California Educator

February 2015

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Page 9 of 67

People just can't think clearly, so tackling the issue feels monumental. I liken it to the fable of the blind men who discover the elephant, and each describes the part he can feel. One says it feels like a pillar (the leg); another says it's like a snake (the trunk). Each perspective is correct, but they don't understand the whole picture. If you can step back a bit and break an issue down into comprehensible parts, you can better understand it and take action. Since I run across so many elephants, or issues, I decided to name the process of break- ing them down Obadiah. I just like the word. It's fun to say. It's unusual. And it prompts me to think differently, which helped when I attended an Assessment and Testing work- group meeting last month. I wanted to learn about this elephant of assessments so I could write about it, so I met with CTA members who are passionate about making sure assessments help instruction and benefit student learning. They were educating them- selves on issues like what state exams have been eliminated or rolled into new assessments, what's available in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consor- tium (SBAC) digital library, the impact of SBAC scores, the structure of the There's an elephant in the room. And I've named him Obadiah. Ever hear the phrase "There's an elephant in the room" and wonder what that really means? Well, it should not refer to a topic that people don't want to discuss. It means the topic should be addressed, and it is so huge and has so many moving parts it sucks the energy and the oxygen right out of a room. Academic Performance Index (API), criteria for multiple methods of gauging and understanding student progress, accountability holidays, and mandatory high school exit exams, so their Assessment and Testing Committee could finalize recommendations to State Council (see page 54). After each topic was discussed, I asked, "What do class- room educators know about this?" — and was answered with thoughtful silence. Obadiah asked the next question: "What do CTA members need to know and understand about this?" The upshot was that we're planning to run a series of articles on assessment. You can read the first one on page 44. To get this project going, we want to assess what you know about assessment. The workgroup members gave me a list of topics and questions, and I've put together an online survey/quiz, which I invite each of you to take at (Yes, I admit I hate taking tests — but I've discovered I rather like writing tests. Besides, this one is not timed.) Assessment is such a crucial issue in education, so please take the survey and let me know what you think. Your answers and suggestions for topics will guide the course of future articles in the series. Cynthia Menzel E D I T O R I N C H I E F editor's Note See evidence of student learning: The California Educator Journalism Contest deadline is March 2 We are sponsoring a high school journalism contest to promote and highlight the outstanding work and creativity of student journalism programs throughout California. Public high school journalism classes may submit one package of two printed news pages that includes one or more articles about teaching and learning in the school. This may include a teacher or group of teachers and their work with students individually or as part of a program. The winning entry will be published in the May 2015 Educator. For technical specifications and details on how to enter, visit Go Online @ 8

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