I recently finished The Principal as Assessment Leader, edited by Thomas Guskey.
Although Thomas Guskey edited the book, its chapters were contributed by various consultants, teachers and administrators from around North America. With so many authors, it's hard to identify a single "spin" portrayed. After viewing the works cited at the end of each chapter, it became evident that many of the authors have been influenced by Marzano, Guskey, O'Connor and each other, too.
On why assessment reform is a touchy subject in schools today,
"It can be hard for teachers - entrenched in an assessment culture heavy with summative assessments, normed scoring, and grades used for ensuring compliance - to recognize the flaws in a system that they themselves have respected for many years and worked to perfect" (11).A often quoted theme throughout the book was common formative assessments.
"Common team-made formative assessments make teachers mutually accountable to each other. These assessments result in collective responsibility for individual student learning for all students within the team and ensure high levels of learning for all students because teachers agree on a mutual proficiency standard" (38).I appreciated the pragmatic outlook on assessment reform.
"Unfortunately, educational pedagogy still remains steeped in a culture where it is the role of the teacher to teach and the student to learn. But what happens if the student does not learn or actually chooses not to learn?" (227)and
"Principals occasionally get caught up in the seeming dichotomy of focusing on results or building relationships" (255).The bottom line
This anthology of writings is without a doubt geared towards school administrators, but classroom teachers would undoubtedly benefit from reading the majority of the chapters, too. The writing combines a nice balance of theory and practical suggestions. I wasn't left feeling like I had all of the answers, per se, but instead a broader collection of ideas around the idea that "the way we currently assess and grade students is broken." I wouldn't recommend reading this book straight through as I did over the past few weeks, but instead selectively reading chapters when the timing is more appropriate. For example, Chapter 8 was about the courage to implement standards-based report cards. Not all principals may be ready for this leap, whereas it may be within the zone of proximal development of the principal AND the culture of his/her building that it could be extremely timely.
As a fan of anthology books published by Solution Tree (such as the grand-daddy of all assessment books Ahead of the Curve) I recommend this book for the shelf of any and all readers of this blog.