Over the last several years, I’ve spent a good deal of time facilitating performance based assessment design with quite a few teachers in quite a few different places. This is challenging but very rewarding work, particularly when we’re able to replace tests with assessments that inspire kids to do things that matter for audiences that value their efforts and the products that emerge from them.

I typically begin these sessions by asking teachers to reflect on why they chose their profession. I ask them to consider the difference they hoped to make when they entered the field and whether or not they feel they’ve been successful. Then, we spend some time thinking about the influence of testing and grading on their abilities to achieve their goals. Teachers consider the content and skills that are most critical to their content area, and then, we begin the best part of the work: brainstorming authentic ways for learners to use those things in service to real people who might really benefit from them.

Not exactly how many New Yorkers dealt with APPR right out the gate, I know.

I’m grateful to have been supported from afar (and at times, close up) by my friend and colleague, Jennifer Borgioli. It’s thanks to her that I found the courage to pursue PBAs with teachers in local districts when the mandates surrounding teacher evaluation came down. I’ve learned a great deal from her along the way. One thing that impressed me most was her attention to the affective. Case in point: over the summer, we coached teachers through a design process that made JOYFUL LEARNING a priority. We arrived here by inviting teachers to consider their vision and ask great questions.

I’ve found that this is critical to the work.

This morning, I found my heart soaring once again as an administrator from a completely different district posed a very powerful question about the performance based assessments we were about to begin drafting:

How can we design assessments that not only produce learning but help us establish closer relationships with our students?

Our responses are influencing our design process in significant ways, and I’ll be sharing more about that tomorrow.

This is what reform can look like.

This is how reform can feel.

We just need to choose the better path and ask better questions.

I’m grateful to those courageous and pioneering educators who were willing to think and work in different ways with me over the last few years. I am lucky to work beside them.

I’m proud to be this kind of reformer.




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