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Heather Siple-elementary shots-013

We are nearing the end of the first month of the 2018-19 school year, and everyone is settling in. Many schools spend the first six weeks of school focusing on two things: establishing the classroom community and assessment of academic skills. These are perhaps two very different things, but both quite necessary to set the tone and the agenda for the year ahead.

Time spent establishing the rules allows everyone in the classroom community to feel safe and cared for as they prepare for the hard work of school. It helps children take care of one another and supports everyone’s learning.

Assessments allow parents, teachers and students to identify the starting point for learning. The time taken to administer assessments establishes the path forward for the school year. When I was a child, assessments were very straight forward. I was given a test on a piece of paper; I answered the questions in a given time period and the results were always numerical. Not so anymore. Assessments take many forms. Some assessments continue to be given in this way. They can let teachers know where to begin instruction within a given curriculum. Other assessments – often the best assessments – are formative. They are administered through experience and observation and have the exact same result, helping teachers know what lessons need to come next to best support learning.

School is most meaningful when these assessments are ongoing. Sitting with children, watching how they approach their work and having the ability to adapt instruction based on their responses is nothing short of amazing. When you have tried to learn something new, what has served you best – receiving responsive feedback adapted to your level of proficiency, or simply a number or percentage evaluating right or wrong answers? Unless that number is quite high, my guess is that adapted feedback provided the insight and correction needed to further your growth as a learner.