This week, I would like to welcome Jennifer Moroz as my second guest blogger! She is a teacher from Prince George, B.C. who is currently working at the district level as an Assessment Support Teacher. I first met Jennifer many years ago in Smithers while facilitating a Reading Power Leadership Series in the district. Jen was early in her teaching career at the time, but I knew instantly that she was going to go places! She had a keen intuition about student learning and showed amazing promise and insight as an educator. It is not surprising she has gone on to do amazing work in her school district and is now starting to present workshops in and around BC. I’m very excited (and proud!) to have her share some of the amazing work she is doing in the area of assessment, student portfolios, and the new curriculum. Way to go, Jen!
BC Performance Standards: A Once-Per-Term Score Sheet, or the Groundwork for Student Portfolios?
by Jennifer Moroz, Assessment Support SD 57
I know. Performance Standards. Two words no one really likes, or maybe just not together. The term simply sounds like the image it evokes; forced samples, waiting to be duly assessed under fluorescent lights. I intuited this during conversations with teachers in my capacity as an assessment support teacher in SD 57; it became clear that most teachers were familiar with Performance Standards as either summative assessment tools (stapled to the front of a writing sample, for example) or as a reference tool for assessing comprehension questions (in the DART assessment, for example). I felt strongly that these documents had more to offer than being visited only three times a year.
The Link Between Performance Standards and Student Portfolios
I have always been passionate about developing Student Portfolios as a way of developing a personalized learning profile for each child, as well as to help guide my instruction. As a classroom teacher, I began using a portfolio system six years ago because I needed to streamline the task of tracking the individual growth of 30 students in a combined grade 5 and 6 classroom, with reading and writing levels ranging from grade 3 to grade 9. I used the original Performance Standards in reading, writing and numeracy (for simplicity I am only referring to the reading and writing standards in this blog) to track student progress throughout the year. In interview format, I shared the results of baseline assessments as recorded on the Performance Standards with each student, explaining that I had to develop a profile for them to best meet their needs. Together we came up with ideas for learning opportunities that reflected their interests and passions, and this was recorded and stored in their portfolio – which was a simple binder in which I kept their baseline, mid-term, and end-term assessments.
Students took equal ownership of their portfolio binders by adding documents that demonstrated their learning, such as reading fluency charts, reading logs, and before/after writing samples. In this case, the Performance Standards provided crucial scaffolding that enabled us to effectively communicate our learning, and helped me develop momentum and purpose in my instruction through the year. It also made student-led conferences and report card writing enjoyable, as I recall. (I’m in the process of developing blackline masters that can be used for a similar binder or folder system for a portfolio like this, so come and visit me at the PSA Superconference workshop – details below — for more information on that!)
What Was Missing in the BC Performance Standards?
The original BC Provincial Performance standards have served me well in the past as a way of aligning my assessment to my practice and for helping me communicate with students where they are and where they need to go. As with any assessment tool, however, the current Performance Standards are not without a few “hiccups”. Over the years, while using these documents, I have often wished “someone” would make them more user-friendly. There are many things that could be improved upon – starting with a space for the student’s name! Since the curriculum in BC has recently undergone a huge transformation many, including me, have been wondering if changes to the Performance Standards will follow – aligning them more with the new core competencies, big ideas and learning outcomes. Having recently been hired in my district as an assessment support teacher, it seemed serendipitous, even necessary, to seize the opportunity to update the Performance Standards to reflect the spirit of change. And that is just what I did! My revised continuums are based on our current Performance Standards but are not “official” ministry documents. I have made minor modifications to the layout and the language, but have maintained the format, structure and intent. Like in many other districts, we are taking what we have and trying to make it work best for us and for our students.
Below are a few of the highlights of my “revamping”:
- The language of the revised performance standards is aligned with aspects of the curricular competencies.
- The language is taken directly from the full scale. The quick scale was too vague for a comprehensive portfolio piece.
- The box for student name and current grade level is added so that teachers can easily personalize the document.
- The common reading assessments, PM Benchmark and Reading a-z, are linked to the continuum of the year.
Early Learning Conference Connections
I presented the concept of using the revamped Performance Standards as scaffolding for a portfolio at the Early Learning Conference in Prince George of January this year. I made the case that something as innocuous as an 11×17 document could exist as a year-long story, punctuated by assessment dates of achievement and success for students. As a natural extension, the portfolios could quite literally highlight an educator’s effort to move learning forward.
Educators who were interested in using the revised Performance Standards to track growth in reading and writing provided me with feedback with four reasons why this system would be useful for them:
- Linking the revised Performance Standards to Building Student Success made their assessments feel relevant, particularly because of the connection to the new curriculum;
- Using the revised Performance Standards to show growth supports existing structures of interviews, conferences and reporting because it contains the continuum descriptors that they used in communicating formally;
- Using the revised Performance Standards to indicate markers in learning enabled them to create a one page picture that showcases the reading and writing assessments they do regularly;
- The revised Performance Standards have language that aligns with many commonly used assessments in reading and phonological awareness. They could continue using their usual tools to collect data, but now the data could be expressed on the Performance Standard continuum.
Testing the Proto-types
Educators from our school district were excited to test the prototypes. Christie Wilson is an educator who teaches grade two and three at Glenview Elementary in Prince George. She devised a system with highlighters that concisely shows the date of the assessment and student progress (she uses PM Benchmark assessments at regular intervals) at each one. Christie keeps the portfolios (one for reading, one for writing) in an 11 x17 folder on her desk. Christie shared these assessments with visiting parents and guardians during interviews in the fall. Now, as she prepares to communicate the story of her students’ growth with the summative report card template, she has a clever visual that is poised to provide a framework for some highly personalized and meaningful comments.
Christie uses the margins for anecdotes during assessments
Tracy Flesher from Hart Highlands Elementary uses post-it notes to specify targets for learning.
Laura Gilday from Foothills Elementary sent digital and paper copies of the portfolios home as formal communication at the end of the year.
Well, that’s one big boing of color!
I have the extreme honor of being “the reading lady” who visits many classrooms in my district to help with benchmark assessments. Recently I started sharing the portfolios with the students. I explained to a lovely girl in grade two that the blue color represented her fall reading level (‘You mean around Halloween, right?’) and green represented winter (‘I remember Santa but not really anything else’) and finally that orange showed her May reading level. She had no problem reading the information as a visual – her excitement and pride clearly visible as she held her hands on her cheeks. “That’s amazing! Look at the big boing of the last color! I’m so telling my mom!”
To be clear, when the Performance Standards are used in the way described, it comprises one piece of a student portfolio. Many more pieces, in other curricular and core competencies, would have to be included in order to be considered a comprehensive portfolio. I simply consider it a starting place, and an arguably important one, because language arts infiltrates so much of what we do in the classroom.
This is the beginning of my journey as it relates to engineering the best version of a portfolio system for language arts in primary and intermediate. These revised documents are a work in progress and I welcome your feedback and input! I’m very excited to be one of the presenters at the 2017 PSA Superconference in Vancouver on Oct. 20-21st. My session, ‘Building Portfolios for Student Success’ (K-3/4-7) and will feature:
- Tools for building effective assessments in curricular and core competencies; several samples that can be modified to suit your classroom needs
- Practical classroom tested ideas for how to use the Grade K-3 and 4-7 Reading and Writing Performance Standards
- Supporting Portfolio documents that enable students to organize, document, and showcase their journey as it relates to the Performance Standards, and the curricular and core competencies
Attached are the pdf files of my “revamped” K-3 Reading and Writing Performance Standards, and the Grade 4 Reading Performance Standards. Please feel free to use and share with colleagues. Happy teaching, assessing, and learning!
Jennifer Moroz has taught grades K-8 for 12 years in SD 54 and dabbled with various portfolio systems in an effort to streamline the crucial task of communicating student learning. She began work as an assessment support teacher in SD 57 in 2015 and is eager to meet the needs of educators by creating effective assessments that align with the new BC curriculum. Jen loves meeting new people and collaborating with other educators. Contact her with your clever iterations, questions, suggestions, or to book a workshop at email@example.com or @MorozJennifer on Twitter.
If you would like to be a guest on this blog, please email me with your ideas!