Grade level teams at Marston School in Hampton, NH had already completed the arduous work of sifting through the Common Core Standards to articulate competency statements for literacy in grades 3-5. Teachers were thoughtful and diligent in documenting clear priorities for teaching and learning. They found however, that they had not yet reached the finish line; there was a second hurdle to overcome: How to translate those priorities into instruction change in each classroom? The answer for Marston was to leverage locally created assessments.

Our Demonstrated Success literacy specialist, Karen Matso, facilitated a team comprised of a teacher from each grade level, a special educator, the principal, and a literacy specialist. Step one was taking inventory of all the common assessment opportunities available to students 3-5, and determining what each assessment measured, and who the intended audience was. Next, the team compared the competency statements and grade level priority standards they had established, with what they were measuring through their common assessments. They were surprised to find that although their instructional priorities focused on demonstrating higher order thinking through writing, listening and speaking, nowhere in their current assessment plan were listening and speaking skills being adequately assessed.

The team agreed that they needed to create assessments that would provide feedback to students and teachers around these skills. The DS trainer provided the Literacy Team with professional development and models of quality performance assessments. Then each grade level literacy leader brought their learning to their grade level teams, and the grade level teams worked in PLC’s over several months to integrate opportunities for higher order thinking and speaking and listening into their current benchmark assessments. Throughout the process, the DS trainer provided ongoing resources and feedback to the Literacy Team leaders. The Literacy Team then reconvened with their final drafts and used a formal protocol to review and provide descriptive feedback for each task developed.

Teachers at Marston piloted their performance tasks this spring and received rich information about their students’ ability to independently use higher order thinking and communicate solutions orally and in writing. In May 2017, grade level PLC members analyzed this data to make adjustments to their curriculum and instruction for academic years ’17-’18. In addition, they decided to tweak the performance assessments where it was clear from student results that language was confusing and texts needed to be differentiated in order to get an accurate picture of student performance in communicating ideas.

“This work can be overwhelming, and it was so helpful to have Karen scaffolding for us. She was able to target our strengths and weaknesses and moved us toward a manageable goal.”

Tricia Cioffe, Literacy Specialist

“As a team, we developed assessments that were authentic, aligned with standards and of interest to our students while challenging them to show what they can do.”

“I felt that my time with Karen was very valuable--so much information and knowledge--always providing great feedback. “

Judy Sullivan, Special Educator