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CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.

Great Work in Oregon

Flying back from Oregon last month, I found myself marveling at how quickly and unexpectedly we can find ourselves in the position to do great work in education. Not to go all “inside baseball” on you, but in the spring we – CCE – found ourselves talking with the folks at the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) about a plan to develop Performance Assessment Demonstration Sites in the state. This turned out to be seven schools that were especially enthusiastic about the possibilities around performance assessment.

ODE wanted to take a different tack than CCE usually does. They felt that it wasn’t the design of assessments that was the primary challenge, but the implementation of them. This is an eminently credible position. We all recognize that Research and Development is one set of challenges, but the sustainable roll out is another. ODE focused on this second set of challenges as their entry point into the work. Their teachers will choose tasks from one of a number of task banks – e.g., the Performance Assessment Resource Bank, which CCE had a hand in developing, so go check it out. Embedding the performance assessment into their curricula (that’s the tricky part), they will come back with a wealth of information about how this work can be best done in the Oregon context.

In August, we went out to Salem to hold a professional learning institute to assist ODE in building educator capacity to pilot validated, high quality performance assessments in the classrooms. Each district was had varying levels of experience with performance assessments, but they were all, to quote one participant, “on the bus.”

Our goal was to create a common foundation in the project for all teams – to form a cohort – and then to provide support in crafting the plans for the year. It is foundational to our work that “collaboration is good for humans,” and that professional learning communities (PLCs) are not just a nice addition to the work, but the medium within which the work occurs. At the end of day two of our time in Oregon, each team presented their plan and received feedback from peers – “have you thought of …” or “our experience with that is …” or “if you are going to try that you should read …” This is always our favorite part of these events.

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We are always struck that in projects where we propose for everyone to do “the same thing,” the creativity of the teachers and leaders find ways to improve that thing so that it fits in their district – with their teachers and their kids – with both grace and efficacy. We are always pleased to be surprised and made smarter by you all.

In a mission driven organization – values driven, ethics driven – you don’t always see these opportunities coming from a long way off. They sneak up on you and suddenly you are working and learning with folks you had never even considered. That is a good feeling, and we are grateful.