Assessment Anchors Secure Meaningful Learning in the Tumultuous Sea of Student-Centered Instruction

Pic taken by G. McGough
Pic taken by G. McGough

I have had the pleasure to attend multiple department/grade level meetings in the District to begin promoting our curriculum day on 13 Jan. 2017. I wanted to post this blog to support my message as the District begins the process of using professional development to build teacher capacity in curriculum design.

At the current time, one of the hard truths that the District must face is that standardized assessment (PSSA, PASA, and Keystone) scores are used as the measuring stick of Pennsylvania public schools and teachers. Although I am NOT in favor of designing curriculum and instruction that only teaches to the test, it IS important to use the data from these assessments to determine areas of strength/growth in the District. The difficulty is that focusing on just biology, literature, and algebra creates a “tunnel vision effect” that severely limits the academic vision of the District.

Although the District is emphasizing the assessment anchors/eligible content of the core subjects, we are broadening our vision to include educating the whole child. In the past, Districts have always requested that non-tested subject area experts support the standardized-tested subjects by adopting some of the core standards.  The District would like to inspire teachers to expand this notion to allow for collaborative sharing to occur across/between ALL academic disciplines. Imagine addressing a music standard in mathematics or teaching an art skill in social studies. The sum of the holistic learning experience is stronger than the separate academic parts.

The District envisions classrooms where students are directing their own learning and development in rigorous academic projects that build upon foundational skills from a multitude of academic/elective disciplines.  The transition to student-centered instruction/assessment techniques is exciting and can lead to some interesting learning opportunities that mirror real world issues/problems. As long as the District anchors the learning experiences/outcomes to eligible content standards, our students can redefine their worlds while surpassing the expectations of the State-mandated assessments.

It is going to be a great year for Columbia Borough School District.

Dr. Gregg McGough, Director of Curriculum/Coordinator of Federal Programs


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