Developing Leadership Teams
Leadership of formative assessment takes place at the district, school and teacher leadership level. The Syracuse City School District established a District Formative Assessment Leadership Team, and established regular opportunities for principals and mathematics coaches to meet, plan, and discuss leadership strategies for building and classroom-level formative assessment implementation. The Syracuse City School District Mathematics Director led the overall project, participated in leadership discussions at every level, and worked with the New York Comprehensive Center (NYCC) project staff to craft professional development and facilitate leadership meetings throughout the project. NYCC project staff facilitated 15 leadership meetings over the two years of the project, and the Mathematics Director led many more internal leadership discussions related to formative assessment implementation. Major topics for the district and principal leadership sessions included:
- Developing a shared definition of formative assessment and understanding of the research
- Planning project implementation strategies
- Integrating formative assessment with existing school improvement strategies
- Reviewing changes in classroom culture and climate required for effective formative assessment implementation
- Clarifying new approaches to building and classroom-based professional development
- Developing strategies to integrate formative assessment and benchmark data
In addition to facilitating leadership team discussions, NYCC staff also provided professional development to building leaders throughout the district, and to the principals and teacher leaders at the formative assessment schools.
- Roles and Responsibilities for Syracuse Teams
- Assessment Framework for Syracuse City School District
- Initial Readings for the District Leadership Team
- Aligning Mathematics Formative Assessment with Building Improvement Goals
- PD for District Leaders: Syracuse Principals Leadership Academy
- Site-Based Visit to Support Building Principals Implementing Formative Assessment
- The Syracuse City School District benefited from having a district Leadership Team on the Formative Assessment Project. The team was comprised of the Assistant Superintendent, the Director of Mathematics, the Director of Professional Development, the Coordinator of Assessment, the Elementary Principal Directors and the Director of Special Education Services. This group worked with NYCC staff to provide important context, clarify project implementation needs, and determine connections between formative assessment and other district improvement initiatives. They were responsible for communicating information about the project to all district staff.
- The Formative Assessment Project presented Syracuse City School District building leaders with some new approaches to professional development that more directly involved building leaders to move the work forward, and enhanced the mathematics coaching role to be more directly involved with individual teachers and teacher teams. Building principals, math coaches, and the Director of Mathematics worked together to ensure that the math coaches in pilot schools were focused on teacher adoption and use of formative assessment.
- Effective implementation of formative assessment practices requires more than a toolbox with some new techniques; it requires teachers to improve their professional judgment based on the evidence of student learning they gather in regular, ongoing, minute-by-minute and day-by-day checks. Leadership support is not to mandate or demand new practices, but rather to provide time, resources, and support for teachers to explore the research and best practices together, using their curriculum, materials, and assessment results.
- Regardless of how many other initiatives are taking leadership time, there must be planned times for leadership teams to reflect, revise, and plan next steps and strategies to create consistent approaches to address teacher concerns. Leaders at all levels need to be a few steps ahead of the teachers throughout the implementation process. To do this, regular meeting time is essential.
- District leaders should have time together so that they develop a clear vision of formative assessment work, and this vision may need to be revisited over time. In addition, leaders from all levels should be able to articulate how formative assessment connects with other initiatives such as English Language Learner programs, Response to Intervention models, student support services, and other school/district improvement strategies.
- Formative assessment practices require cultural changes in classroom practice. To a casual observer, one not trained in the use of these practices, a formative assessment classroom that is responsive to students’ learning may appear ‘disorderly,’ or it may appear that the teacher is not ‘teaching’ as he or she works with students in different ways. Building leaders have a significant role in supporting teachers to make these kinds of changes.
- Effective formative assessment promotes an environment where it is expected that learning happens at different rates and in different ways for students; that both teachers and students will look closely at students’ learning; and that teachers will continually assess and refine practice. Leadership must model ways in which instructional strategies are reviewed and examined in light of student learning needs.