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.
The New Accountability
Even gnarly Boston traffic couldn’t keep educators, community leaders, and policymakers away from the second annual MCIEA Forum on April 10, as they gathered to discuss the future of school accountability in Massachusetts. The forum shared the work the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment (MCIEA) has been undertaking over the past three years to pioneer an innovative approach to assessment that rejects the notion of a single standardized test and embraces multiple measures of school quality and student learning.
A poster session kicked off the event, offering brightly colored visualizations of the two foundational elements of MCIEA: Quality Performance Assessments and School Quality Measures. Attendees were introduced to the elements of a performance assessment and the ways performance assessment systems allow learners to demonstrate higher order thinking skills across disciplines and through varied learning experiences.
Other posters showcased how MCIEA’s School Quality Measures offer so much more data than traditional measures, capturing what communities value most in their schools like student-teacher relationships, exposure to the arts, and social-emotional health.
Dr. Ricardo Rosa of UMASS Dartmouth gave the keynote speech, spelling out standardized assessment’s roots in racism. “High stakes testing in itself is racist, both in its history and in its effects,” Rosa explained. “Performance-based assessment must always be engaged in critically. Students’ minds should be engaged and students’ work should contribute to unmasking and challenging power.”
Senator Jason Lewis then took the podium to share the importance of MCIEA’s work, and to thank Senator Jehlen, who was also in attendance, for her work in getting integral state funding for the consortium. “Our state’s high achievement masks troubling achievement and opportunity gaps. We are failing our constitutional and moral responsibility,” Lewis said. “We need to re-examine how we measure student learning and school quality.”
Following the keynotes, participants moved to two workshops, where they could do a brief deep-dive into the performance assessment design process, or explore the School Quality Measures data dashboard and some of the survey data that has been gathered.
Participants then convened once more as Paul Tritter, Director of Professional Learning with the Boston Teacher’s Union, led MCIEA students in a conversation, where they shared their experiences with performance assessments. “In 3rd grade, we mostly did tests,” noted one elementary school student from Revere, sharing his experience from before and after his district joined MCIEA. “But then we did a park design project, geometry posters, investigated ‘slime’, and more.”
Since joining the consortium, the students shared that they have more say in what they do in class, and that they actually enjoyed what they were learning. Tritter asked the group how teachers will know if students were learning, and they were quick to reply—if students are paying attention and asking questions, they are engaged. The students also encouraged teachers to simply ask them what they know.
Craig Consigli, Milford Public Schools assistant superintendent, closed the morning with a rousing call to action speaking to the importance of MCIEA.
“The system we are building will allow students some choice to determine how they will be assessed. It will allow teachers the ability to adjust their instructional practices based on the students currently in front of them,” Consigli said. “It will provide a dashboard of multiple measures so that the school community can get a fair assessment of their school in order to celebrate the strengths and develop plans to make improvements.”
Consigli imparted participants with three questions to consider as they left the forum that day:
- Am I happy with the current accountability system?
- Does the current accountability system reflect what our students can do?
- Can we do better?
Consigli believes we can do better:
“Let’s work together to create a fair system of accountability that gives community members an accurate picture of our schools, teachers the ability to determine what is proficiency and students the ability to choose how they will demonstrate what they know. Together, we can do better for our students, our teachers, and our communities.”