School leaders today have no shortage of data coming at them: test scores, percentiles, diagnostic results and more. According to the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), assessment is what makes the data mean something. But, how will the data be used?
Educational leaders use assessment to determine whether or not the goals of education are being met. As explained by Edutopia, assessment inspires us to ask hard questions: "Are we teaching what we think we are teaching? Are students learning what they are supposed to be learning? Is there a way to teach the subject better, thereby promoting better learning?"
Assessment is more than just testing students. Tests provide data that can help assess student learning, but testing is just one element. When planning lessons or projects, all end goals need to be considered.
A combination of content and instructional methods is important, but so is the assessment after the lesson. What other ways do students demonstrate mastery of a task or subject? How can you incorporate self-assessment in determining achievement and measuring student learning?
An article in The Edvocate discusses the real purpose of assessments in education: "The purpose of assessment is to gather relevant information about student performance or progress, or to determine student interests to make judgments about their learning process." Teachers can then take these findings and combine them with feedback and input from students to customize their teaching plans. Involving students in assessing their own learning helps create good classroom rapport.
The Role of the School Leader
Principals and educational leaders are key players in school reform and student achievement. Being an assessment leader includes assessing students, teachers and curriculum, and helping ensure that they are all working together to create measurable student learning goals and aligning those goals to assessment tools. In this way, real data is analyzed and can be used to improve student learning. NAESP says, "Principals can employ data not only to measure student progress, but also to direct instruction and drive professional development based on the measurement of the success of particular strategies. And they can share their decision-making responsibility by empowering teachers to use data."
Preparing Education Leaders to Become Assessment Leaders
The Master of Science in Education in Teacher Leadership with a Concentration in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment online program from University of Southern Maine (USM) focuses on professional development designed to give you the skills to identify student needs and develop applicable learning strategies that translate into outstanding assessment results.
Students in this master's program learn how to design standards-based curriculum, instruction and assessment. Using multiple models and management strategies, you will learn to apply research, critical thinking and communication skills to the process of developing effective instructional approaches. In addition, you will learn to evaluate how well your students are learning, and how to integrate new technology and teaching strategies into the classroom.
This 30 credit-hour program is 100% online and can be completed in as few as 10 months.
Sources:National Association of Elementary School Principals: Research Roundup: Data That Drives Decisions
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