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Teaching is the Core grant update

March 30, 2015—Guilderland Central School District is participating the Teaching is the Core (TiTC) grant through a consortium of 12 districts, led by Capital Region BOCES and funded through a $399,946 grant from the New York State Education Department. The initiative aims to thoughtfully review and improve assessments in consortium districts to ensure they inform instruction and support learning goals. The grant is funding activities from Sept. 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 and was one of 31 awarded statewide.

An assessment review team from GCSD consisting of classroom teachers and administrators has been participating in ongoing training and professional development with the 11 other consortium districts (Cohoes, Mohonasen, Niskayuna, North Colonie, Schalmont, Schoharie, Scotia-Glenville, Shenendehowa, South Colonie, Voorheesville and Watervliet). The training is led by Learner-Centered Initiatives (LCI), an international education consulting firm devoted to helping schools achieve deep and lasting improvements in educational practices and student learning, and supported by data-driven instruction coaches at Capital Region BOCES.

Through this training, the assessment review team has gained knowledge about effective assessments, developed rating criteria to guide an audit of existing assessments, used those criteria to examine current practices and identified assessments to maintain, eliminate, modify or create based on those evaluations.

"The participating team of educators from Guilderland has been working on creating two new assessments that will be implemented in the 2015-16 school year, " said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. Demian Singleton. "They will be an Algebra 1 performance based assessment focused on understanding exponential curves and an elementary assessment focused on written response to reading. Students will be asked to analyze characters and will prepare portfolios about the character so that they can teach a class mate."

Both GCSD groups will complete a “Level 0” analysis of created assessments. A Level 0 analysis entails teams of teachers working collaboratively to through the assessment activities and identifying what works and what does not. The groups will then edit the assessments and send them to BOCES for final review.

While only a portion of the district’s assessments were reviewed during the 10-month grant period, the establishment of a meaningful assessment review process will allow Guilderland to review additional assessments in the future, and identify and implement improvements.

“The assessment review process has given participants an opportunity to take a close look at assessments in the district and consider how their current systems can be improved to better inform instruction and reflect student learning,” said Kim Nugent, Capital Region BOCES data-driven instruction coach.

In the next phase of the grant program, the district team will collaborate with LCI and through peer networks with other district assessment review teams to develop and implement an action plan for strengthening assessment practices.

The team has received training in assessment design that examines alignment with learning standards, rigor and consistency – both within grade levels and vertically from grade to grade. By exploring diverse assessment techniques and best assessment practices, the consortium aims to foster educator networking and the establishment of a process that can be replicated with other assessments in future years.