Columnist on SACS Standard 4: “Documenting and Using Results”
BY Ralph Bennett
assistant superintendent for teaching and learning
"The system enacts a comprehensive assessment system that monitors and documents performance and uses these results to improve student performance and system effectiveness."
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Standard 4 addresses how school systems effectively assess student performance and use performance results to improve student learning and school system effectiveness. Student performance and achievement are assessed in a variety of ways in the Morgan County School System. As with all public school systems in the state of Georgia, Morgan County schools administer all required state standardized tests: the Georgia Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (GKIDS) in kindergarten; the Criterion Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) in Grades 1 through 8; the End of Course Tests (EOCT) in Grades 9 through 11; the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT) in Grade 11; Grades 3, 5 and 8 Writing Assessments; the Georgia High School Writing Test (GHSWT) in Grade 11; the Accessing Comprehension and Communication in English State to States (ACCESS) for students eligible in the English Language Learners (ELL) program; the Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA) for eligible students with disabilities. Morgan County students also participate in national standardized tests including the Preliminary Scholastic Achievement Tests (PSAT), Scholastic Achievement Tests (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT). Morgan County High School students also take assessments related to career exploration and educational placement including the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and the ASSET.
Data received from state and national assessments are disaggregated according to subgroups (i.e., ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status and disability) and analyzed both at the system and building levels. While system and school level groups look at the overall performance of each subgroup, the analysis of the achievement gaps between subgroups is of particular interest. Analysis results from these standardized assessments are used to make informed decisions at the system and school levels concerning instructional design, student interventions, professional learning and allocation of resources. At the system level, for example, the analysis of student performance data from state and national standardized tests has led to the adjustment of the school calendar to provide additional extended learning opportunities for students; the focus of differentiated instruction as a system goal; the work with system articulation of curriculum, instruction and assessment for reading, writing and math; and the development of system procedures for a systematic approach to intervention for student success.
Student performance data is collected and analyzed in a variety of ways. Standardized test scores are recorded in Infinite Campus, the system student information system. Once scores are recorded, teachers and building administrators have access to individual and aggregate student data through a variety of reports. This data is analyzed by cohort groups (i.e., the same group of students as they move through the school system from one year to the next) and by trends (i.e., student performance from one year to the next). Student performance data is also disaggregated by subgroups (i.e., ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, and disability) and analyzed in the light of overall student performance. Trends in student performance are considered. Student performance is also considered in light of school and system goals. In order to provide context, overall group performance, as well as subgroup performance, is compared to other school systems served by Northeast Georgia Regional Education Service Agency (NEGARESA), a regional education support agency funded by the state of Georgia. Student performance is also compared to other school systems around the state that are comparable in size and demographics.
Summaries and analyses of student performance for state and national tests are shared with the Morgan County Board of Education and then posted on the system Web site at www.morgan.k12.ga.us/ for viewing by all system stakeholders. The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) also posts student performance information for all schools and systems at www.gaosa.org/. Links for both are provided to parent and community members via system and school Web sites. Each school also shares summaries of building data with stakeholders and posts summaries of results on the school Web sites. Summaries and analyses of student performance data are also publicized through the county newspaper, the Morgan County Citizen.
In a comprehensive and balanced assessment system, teacher-constructed assessments play an important role particularly in regards to formative assessment. Because of the critical role that teacher assessment plays, four system goals related to assessment have been identified and operationalized through system action plans to ensure effective use of assessments. One system goal in assessment is to build capacity in all faculty and staff to more effectively utilize multiple data sources to inform decisions about teaching and learning. A second system goal is to also build capacity in system faculty and staff to assessment student learning in a variety of ways, including student self-assessment. The need for work on appropriate use of assessment (e.g., aligning assessments with standards and instruction, use of assessments to guide instructional design) was identified as a third goal for system faculty and staff. Frequent progress monitoring is a final system goal in the area of assessment. As each of these goals is addressed, formative assessments can be used more effectively to guide instruction on a daily basis.
School systems identified as “highly functional,” the highest rating for a SACS standard, use a comprehensive assessment system based on clearly defined performance measures that yield valid and reliable results, including multiple measures of individual student achievement that assess higher order thinking skills and are of adequate technical quality. The assessment system is used to assess student performance on expectations for student learning, evaluate the effectiveness of curriculum and instruction, design and improve instructional strategies and practices, and determine interventions to improve and enhance student performance. The assessment system yields timely and accurate information that is meaningful and useful to system/school leaders, teachers, and other stakeholders in understanding student performance, system and school effectiveness, and the results of improvement efforts for individual students and groups and subgroups of students. These are the indicators that the Morgan County School System has set as goals for the effective use of student performance data and against which the system will be evaluated during the SACS team visit in March.
PUBLISHED IN THE FEBBRUARY 12, 2009 EDITION