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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.

The Power of an Outlier

Improvement takes courage. It requires a person to be an outlier, big or small, and to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new. I believe teachers genuinely want to positively impact their students’ lives and make improvements in their curriculum and teaching methods, but it is hard to translate such desire into action due to a lack of guidance and support. The Center for Collaborative Education is partnering with schools participating in the New Hampshire Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) initiative to support them in building assessment literacy and creating local competency-based assessment systems anchored in performance assessments. The Center for Collaborative Education aims to guide teachers and school leaders to become outliers and change agents working to improve learning for all students.

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Hanan: Outlier in Palestine

As a Master’s student at Harvard Graduate School of Education, I have been exposed to influential figures visiting the campus for the last several months. Just to name a few, State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi, Noam Chomsky, and Jeb Bush have all visited the campus. However, the person who left the greatest imprint on my mind was Hanan Al Hroub, a Palestinian teacher and recipient of the 2016 Global Teacher Prize. Hanan decided to incorporate the concept of playfulness into her elementary school classroom, inventing games with the limited resources she had. The imagery of her lively class playing with puppets amidst the silent classes that surround her classroom is striking. In an environment where violence prevails, Hanan’s approach to education is a ray of hope for students. She is an outlier in her community.

Outliers in the Context of New Hampshire

In listening to the reflections of a group of New Hampshire PACE participants, I heard a group of teachers who were just as passionate as Hanan about meeting their students’ needs in the most effective way possible. Through partnership with the Center for Collaborative Education, the teachers were able to build their assessment literacy and begin to create local competency-based assessment systems. By analyzing performance tasks with the Center for Collaborative Education, one PACE participant learned to be more specific and explicit in the feedback that she was giving to teachers. She helped teachers create rubrics with consistent language and format, which gave both students and teachers a universal understanding of the given task. Another participant articulated that engaging many people for a cross-curricular, cross-discipline, and cross-grade collaboration was helpful in advancing student learning outcome for schools. Education leaders with different perspectives could cooperate through constructive feedback, which in turn created a more holistic, integrated approach in creating competency-based assessments. These teachers were courageous enough to take that first step toward transforming student learning. They are the outliers in their communities.

Next Step: Collaboration

So after outliers break the mold, what should they do? They should communicate and collaborate with others. Only through shared platforms will the positive changes not be limited to one outlier but have an influential impact in schools and communities. When a classmate asked Hanan whether the other classrooms in her school were also full of laughter and fun, she said, no. That leaves me wondering what the scale of her impact is. My hope is to see Hanan’s school eventually ensure all classrooms aim for quality learning, learning from her example. Also, my hope is to see teachers from New Hampshire not only take initiative in actively participating in PACE, but also communicate with other teachers to create a bigger impact for student learning. A literacy coach who participates in PACE stated that, “there’s so much more that a group can create, and it’s always so much better than what an individual can ever do.” This is the mindset that all leaders in education should strive to have for a better learning environment for students.

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Put Us In the Room Where It Happens: Teacher-Driven Shifts To Mastery

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For our founding teachers, this was an issue of social justice—being able to provide multiple opportunities for students to achieve mastery of skills over time was simply more equitable.
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Curriculum-Embedded Performance Assessment: Good Practice in Its Own Right

June 22, 2016
Guest writer Staurt Kahl, co-founder of Measured Progress, calls for a rethinking of assessment practices for our students--and discusses how schools can effectively use curriculum-embedded performance assessment in a balanced assessment system.