Vancouver Public Schools was noted in a White House briefing for its work to significantly reduce district assessments. The Dec. 7 release covered work-to-date about President Obama’s Testing Action Plan, which “asked the U.S. Department of Education to work aggressively with states and school districts to make sure that tests students take are worthwhile; high-quality; time-limited; fair and transparent to students and families; and one of multiple sources used to understand how students, educators and schools are progressing.”
VPS was profiled in a White House fact sheet, a U.S. Department of Education blog, and included in a speech by Secretary of Education John King, Jr. for efforts to reduce and improve assessments. In 2015, VPS convened a stakeholder group of teachers, specialists and other educators to evaluate district assessments. The 25-member assessment review team developed a list of priorities to evaluate assessment options. The team’s focus—assessments for learning—ensured that time spent on testing would identify gaps in learning and thereby guide instruction.
Said VPS Superintendent Steve Webb of the district’s assessment review, “We kept the focus on what we wanted students to learn. We also wanted students to be engaged in the assessment process and to take ownership of their learning and for teachers to have the information they need to meet the needs of our students. This purpose-driven approach drove the discussion and helped us make decisions in a timely manner.”
The new assessment system was in place by the 2015-16 school year. Integral to the plan is the addition of job-related coaching sessions to support teachers and schools. Designed by school-based professional learning communities, the new formative assessments give teachers the ability to target instruction to meet student needs.
The VPS profile includes these markers of success:
- Average of 900 minutes back into the classroom across grades 3 – 8
- 16 point increase in the on-time graduation rate to over 80 percent
- 200 percent increase in students of poverty enrolled in AP/IB coursework