LaTricea Adams is assessment and data specialist, and NAEP coordinator at César Chávez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, Washington, D.C. Here, she answered a few questions about all things education for Kappan.
You have designed curriculum and assessments for the Common Core. From those experiences, what are the most important things teachers should do or not do in teaching and assessing students for the Common Core?
The most important thing teachers should do is to utilize UbD (Understanding by Design) with absolute fidelity. Because the Common Core State Standards are so incredibly complex it is imperative that teachers unpack these standards prior to crafting learning experiences or assessments. It’s important that teachers don’t teach the material before crafting the assessment. An assessment serves two roles: First is to assess student learning, and second is to assess the effectiveness of instruction. Creating learning experiences without the learning goals and assessment in place is like traveling to a foreign place with no map or guidance.
Your initial teacher training and work was in foreign language education. Was there anything stemming from learning and teaching a foreign language that gives you insight into how to help students meet the higher overall standards being asked of them?
Because I had the honor of teaching a foreign language, I mastered taking multiple of groups of students with little to no prior knowledge to collegiate level abilities. The consistent woe expressed by my educators is that students are so far behind. In a World Language class you’re already prepared to meet students who have no previous connections to the language. It is an inherent occurrence, but it never impeded upon the expectations I set for me or my students. The positive mindset of a glass half-full as opposed to a glass half-empty is what drives me to help teachers, students, and schools to meet very challenging yet achievable and meaningful goals.
You also have developed experience in raising student achievement through research-based, data-driven practices. Is that the best approach for teaching children from low-income backgrounds whose environments outside the classroom may not be most conducive to accelerated learning at school?
Data is the safest ground for decision making. It is pure and it tells the story. As educators in an urban school setting, we can only author the stories we create. We tell the best story with the best data in order to strive toward a happy ending. This approach is beneficial for all schools despite the socioeconomic backgrounds.
You are having coaching experiences. What is the most successful professional development that yields better teaching and learning?
The most successful professional development is one led by teachers. When teachers are respected as professionals and experts in the field, morale is boosted and student achievement soars. Professional learning communities implemented timely, consistently, and with high quality are the most successful for of professional development. My most effective professional development was during the assessment training modules. The training was unique yet rigorous because teachers were truly able to use practical knowledge to immediately impact student learning. Teachers welcomed the challenge to meet and surpass the level of rigor in their instruction as a way to meet or surpass the learning, thinking, and transferability called for by the assessment.