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Propelling Students Forward: Assessment in the Learner-Centered Classroom Part 1

Where organization aspirations intersect

The Michigan Assessment Consortium (MAC) is a professional association of educators who believe quality education depends on accurate, balanced, and meaningful assessment. Since 2009, we have provided leadership and services to advance high-quality balanced assessment practices and systems.

Why we exist

Much like the Future of Learning Council (FLC), MAC started as a grassroots group – a diverse coalition of professional educators from ISDs, education associations, school districts, and our state education agency who share the fundamental belief that quality education depends on the alignment of curriculum, instruction, and balanced meaningful assessment that advances as well as verifies learning. We also understand that as a profession we have neglected both the necessary pre-service and in-service development to integrate assessment literate practice into the fabric of teaching and learning. These shared beliefs give rise to an organization with a mission and vision to articulate what it means to be assessment literate and then develop and deliver resources, programs, and services to promote assessment literacy among our colleagues.  To that end, we work to help educators in Michigan and beyond to develop and maintain comprehensive assessment systems necessary for a quality education system. Like FLC, MAC started as an unincorporated statewide directorship (2008), incorporated in (2011), and earned non-profit status (2013).

Assessment literate practice is essential

The term assessment literacy can be found in professional literatures dating back to the 1970s, and various individuals have developed lists of standards to better articulate what assessment literate practice entails.  In 2015, MAC published Assessment Literacy Standards for each stakeholder role group that contributes to the ecosystem that is public education, including  students & their parents, teachers, building administrators, central office administrators and policymakers. In 2016, Michigan’s State Board of Education endorsed the MAC’s Assessment Literacy Standards, and from that point forward resources and program development has ensued in earnest through a variety of efforts — always accompanied by evaluation to inform program improvement. We are engaged in building out the robust array of learning opportunities and resources needed to support the diverse mix of individuals who contribute to this public good, a public education being ever imperative for our society and our children.

Assessment literacy and CBE frameworks

MAC’s story, mission, and vision intersect with those of the Future of Learning Council as together we work to better understand the assessment capacities and practices integral to competency-based frameworks for education (CBE). Thanks to the opportunity to guide development of a growing library of performance assessments aligned to the Michigan Model Competencies for ELA K-8 and Mathematics K-8, MAC has been engaged in answering a fundamental question: How can assessment literate practice support a Competency-Based Education model?

A catalogue of performance assessments is in development

Performance assessments play a central role in competency-based frameworks. Now in its third year, the Michigan Performance Assessment Cadre (MiPAC) is an MDE-sponsored project designed to accomplish two things:  

  1. Advance the assessment literacy capacities of individual teachers to support success in:
    1. developing a performance assessment
    2. preparing the item for a standardized administration
    3. piloting the item while using simple observation and survey protocols to understanding the student assessment experience
    4. collaboratively scoring the item with colleagues using a custom-designed virtual platform
    5. identifying performance level exemplars, and
    6. refining and revising the item for placement in the catalogue.
  2. Build the catalogue of performance assessments aligned to competencies along with ancillary supports so that districts interested in moving classroom and district practice toward more student-centered frameworks, including but not limited to competency-based frameworks, have a catalogue of piloted assessments, with exemplars attached, aligned to Michigan’s Model Competencies.

Michigan already has an outstanding example of a catalogue of model performance assessments that have been piloted, scored, revised, and finalized with exemplars in the Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) project. If you are not yet familiar with MAEIA or the MAEIA Performance Assessments, dedicate 30 minutes to an exploration of this site.  With a decade of development supporting this project, MAC has been able to focus our effort on building the ancillary resources, supports, and networks necessary to use assessments and assessment practice to support a pursuit of complex 21st century skills and the commensurate teacher practice required to develop lifelong learners.

Missions guide visions

The FLC mission is to provide the environment for Michigan leaders to learn about next generation learning models, share design practices, and gain access to high quality professional learning with other school leaders. The MAC’s mission is to equip education stakeholders with the dispositions, knowledge, and skills that situate assessment literate practice as the fulcrum to realizing a quality education experience for all our students. And by quality, we mean development of capable and lifelong learners in a complex, global world.

Where aspirations intersect

Members of the FLC have been exploring and experimenting with models and systems that support student-centered and personalized approaches to learning, including (but not limited to) competency-based frameworks. To the same ends, MAC is exploring the evolving cognitive science about how people learn, the importance of the socio-cultural context (where do we learn and who are our teachers and students?) and how to understand what students know and can do.

These intersecting interests and aspirations have the potential of spurring the FLC and MAC organizations to collaborate to promote more student-centered and personalized education systems.

Watch for future posts in this “Assessment in the Learner-Centered Classroom” series, including:

  • Shared (assessment) understandings matter
  • The purpose and power of the formative assessment process to realize student-centered instruction, and
  • Where and how student-centered classroom instruction and assessment contributes to a balanced assessment system and an equitable education for our public-school students

By Kathy Dewsbury-White, President/CEO, Michigan Assessment Consortium and John Lane, Senior Research Associate, MAC/Formative Assessment for Michigan Educators (FAME)

[1] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts, and Cultures (2018)

[2] National Academies of Sciences Engineering, Medicine, Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment (2001)

[3] City, E. Elmore, R.F, Fiarman, S.E. and Teitel, L. Instructional Rounds in Educations Harvard Education Press, (2009)

Future of Learning Council