School Improvement in Maryland

Quotes from National Experts

The process of examining student work to diagnose strengths and needs and then to use the information to make instructional decisions is supported by a number of research studies and national educational experts.

Joan Richardson, well-respected expert on professional development and editor of the NSDC Results newsletter, believes that

“The practice of having teachers work together to study student work is one of the most promising professional development strategies in recent years. Examining student work helps teachers intimately understand how state and local standards apply to their teaching practice and to student work. Teachers are able to think more deeply about their teaching and what students are learning. As they see what students produce in response to their assignments, they can see the successes as well as the situations where there are gaps. In exploring those gaps, they can improve their practice in order to reach all students.”

Kate Nolan, Director of Re-Thinking Accountability for the Annenberg Institute of School Reform

“The process of studying student work is a meaningful and challenging way to be data-driven, to reflect critically on our instructional practices, and to identify the research we might study to help us think more deeply and carefully about the challenges our students provide us. Rich, complex work samples show us how students are thinking, the fullness of their factual knowledge, the connections they are making. Talking about them together in an accountable way helps us to learn how to adjust instruction to meet the needs of our students.”

The Aspen Workshop on High Schools recommended in its summary report for the Transforming High Schools Task Force that the continuous and collaborative examination of student work is a critical strategy for transforming high schools.

“Student work is at the heart of every school. In the most basic sense, the facilitation of student work is what schools do. Not only can it motivate and distress students, teachers, and parents, it can also serve as the driver of school change. At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, the use of student work as the unrelenting focus of adult conversations can be the catalyst of fundamental changes in the educational experience of adolescents, and the transformation of teaching and learning at the high school level. Student work should focus adult-student and adult-adult conversations to discuss standards. It can be used to enable feedback into the reform of courses and programs and to guide professional development.”

Niyogi, Nivedita S. 1995. The Intersection of Instruction and Assessment: The Classroom. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

“Assessment should be used not simply to judge how much kids know but to illuminate the nature of their knowledge and understandings in order to help kids learn.... Common sense tells us that on-going, classroom-based assessment can serve this purpose. Teachers interacting with students will observe the nuances of their cognitive growth and development over time, their individual strengths and weaknesses in ways that would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to capture through standardized or conventional testing alone.”

Stiggins, Richard J. 2001. “The Principal’s Leadership Role in Assessment.” NASSP Bulletin (January 2001): 13–26.

“To assess student achievement accurately, teachers and administrators must understand the achievement targets their students are to master. They cannot assess (let alone teach) achievement that has not been defined”.

Rick DuFour identified a number of staff development needs for teachers to collect and discuss the data that would focus them on what students were learning. In his article, “The Learning-Centered Principal,” he describes his role in the following way:

“As principal, I played an important role in initiating, facilitating, and sustaining the process of shifting our collective focus from teaching to learning. To make collaborative teams the primary engine of our school improvement efforts, teachers needed time to collaborate. Teachers, accustomed to working in isolation, needed focus and parameters as they transitioned to working in teams. They needed a process to follow and guiding questions to pursue. They needed training, resources, and support to overcome difficulties they encountered while developing common outcomes, writing common assessments, and analyzing student achievement data.”