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Barry Sweeny, © 1997


1. It is essential to focus your time & resources. To do so use a framework that integrates Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment to guide your work.

2. Be sure you know what state requirements are for local assessment & school improvement. Then compare those requirements to your own concept of best practices to determine the overlap area. (That will probably require all the time and money you have anyway.) Concentrate your time and efforts in that overlap area & you'll never be sorry. Even if requirements change, your work will still be valuable to you.


3. Be sure that assessment tasks are clearly linked to student learning outcomes.

4. Engaging tasks maximize student effort & minimize teacher grading efforts. This is true because engaging tasks invite students to make their best efforts, and good work is easier to grade.

5. Be sure that tasks are connected to & supportive of other curricular themes.


6. Listen to those who have been doing what you are wanting to learn about. Their advice can help you avoid the pitfalls and capture the benefits faster. Their commitment will help you see what you will value later on, and what is worth doing now.

7. Keep track of changes each year, such as staff development, adoption of texts, revision of tests, renorming of tests, etc. When you analyze data later on these changes will help you to consider what caused the changes. That will help you to learn HOW to cause improvements.

8. Write down your purposes for tasks, for assessments, for any decisions. This will be valuable for those who do future work such as revisions of your work, because they will understand your intent and be able to improve upon your work.

9. Collect data at a grade across time to evaluate whether improvement efforts at that grade are achieving their purpose. Collect data for each class of students as they move across the grades to evaluate if their learning progress is sufficient.

10. Design general rubrics that have 6 steps & that provide the data needed to track student growth across several grades. then, even if you use a rubric for just your class or grade level, make sure that it can be linked to the more general rubric. In other words, that your grade-specific rubric addresses a portion of the general rubric. That way the data you collect can be aggregated with the data others collect (using thier own rubrics. ) If you don't do this, the data collected will be difficult to use to show student growth over time.

11. Build assessments on criteria and tasks for which there is consensus. If you can reach consensus about what to assess or how to assess it, or whether all student must master it, then do not make it the focus of school improvement. It will be too difficult to achieve improvement when people do not agree on it.


12. Alignment of standards, outcomes, curriculum, instruction, and assessment can often improve student achievement 30-40% ! This is NOT teaching to the test. It is teaching and assessing what we value.


13. Create summaries of all data you collect so you don't have to juggle reams and binders of data, and so that you can see the patterns which indicate what the data means.

14. Look for and try to explain the patterns in the data to find your improvement opportunities. Formatting data as charts and graphs can help reveal these patterns.

15. Compare student achievement data for each subject to stake holder opinions (such as teacher, student, and parent views) of the areas in which students need help. This will help you to check your assumptions and refine your ability to assess student needs.

16. Use the data to check your own assumptions about what is true, and expect to discover some of your assumptions are wrong. Plan your work to show you different perspectives on the same information and you will learn new insights.

17. When you believe you know what to do to cause an improvement, plan how you will collect data to help you monitor your progress. Then, state your prediction of what you expect to happen as an hypothesis to test out as you do the improvement activity.


18. Consider using a SIP model which includes a year of in-depth data collection, analysis and planning, and then 2-3 years in which you annually "check" the data trends and that the plan is still an appropriate response. Most schools can not invest the time needed to do comprehensive SIP planning every year. Also, most improvement efforts will take several years to achieve their purpose.

19. At the end of the year, write out what the steps in your school improvement process has been and the dates on which you have done those steps. Discuss if that time line is appropriate given when you get test results back, when you have time to meet and work on the SIP, and when other needed info is available. Write out an adapted schedule and steps to reflect this more reasonable sequence.

20. Decide who is best positioned to make good SIP decisions for each step. Who cares about it? Who knows what needs to be considered in making the decision? Follow this sequence (19) and the decision about who decides what every year. At the end of each year, discuss the sequence and "who decides" and adapt it to keep improving it. This will ensure that those who follow you can build on the lessons you have learned & the process will keep improving.

21. Ensure SIP Team continuity and an improved SIP process by staggering membership terms.

22. Do NOT focus on improving TEST SCORES or on improving STUDENT LEARNING, for this can only lead to short-term success. Focus on LEARNING HOW to improve student learning. That will ensure long-term improved student learning and assessment scores that you will know how to sustain.

You may copy and distribute this paper as long as it is free and you retain the following credits:

Barry Sweeny, © 1997, Resources for Staff and Organization Development

26 W 413 Grand Ave., Wheaton, IL 60187, (630) 668-2605, e-mail [email protected]

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