From the Editor: Assessment and Feedback for Learning

By Kaylen Tucker Principal, May/June 2019. Volume 98, Number 5.

By Kaylen Tucker
Principal, May/June 2019. Volume 98, Number 5.

Stellar teaching and impactful learning require purposeful assessment and relevant feedback, with principals at the center of ensuring that the cycle nets student achievement gains. But with so many educators decrying testing overload and initiative fatigue, it’s no wonder that student assessments can start to feel like an unproductive add-on.

Researcher Ann Jacquith writes that an unintended consequence of the No Child Left Behind era is what she calls “the nation’s persistent focus on assessments of  learning,” rather than assessments for learning that “generate specific feedback about the learner, how the learner approaches a particular task, and steps the learner can take to increase the quality of his or her performance” (see “Assessment That Supports Equity” on page 10).

Principals play an important role in ensuring that teachers understand and use assessment data as a form of feedback that informs instruction. In fact, a principal’s encouragement is the most commonly reported support for teachers using student data in instructional decision-making, according to the RAND brief “Educator Access to and Use of Data.” It falls to the school leader to prioritize which data points teachers should focus on based on the areas of instruction that need improvement.

Here are three strategies gleaned from this issue of Principal magazine that can help school leaders integrate assessments and feedback into a school’s overall instructional plan for learning:

  1. Define success with your school community. Work with a leadership team to shape a school culture that defines elements of success beyond percentage gains. Read “Making Data Mean Something” on page 26.
  2. Encourage schoolwide use of formative assessments. Involve students in assessing their own work and in peer-to-peer learning. Read “A Formative Experience” on page 14.
  3. Leverage homework to move students toward learning goals. And to be sure homework is fair, “err on the side of the ‘have-nots’ and avoid making assumptions about a child’s environment,” according to “A Critical Look at Homework” (see page 24).

Finishing … and Starting Strong

As we close out this school year, Principal magazine is looking ahead to the fall with the latest installment of Leading Lessons (see insert on page 13). In the leadership guide, Virginia principals Andy Jacks and Hamish Brewer provide insight—and practical strategies—for “leveling up” back-to-school staff development activities by taking the whole experience off campus. Use the pullout guide to plan a staff development day that will inspire teachers all year long.

— Kaylen Tucker, Ph.D.

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