Balanced Assessments Emerging in Douglas County (Colo.)
Technology may have, at last, caught up with the intentions of balanced assessments—or at least it has in the Douglas County (Colo.) School District, according to Syna Morgan, the district’s executive director of performance and accountability. Already a high-performing district with 62,000 students across 86 schools, Douglas County wanted to take its assessment data to the next level by making students not only college-bound, but global leaders.
In 2010, the district found that ActivProgress, a Web-based data management system by Promethean, allowed teachers and school leaders to examine and learn about not only a student’s progress on standardized tests, but also students’ critical thinking skills across all grade levels and subjects. “This is an attempt to do what has been tried many times in our educational history,” says Morgan. “We want to capture a full body of authentic, meaningful evidence about student performance.” The system is comprised of tools that allow for data entry of standards-based, formative assessments; real-time personalized instruction; a social portal for teachers to collaborate with students; and a data-driven support tool that aggregates data to influence actions.
The second component of the assessment package includes teacher evaluations. According to a Colorado law passed in 2010, 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on student achievement. By the 2013-2014 school year, student performance data tied to teachers’ evaluations will influence a new pay-for-performance model in Colorado. Morgan says the district has full support from the teachers’ union.
“Teachers were concerned that they wouldn’t have involvement, but we’ve worked collaboratively with the teachers and unions and have their full support,” says Morgan. The program was first piloted in 2010. It will be rolled out to all schools in the district by the next school year, including the district’s 13 charter schools.