It was a dynamite four days in Philly last week at the NAIS annual conference: although I was unsure how it would feel to be attending in a different capacity, not as a Head but in my new role of writer/consultant/presenter, it ended up very fun and engaging.   As always, the best parts are outside the formal conference in the camaraderie and fellowship found there with so many pursuing with parallel passion the meaningful and rewarding work of remaking learning for our fast-changing times.

The slides above come from a most fascinating session sharing what I’d argue is genuinely breakthrough work from the folks at the Index group on what they call their new Mission Skills Assessment, MSA, for Middle School Students.

(It was a big team presenting, including Lisa Pullman from Index, Tim Bazemore from New Canaan Country School (CT), Jennifer Phillips from Far Hills Country Day (NJ), and Rich Roberts from ETS; see the last slide for all their names and contact info)

As they explained, and as I often try my best to pursue here at 21k12, we have long as educators believed and proclaimed that character development, defined broadly, is of importance equal to that of intellectual and academic development, and yet truly, outside of the not-always-deeply successful advisory programming and a few assemblies here and there, how far do we usually go with this character education?

And, when students know that grades are the coin of the realm and that nearly all of the grades they earn and the feedback they get is on the academic-intellectual side, how well are we signaling to them the importance we place or guiding them with the feedback which is so important on the non-cognitive side of the equation?

Here with the MSA, the group has identified, after review of both the research of what makes for success out there, and of what our schools state in our missions we do in here, six key traits, and I love this list:

Teamwork, Creativity, Ethics, Resilience, Curiosity, Time Management. 

As the slides demonstrate, this has been an investigation carried out in the most serious of ways, spread out over five years and drawing upon the expert resources of and collaboration with ETS.  Their ETS partner, Rich Roberts, explained that as surprising as it might seem, ETS has been working on Noncog for over a decade, and indeed, the pursuit of noncog assessment which can match the quality of cognitive assessment goes back more than 60 years.

Roberts argued that the consensus view after decades of study is that noncog is not, no it is NOT, twice as important as cognitive skills and attributes for success in life– but it is EQUAL.

But assessing it has never been easy– this is the rub.  But, the research here conducted finds strong validity and reliability for a tripartite approach, as described in the image below, of student self-report, teacher evaluation, and a third tool for “triangulation.” NAIS and the Mission Skills Assessment from the Index Group   21k12

These third tools are discussed in slides 36-38, and include Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs), which were similarly touted at the Boalt Hall Law School study I described here, biographical studies, and Creativity Performance Tests.

For those that are skeptical that even with this triangulation we get to an effective measurement, check out the discussion of reliability and validity on slides 48-55, where reliability is found to be just a tad less than on the SAT and validity in prediction better than standardized test scores and GPA for student quality ratings and student well being and just a little less well than standardized test scores for GPA.

As for the inevitable question– whether and when this tool will become more broadly available, beyond the membership of the Index group, it appears as I view it that these questions have yet to be answered.   As soon as they are, I’ll do my best to report that news here.

But, there is no reason for schools outside of Index to not use these ideas and resources to advance their own work in assessing student development of these essential qualities.

Although the hour went by much too swiftly, Suzie Boss, Brett Jacobsen, and I had a great time sharing our thoughts on the topic of Bringing Innovation to School today at NAIS AC 13

The slides are above.  If you are interested, you can click over to read Mike Gwaltney’s notes from the session.

In my remarks, I made reference to my presentation a year ago at NAIS on Innovative Schools, Innovative Students, which you can find here. 

My remarks also drew heavily upon a post I wrote last fall on about the power of peer networking and Steven Johnson’s new book, Future Perfect, which can be found here. 

boss book cover

Highly recommended for our attendees and everyone else interested in this topic is Suzie’s book,  Bringing Innovation to School.

As a part of our session, we invited attendees to answer themselves on sticky notes questions about how they are, or how they would, bring innovation to school– and as promised, I’m happy to share them here:

How might we innovate around…

Learning assessment?

  • Group/self evaluation of public speaking, collaboration, using rubrics and feedback
  • Have students design the assessments and rubrics
  • Build more assessments for learning
  • Include multiple assessors (members of community, parents, etc.)
  • Use of rubrics with the 4 C’s
  • Listen more
  • Project-based assessment
  • Always think about what type of human you’re attempting to graduate first. Then match assessment (and learning) to those desired transformative outcomes

Learning space?

  • Flexible
  • Make every classroom a makerspace
  • Cover walls with Idea Paint
  • Ask: If we had a blank space to create a new middle school, what would it look like?
  • Collaborate with other subject areas and other classrooms in different schools
  • Flexible space with flexible, comfortable furniture
  • Spaces for: 1 student, 3 students to work together, 5-8 as a group, 15-25 as a class, 30+ for group experiments
  • Think “outside” the box. Different types of learning require different spaces
  • Involve students in designing their school spaces; visit as many other schools as possible (from both your and other school “genres”) (more…)

Suzie Boss, Mike Gwaltney, and I had the great pleasure to present, share, and discuss this topic with about 50 workshop attendees here at NAIS AC 13.

In addition to the slides, we have built out (thanks to Mike) a full website of materials and resources for our presentation, which you can find here.    It’s shortened ULR is tinyurl.com/leadpbl   Below is a screengrab of the front page.

Leadership for PBLThis is a topic about which we are all very passionate, of course, and eager to support in the future.  We’ve created a user group inside isenet here, which we invite all to join us in.    We intend to do things with this group in the future to continue to support this important work.

Thanks to all who came and participated– let’s go forward with this important work.

A student’s eye view, narrated, of the open computer test experience, talking one’s way through a sample problem with the resources of the internet.

A teacher’s eye view of an open computer testing experience:

For much more about Open Computer Testing, including links to several sample tests, perceptions of students, and links to other resources, click here.

Back now from the stimulating, fascinating, and exhausting frenetic whirlwind that was three days at NAIS Annual Conference 2011.

Time for some observations and take-aways.

1.  As many have already written and said, the Gaylord National Harbor site, while clean and pleasant, was strikingly out of sync with the Conference theme of public purpose, and I don’t want to leave unstated that disappointment.   Our message should be one of lowering the barriers and connecting to the community rather than perpetuating isolation, and this setting was a strike against this message.

I heard from many that it was particularly awkward in regards to teaching candidate recruitment, which was compromised by a location so challenging to access without an automobile.

2. The outstanding highlight of the conference for me was the excellent Ted-style talk by Salman Khan about his extraordinaryKhan Academy.   No individual, by my lights, is going to more greatly transform how learning works in the next decade than Khan, and in person he was charming, energetic, and inspiring.   At the core of his message is his argument that if we use technology effectively, we don’t diminish the interpersonal, face-to-face, relational, human qualities of the classroom, we enhance it.   (more…)

Yesterday I was very fortunate to be joined by two terrific fellow school-leaders, Josie Holford and Michael Ebeling, to discuss blogging as Heads at the NAIS Annual Conference; our session was excellently moderated by Sarah Hanawald, Dean of Academics at Cannon School (NC).
Jason Ramsden was kind enough to live-blog the panel, which I provide below.
One additional valuable link for school-heads and principals interested in blogging: check out Connected Principals.
Friday February 25, 2011
7:56
Raventech:

Welcome to the start of day three here at NAIS’ 2011 Annual Conference. This morning we kick start the day in Blogging Heads: Three Heads Discuss Why and How They Blog.

Michael Ebeling, Peak Experience blog (Summit School, NC)
Josie Holford Compass Point blog (Poughkeepsie Day School, NY)
Jonathan Martin (St. Gregory College Prep, AZ)

7:56
Raventech:

We’re about 4 mins from the start of this session and the room is beginning to fill.

(more…)

My thanks to Sarah Hanawald for the following liveblog transcript of our session Friday at NAIS, where I was joined by CWRA administrator Chris Jackson and Lawrenceville Dean of Faculty (and Klingenstein Curriculum Instructor legend) Kevin Mattingly in presenting on the College Work Readiness Assessment.
At the end of the session, I mentioned my interest in forming a network of folks interested in working to develop a parallel, CWRA-Style assessment for middle school students, (as is being done in an interesting way in the Virginia Beach School District in a program there run by Jared Cotton).    If you are interested in being a part of this network, or being apprised of such activities, please let me know by entering your name and email here.
But first, the session slides:

CWRA Session is packed–folks are standing outside.
11:33
Chris Jackson: Opens with a book reference–Academically Adrift
11:36
Chris Jackson:

The mission, to help schools know how they are doing with what other tests don’t measure. Metrics for the schools.

Subscores on essential areas: critical thinking,  analytical reasoning, Effective writing, and problem-solving. (more…)