Denise Mulloy teaches Math at St. Gregory; just last week she attended the Council for Aid to Education’s CLA in the Classroom Performance Task Academy, which provides to attendees the chance to learn to develop  in their own classroom curriculum performance tasks comparable to those used for the CWRA (College Work Readiness Assessment).

Here is her report:

It was an interesting and challenging training on bringing the Collegiate Learning Assessment (and the high school version College and Work Readiness Assessment) into classroom teaching using Performance Tasks. “The Performance Task Academies aim to help faculty develop and assess student learning holistically, and to focus on key higher order skills in ways that replicate how these skills are uses in the ‘larger world.'” It was similar to the work we have been examining in the HEAT conferences and the visits to High Tech High.

The highlights for me were:

  • The illustrations of traditional testing vs. the CWRA test which tests all of the following:
  • I’m delighted and excited to have been invited recently as a panelist at September’s annual US DoE’s  Office of Non-Public Education-Office of Improvement and Innovation’s Private School Leadership Conference (that is a mouthful).  I’ve been invited to present on the topic of “aligning data collection with school mission.”

    Regular readers here know I have long used this forum to advocate for the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA) and the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE); speaking at this event to an audience of influential private school educators and association executives will give me a great opportunity to carry forward my advocacy.

    It is also a chance to think more, more thoroughly, more deeply about the panel’s helpful title and framing. I hadn’t myself focussed squarely enough until now  upon the simple but elegant and critically important concept of “aligning data collection with school mission,” but that is of course exactly what I am circling around and trying to get more fully in focus.  I will be developing my remarks and presentation over the next few weeks, and I will certainly share/post it here, but here is a first stab at summarizing my thesis:

    Most of us who are leading in private and independent education place high priority, in our educational missions and throughout our school cultures, upon three core goals:

    • upon delivering and achieving personalized and differentiated teaching and learning which has a significant and positive impact improving the educational progress of individual learners of a wide range of abilities, maintaining a focus upon the individual and not the mass of learners;
    • upon forging and sustaining a connected community of engaged, active, intrinsically motivated, extracurricularly involved, technologically employing, hard-working learners; (more…)

    As part of my continuing campaign on this blog for the value of the CWRA, the College &  Work Readiness Assessment, I am happy to share this map with readers; all blue dots represents high schools in the US using the CWRA; St. Gregory remains the only school in Arizona.

    My goal is to see many more blue dots crowd this map in the years to come.

    The full interactive map is available here.

    Last week our seniors took the College Work Readiness Assessment for the first time; most of them very much enjoyed it, to their surprise.  Two days afterwards, I had them speak to on video about the test: please know these are their own words, entirely unscripted.

    My favorite quotes:

    We all found it extremely intriguing and enriching, and personally what I like about is so much is that sometimes when you are in class you think “when am I ever going to use this information” and “I cannot think of a single life experience when I would need to use this equation or this random fact from history.” But with this test, I found myself sitting in a room with a computer and have a pool of information to dive into,  which is a really great feeling and you understand and realize that what you are learning is relevant and important.  I think that this realization made it exciting and fun and has given me an almost newfound respect for the information I learn on a day to day basis.

    It was nice to be able to couple together some of the common sense and life wisdom that you don’t always get to incorporate in testing and in class;   this test allowed you to couple that [wisdom] with the strictly information knowledge and that which was strictly in the documents and work it all together into a very, very nice piece.

    What I found really interesting what that on this test, it was not only just “hey we are going to find out what you know” it was more “we are going to give you information and you are going to have come up with your own opinions based on this information.” (more…)

    The WaPo’s Jay Matthews is the single most influential educational journalist in America, and over the years I find myself often tacking back and forth in my appreciation for his writing.   I share with him his great enthusiasm for the IB (International Baccalaureate); on the other hand, I believe his ranking schools by AP scores is problematic, and I was quite put off in 2008 and 2009 by some of his cranky (his own word-choice) criticsm of the 21st century skills movement.

    But in recent months he has been terrific; in December he brought good attention to and praised an important report from Craig Jerald, Defining 21st century education,  then praised (late, but better late than never) Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap,  and participated in a fascinating on-line debate with Wagner.

    This month Matthews has a fun piece endorsing one of my favorites, the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA), a piece which I am going to quote at some length.

    “Why not take the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a new essay exam that measures analysis and critical thinking, and apply it to high schools? Some colleges give it to all of their freshmen, and then again to that class when they are seniors, and see how much value their professors at that college have added. We could do the same for high schools, with maybe a somewhat less strenuous version.”

    But after I posted that idea, a young man named Chris Jackson e-mailed me that his organization had thought of it four years ago and had it up and running. Very cheeky, I thought, but also intriguing. I never thought anyone would try such a daring concept. (more…)

    This was a great session, and my kudos and appreciation to the presenters:  CWRA (College and Work Readiness Assessment) is a powerful tool for educational reform, and an important vehicle for bringin problem-based learning into our classrooms.  It isn’t just a measurement device, I increasingly realize, but a tool that stirs the entire pot of a school culture toward more authentic assessment throughout a school. Below is my narrative of the session:

    Today’s presentation, entitled Collaboration for 21st century Success, features a panel of representatives from schools actually using the CWRA.
    (more…)

    I do realize the title above may appear to be an alphabet soup of confusion, but the translation is this: there is a new, terrific, endorsement of the quality of the CWRA test (something I advocate for here frequently) from the OECD, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, the very important transnational body of 31 leading industrial nations.

    The OECD already does a good job with its international assessment of the knowledge application skills, the PISA, a test which asks of 15 year-olds  the valuable questions “Can they analyse, reason and communicate effectively? Do they have the capacity to continue learning throughout life?”  (more…)

    Global Achievemnent GapA colleague asked me recently to share the ways in which we are using Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap with our faculty this fall; this post is  my answer.    The book has been hugely valuable for us this year as a guide and foundation as we seek to further advance St. Gregory as a 21st century school and as a “School that Works” to teach the “new survival skills.”   I think that often schools assign faculty summer reading, and then do very little with it– maybe a meeting/discussion or two– but we have deliberately erred in the other direction: I am seeking to infuse the ideas of the book into many different arenas of the educational work we are doing at St. Gregory, even at the risk of overdoing it.

    Some of the ways we are using it  include, with full explanations after the jump (more):

    1. Rich reading discussions
    2. Describing the St. Gregory Wagnerian Classroom.
    3. Respecting and applying the four principles of Schools that Work
    4. Implementing new Measurements of student learning: the Egg, CWRA, HSSSE, PISA, and dashboards. (more…)

    Wednesday our ninth grade students will take the CWRA, in our school’s first administration of this innovative and contemporary test.  St. Gregory, I have been told, is the first high school in Arizona to join the CWRA testing, and, hence, our ninth graders will be Wednesday the first ever Arizona students to participate!

    I have blogged about the CWRA about four or five times previously; I am a great enthusiast for it.   One post here shared the news that Atlantic magazine named the CLA/CWRA as one among “15 ideas to Save the World.” I want to use this post to give more background information about it.    (more…)

    When we talk about 21st century learning, sometimes we are talking about what students need to learn, and sometimes about how they need to learn.   Richard Hersh’s piece in the new Ed. Leadership is really excellent in, succinctly (!) speaking with great effectiveness to both these topics.

    Hersh is a guru, for those who are paying attention, in the field of assessing what matters most, of assessing beyond the bubble, of  asessing thinking and communication skills in a significant, serious way. His little bio at the end of the Ed. Leadership article doesn’t do him justice; this is the architect of the CLA and CWRA we are talking about, and regular readers of this blog know that CLA/CWRA is cutting edge in the field.

    About content, I have found myself lately in fairly frequent dialogue (both virtually and actually) debating the question of skills vs. content in 21st century education.   While it is true that 21st century learning advocates fiercely focus on teaching skills, it is not true that we are throwing babies out with bathwater– we are instead responding to the problem that too much of school, and too much of assessment, has been in recent years narrowly limited to teaching for content.

    But let’s hear Hersh’s argument: educating for a flat world “is not a question of content vs. skills– it’s about creating challenging, profoundly engaging, and authentic educational experiences that produce life-long learners…. The issue of either skills or content is a false dichotomy, one that we need to transcend if we are going to make signficant progress.” (more…)



    The current Atlantic offer a thoughtprovoking list of “ideas to save the world.”  Leaping out at this blogger is the one entitled Tell the Truth About Colleges. Thomas Toch directs a think-tank called Education Sector, and here he argues that

    influential college rankings like the one published by U.S. News & World Report measure mostly wealth and status (alumni giving rates, school reputation, incoming students’ SAT scores); they reveal next to nothing about what students learn. We need to shed more light on how well colleges are educating their students—to help prospective students make better decisions, and to exert pressure on the whole system to provide better value for money.

    I agree;  more to the point is my enthusiasm for the tools Toch recommends to do this, to “shed more light on how well colleges are educating:” the National Survey of Student Engagement and the College Learning Assessment.   Like Toch, I think these two tools, when used in combination, can reveal a great deal about how well schools are engaging and preparing their students– and regular readers of this blog know both that I have previously enthusiastically endorsed the secondary school analogues of each of these, the HSSSE and the CWRA, and that we are implementing both at St. Gregory College Prep.   It is great to see these vehicles for promoting school excellence advocated for in a national magazine; indeed, to see them labeled as ideas to save the world!   Surveying and testing kids– we are saving the world!

    I am delighted to be here for this session; Chris Jackson, CWRA Program Director, and I have been corresponding since Fall, and regular readers of my blog know I have frequently touted the virtues of CWRA, the College and Work Readiness Assessment.    CWRA first came to my attention last winter, when as a Klingenstein Visiting Fellow I was told of it by a fellow fellow Mark Desjardins, Head of Holland Hall in Oklahoma.     But it vaulted further upwards in my awareness upon my reading of Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap  In it, Wagner raves about CWRA as a very valuable testing tool to assess the value add our schools are providing our students, measuring their mastery of 21st century skills such as critical thinking and problem solving.

    No bones about it: I am on a CWRA promotion crusade (though I have no affiliation).   From what I have learned, CWRA offers powerful assessment of what our students are learning in the most important ways.   One of my very first acts as Head-Elect of St. Gregory College Prep has been to institute the funding for St. Gregory to join the CWRA family, and I am eager to see many more NAIS schools join the flock.  (more…)