developed a feedback loop used by students and teachers to deepen understanding through rigorous tasks and high quality feedback.
Capstone Projects, Portfolios, and Exhibitions of Learning
When performance assessment and formative assessment are integrated into an extended learning process, it allows students to demonstrate evidence of learning that goes well beyond test scores. This process could be a yearlong community-connected research project. It might be a student-curated portfolio of work that demonstrates mastery of learning objectives. And it often involves an oral presentation or defense with a panel of students, teachers, and/or members of the community.
These integrated assessment approaches prioritize reflection, revision, higher order thinking, and application of knowledge. They are particularly important for broadening the definition of student success beyond core academic content. Schools can use these approaches to create student-centered systems of assessment that include, but are not limited to, test results.
- The Student Led Assessment Network in Virginia includes 12 districts who are collaborating to assess student development of the broader, deeper competencies in the Virginia Profile of a Graduate. To assess these competencies meaningfully, the districts are dramatically increasing student involvement in designing projects that will require them to utilize the competencies.
- The Colorado Education Initiative is helping schools and districts create rigorous high school graduation pathways. With the state's recent proficiency-based diploma requirement, students will be able to demonstrate that they've met graduation requirements through a rich body of evidence of their learning.
- The New Hampshire Learning Initiative is engaging students and teachers in a range of approaches called Collaborative Learning Design. Across the full span of k-12, NHLI is involving students in the design of instructional units and learning exhibitions with integrated assessments, pushing the bounds of what it means to be student-centered.
- And in California, the Learning Policy Institute has launched the California Performance Assessment Collaborative, which includes over 60 schools from across the state. LPI is working intensively with four influential districts to develop robust portfolio defense systems to meet graduation requirements.
Community Engaged Success Definitions
Over the past 25 years, states have moved dramatically closer to a shared understanding of learning expectations in English language arts, mathematics, and science. But both intuition and extensive research show that students need much more than academic mastery to be ready for our diverse and rapidly changing world.
However, expanding the definition of success to include constructs like communication, collaboration, creative problem-solving, citizenship and beyond creates some major challenges. Social-emotional learning is more contextual and harder to measure than academic progress. Debates persist as to what role schools can or should have in developing the character of students. And our current assessment and accountability systems create strong incentives to deprioritize elements of learning that are not tested.
ALP teams are taking on these challenges and showing that they are surmountable when communities are truly engaged in answering the question, "What is school for?"
- In Hawai'i, the state Board of Education has adopted a culturally responsive framework for learning and assessment. The Office of Hawaiian Education is partnering with communities across the state to reflect upon and cultivate learning environments that foster the BREATH or HĀ outcomes (Belonging, Responsibility, Excellence, Aloha or welcoming, Total Well Being, and appreciation of Hawai'ian history and culture.
- In San Diego County, a national hub for the biotech industry, Del Lago Academy has worked with practicing scientists in colleges and industry, alongside students and teachers, to ask the question, "What are the skills and dispositions of an effective practicing scientist?" The result is a dynamic map of performance-based badges that students can earn at school as well as through internships.
- And Summit Public Schools, which has worked over several years to integrate "habits of success" and social-emotional learning into its model, is developing a balanced system for assessing these constructs in ways that both inform program design and also directly impact individual students.
We believe assessment for learning is more than classroom practice. Assessment approaches are deeply entangled with accountability, school ratings, and teacher evaluations. As a result, to create student-centered systems of assessment and to scale assessment for learning with quality, we must influence the systems that shape school and classroom conditions.
In the second phase of ALP, we have identified four broad themes for driving systems change.
Systems Change Theme: Aligning around state policy opportunities
Several of the states where ALP projects are based have policy environments that enable assessment for learning practices. The Phase Two projects in these states are focusing on deepening alignment and collaboration across multiple levels of the system to make transformative changes in learning and teaching.
- New Hampshire Learning Initiative
- Colorado Education Initiative
- Hawai'i Department of Education, Office of Hawaiian Education
Systems Change Theme: Embedding blended professional learning in school/district/state systems
Our learning agenda includes the question: How can educators build capacity to gather, interpret, and use evidence of student learning to enhance instruction? Several grantees are proposing blended models for scaling impact that a) codify Phase One innovations in online learning assets that can be easily scaled, and b) partner with schools and districts to embed these virtual assets in school or district professional learning structures to support quality implementation.
- Center for Collaborative Education micro-credentials
- WestEd Student Agency in Learning (SAIL) project
Systems Change Theme: Deepening & activating networks
Several of the Phase One ALP projects entailed launching multi-district networks focused on scaling up assessment for learning projects. Where these networks were relatively new (Virginia, California), the Phase One projects invested deeply in building network “infrastructure” - the set of shared goals, agreements, processes, and relationships that will make collective impact possible. In Phase Two, these projects are investing in accelerating the change while also ensuring it has deep-seated support and ownership. In several cases, new open education resources are being created to support this acceleration.
- Student Led Assessment Network in Virginia
- The California Performance Assessment Collaborative
- Large Suburban & Countywide District Consortium
- Two Rivers Public Charter School
Systems Change Theme: Post-secondary coherence
Several grantees are interested in improving coherence between high schools and the post-secondary world. While the Common Core sends strong signals to schools about certain dimensions of readiness, many crucial elements of readiness are not directly assessed or even made explicit. The root cause of this is (at least) two-fold: 1) Measurement of competencies beyond academic standards can be difficult, and 2) Some of these competencies (or at least the language used to establish common understandings of the competencies) vary depending on factors like regional industries and local cultural contexts. Several projects are interested in establishing mechanisms to send clearer, more direct, and more responsive signals to high schools about what true readiness entails.