Student Assessment and Program Evaluation
Aims, Actions, Adaptations
The reform leaders believed that through regular reflection on program evaluation findings, program offerings could be adjusted in order to foster better classroom instruction. For example, early evaluation findings provided evidence to the reform leaders that instructional coaches were important supports for promoting improved instruction in classrooms, if used in particular ways. This finding led reform leaders to make a decision to keep these coaching positions in the budget for subsequent years of the reform while being more specific with coaches, principals, and other stakeholders about the activities that these positions would conduct. Other examples included evaluation studies involving the elements of implementation which supported improved instruction. These findings then influenced modifications to district professional development offerings, development of tools such as classroom observation guides, and instruments to better measure implementation fidelity. In this way, the program evaluation efforts led to actions that improved instruction in classrooms.
Furthermore, reform leaders envisioned a district-developed benchmark assessment program, distinct from national and state-mandated standardized tests, as a key component in improving instruction. By including challenging mathematics problems, the benchmark assessments reflected the type of concepts and tasks OMS wanted students to know and be able to do. In this way, the district illustrated its expectations for students and, in turn, teaching. The benchmark assessment system did not just articulate expectations about teaching and learning. In their design and implementation of the system, the OMS team also articulated expectations about how teachers could use the system together to improve teaching and learning in their classrooms. They expected teams of grade-level teachers to review student work on the benchmarks and discuss it in a way that research suggests is effective at improving instructional practices (Black & Wiliam, 1998). In fact, OMS found that through the process of teachers discussing and scoring real student work collaboratively, several conceptual mathematics misconceptions surfaced. These misconceptions were held not only by students, but by teachers as well.