Assessment & Accountability Lab

Directors: Xin Ma & Thomas R. Guskey

The work of the Assessment and Accountability Lab focuses on two related areas: (1) balanced student assessment policies and practices and (2) data-informed educational decision making. The first focus, under the leadership of Dr. Guskey, addresses the issue of assessment, and the second focus, under the leadership of Dr. Ma, addresses the issue of accountability.

Focus 1: Major efforts have been made in Kentucky, especially through Senate Bill 1, to change state policies regarding assessment and accountability. The extent to which those efforts have prompted change in the assessment practices of classroom teachers – the level most directly related to improvements in student learning – however, remains largely unknown. Most Kentucky teachers view assessments as summative evaluations designed to gather information about students’ learning in order to evaluate their performance and to assign grades. Helping teachers to understand the formative purposes of assessments, how assessments can become an integral part of the instructional process and provide students and teachers with vital feedback on learning progress, remains a significant need. The work of the Assessment and Accountability Lab focuses on this unmet need.

In addition, because most teachers teach as they were taught and assess as they were assessed, the Assessment and Accountability Lab works closely with faculty members in the College of Education and other colleges throughout the University to assist in revisions of their classroom assessment practices and grading policies. This work involves helping faculty members become familiar with the most current research on assessment and grading, review current policies and practices, and implement meaningful and effective revisions that model best practice.

Finally, the Assessment and Accountability Lab also supports the state’s initiative to provide core content leadership networks hosted by the educational cooperatives. This system of support helps teachers and school leaders break down the newly created content standards into clear targets for learning, develop high quality formative and summative assessments based on those targets, and plan well-aligned learning experiences for students. Since this initiative is statewide and grounded in an understanding of “balanced” assessment, it allows the Lab to reach a broad cross-section of teachers and school leaders throughout the Commonwealth. It also enhances collaboration between the Lab and the Central Kentucky Educational Cooperative (CKEC).

This work involves Lab staff members in systematic and collaboratively planned efforts to (1) help school leaders analyze and interpret statewide assessment results in order to develop effective improvement plans; (2) assist school leaders in developing the support mechanisms necessary to implement balanced, high-quality assessment practices at the classroom level; (3) help school teams plan and implement high quality professional development experiences designed to improve the assessment knowledge and skills of all teachers; (4) aid school teams in evaluating the effectiveness of their improvement efforts and make revisions when needed; and (5) guide school and district teams in the development of high quality standards-based reporting systems that communicate accurate and meaningful information on student learning to parents, guardians, and others.

Focus 2: The Kentucky Board of Education has expressed serious concern with the large number of middle and high schools that do not appear to be on track to reach proficiency by 2014. With less than three years left, Kentucky is in a desperate search for ANY strategy (no matter how drastically different from conventional ones) as long as it can “improve student performance as quickly as possible” (Blue Ribbon Panel, 2008, p. 7). Indeed, middle and high school performance is ranked as one of the top issues by the Kentucky Department of Education and, therefore, a top priority for  the Assessment and Accountability Lab.

The Blue Ribbon Panel lacks a research component, overlooking data that have been accumulated for a decade about schools in Kentucky. Without a good understanding of the hidden patterns of relationships among Kentucky schools, many recommended strategies may well be unrealistic. State-run testing data in Kentucky allow for a fast analysis to provide empirical insights to aid the search for effective strategies that urgently improve academic performance of Kentucky schools.

What are the contextual characteristics of low-performing middle and high schools (in comparison to their high-performing counterparts)? Specifically, the Assessment and Accountability Lab aims to develop analytical infrastructures that: (a) “document the extent to which these middle and high schools are in districts with elementary schools projected to reach proficiency, or whether challenges in these schools can be attributed to challenges during the elementary school years;” and (b) “document the extent to which these middle and high schools are concentrated in rural or urban settings, and the characteristics of teachers in schools not expected to reach proficiency (and schools that are on track)” (Hansen, 2007, p. 6).

The Assessment and Accountability Lab aims to form a partnership with Kentucky Department of Education to plan a sufficient and rapid examination of state-run testing data for the purpose of providing empirical information to the Blue Ribbon Panel (and other state educational authorities) for data-informed educational decision making.

Staff: The Lab will be directed by Dr. Xin Ma, Professor of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology, and Dr. Thomas R. Guskey, Professor of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology. Practitioner Co-Directors will be Dr. Joanmarie McGuire, Senior Analyst in the Office of Assessment and Accountability, Kentucky Department of Education, and Dr. Ben R. Oldham, former Director of Research and Assessment for the Fayette County Public Schools and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Georgetown College. Other staff members will include Mr. Kevin Hill, Director of Division of Assessment Implementation, Office of Assessment and Accountability, Kentucky Department of Education; Dr. Kelly Bradley, Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Evaluation; Dr. Lee Ann Jung, Associate Professor of Special Education; Dr. Marco Muñoz, Evaluation Specialist in the Accountability, Research, and Planning Department of the Jefferson County Public Schools; Dr. H. M. Snodgrass, Director of the Central Kentucky Educational Cooperative (CKEC), and Ms. Dee Jones, Professional Development and Grants Coordinator of CKEC; Dr. Gerry Swan, Assistant Professor of Instructional Systems Design and Mechanical Engineering in the Colleges of Education and Engineering; Dr. Kim Zeidler-Watters, Director of the P-12 Math and Science Outreach Unit of the Partnership Institute for Mathematics and Science Education Research (PIMSER); Ms. Michele Reynolds, District Assessment Coordinator for the Fayette County Public Schools.

Outcomes: The Assessment and Accountability Lab co-directors organized a series of planning meetings during the academic year. These meetings focused on identifying and prioritizing  activities in which the Lab might engage, discussing possible means of support for these activities, considering what collaborative arrangements with other state agencies might help to facilitate these activities, and developing specific steps to be take to lead, implement, and sustain improvement efforts throughout the Commonwealth. This resulted in successful proposals to the Council on Postsecondary Education and other proposals currently under consideration by the Kentucky Department of Education and other private funding agencies. Others are in various stages of development.  In addition,  the Co-directors also will be making a series of presentations to various state agencies and school district leaders to encourage their participation in Lab activities.


Updated by on July 4, 2011 at 3:07 pm

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