Assessment & Learning Framework
In 2011, after various forums for community input, the OSSU School Board developed four broad “Ends” to guide the work in schools:
- Foundational Knowledge and Skills, in various domains
- Critical Thinking Skills
During School Year 2011-12, the Superintendent convened a Report Card Committee, with representatives from each school, to work on developing a report card that would give the system some of the data it would need to measure our progress toward the OSSU Board Ends. The new report card would also help drive classroom-level instruction and assessment that is aligned to the Ends.
Through the Committee’s work, and with input from every department and grade level, the Ends of Adaptability and Technology were both grouped with several other character traits that the schools felt were important. The result was the framework below, which now guides curriculum development, assessment and reporting in our school.
Foundational Knowledge & Skills
Habits of Mind (Critical Thinking):
Personal & Social Development
Habits of Work
Habits of Heart
Balance & Integration
At RU, we believe that this framework presents a balanced view of student growth and achievement, which can help our school meet the goals of our school board and empower our students with much of what they’ll need in order to find fulfillment in life and to contribute to their communities.
We believe that an emphasis on these four broad areas drives our curriculum and pedagogy in important directions, and has important implications for how we shape school culture.
Debbie Meier, founder of a high school that was among the first in America to use the language of “habits of mind,” writes:
Lawyers tell us these “habits” are very lawyerly, but journalists and scientists tell us they are basic to what they do as well. As a historian I recognize them as being at the heart of my field. As a principal I find them useful when “naughty” kids are sent to my office…
In order to make such “habits” habitual, they need in-depth practice. Young people need to be immersed in their use. We want to demand evidence in the form of performance at real, worthwhile tasks. To do this we devote ourselves to covering less material, not more, and to developing standards that are no less tough and no less rigorous that those associated with traditional displays of academic excellence…
- From In Schools We Trust
As Meier notes, habits need to be habitual. To put this another way, if our expectations and values are to have integrity, they need to be integrated: integrated throughout the school.
Assessment & Instruction
- OSSU Rubrics: Accompanying this overview are the OSSU-level rubrics that guide teachers in assessing student proficiency in the Habits of Mind/Heart/Work. At RU, teachers are asked to use the OSSU expectations to guide the development of their own class-specific learning intentions. (In the area of Foundational Knowledge and Skills, the learning intentions must also align with state standards in each content area.)
- Lesson/Unit Learning Intentions: Teachers are asked to frame and post daily lesson/unit learning intentions that fall into the four assessment categories. We have developed “banks” of learning intentions that teachers can go to for examples. Some departments have developed common learning intentions in Habits of Mind/Heart/Work.
- Project-Specific Rubrics: When teachers develop new rubrics, they use a common 4 point scale, and align with the common assessment categories and language. Teachers are also, little-by-little, converting old rubrics into the new language/categories, and converting old check-lists and other assessment tools into rubrics. Finally, each department is developing at least one common assessment tool in the form of a rubric, which can be used at any grade level, to assess core skills in that discipline: the RU Writing Rubric; the Visual Display Rubric; the Science Lab Rubric; the Math Problem Rubric (aka Math Portfolio Problem); etc.
- Grades: The majority of a semester/final grade in any course is composed of scores in Foundational Knowledge/Skills and Habits of Mind (Critical thinking). The degree to which teachers give grade weight to expectations in Habits of Work/Heart varies.
- Middle School Portfolio: This portfolio contains two years of work and represents best work as well as areas for improvement. The portfolio is organized into sections that correspond to the 4 reporting categories, and also includes a letter to reader in which students reflect on their readiness for the next stage of schooling and life. Students are asked to reflect on their Habits of Mind/Heart/Work as part of a Portfolio defense, prior to moving on to high school.
- Self-Reflections: Most work that MS students include in their portfolios comes with a self-reflection attached, in which students discuss their strengths and areas for improvement in the four assessment categories. These self-reflection have a standard format, but variations on the common form are encouraged. School-wide, students do self-reflections prior to student/family/advisor conferences in Fall and Spring.
- Student-Centered Conferences: Twice a year we host conferences, which we now call “Portfolio Reviews,” at which students are asked to present two artifacts of current work and discuss their strengths and areas for growth. The meeting includes the student, their Advisor and a family member. Students are prompted to refer to specific learning intentions and to reflect on Habits of Mind/Heart/Work. The conferences are modeled on Student-Led Conferences.
- Senior Project: The various rubrics for Senior Project, our capstone graduation expectation, align with the new assessment and reporting framework. These rubrics are available on our website in the Sr. Project manual.
- Behavioral Interventions and Discipline: We have not yet aligned our discipline referral form (pink slips) to include specific references to Habits of Heart and Work, but restorative justice forums, like the Fairness Committee, have been aligned and begin with specific discussion and clarification of the school values – or habits – that have been violated.
- CARE Assemblies and Incentives: In the Middle School, CARE is an acronym that stands for “Community Attitudes, Responsibilities and Expectations.” We say to students that a well-rounded person demonstrates more than just academic success. A successful student demonstrates attributes that will help make him/her a contributing and productive member of society. Those attributes include our Habits of Work (CAREing about your work) and Habits of Heart (CAREing for your self and others). When a student demonstrates these actions in a noticeable way it should be acknowledged. Essentially, this means that we like to "catch students being good." When a faculty or staff members notices a student demonstrating a CARE-ing attribute, he or she may hand the student a piece of CARE cash. Students can save their CARE cash and use it to attend various events during the school year, from ice cream parties to ski trips. In addition, there is a CARE honor roll, and CARE assemblies each semester honor student achievements in academics as well as social-emotional realms.
- Student Awards: The School Senate, this year, is planning to undertake an alignment of our student awards to our Habits of Work and Heart. In the Middle School, we periodically give Habits of Heart Awards, which are generated via student-to-student nominations in Advisories. This process reinforces the meaning of these habits as school values, and allows students to recognize and honor in each other a special commitment to our values.
- Faculty Honors: Our highest faculty honor, the UVM-sponsored Outstanding Teacher award, is given to the faculty member who has demonstrated commitment to various Habits of Mind/Heart/Work. At the end of the year, faculty nominate each other for awards in Respect for Others, Creativity, Citizenship, etc. Students are also invited to share their thoughts on which teachers are deserving of these Educator Honors. A Committee of the school Senate convenes to determine who should receive each award. A faculty member who embodies various qualities is then chosen for the Outstanding Teacher Award. These honors are announced at our end-of-year whole-school assembly.