Jul 28, 2014
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Tonight: Knowledge Café for Chappaqua's New Assessments

Schools Superintendent, outside expert, will discuss Chappaqua's new local assessments for grading students' performance.

Tonight: Knowledge Café for Chappaqua's New Assessments

While much attention is paid to state testing as part of the school experience, the Chappaqua Central School District is changing its in-house, local assessments for students.

Tonight, the district will hold a Knowledge Café, or public forum, so people can learn about the assessments. According to the district, this will include time to experience them and understand how they support student learning.

Superintendent Lyn McKay will be at the event, along with Diane Cunningham from  Learner Centered Initiatives, which, according to its website, works on school services and professional development programs for staff. Cunningham has been working with the school district for about two years in shaping its assessments.

The goal of the new assessments is two fold. Eric Byrne, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, explained they relate to the school board's strategic question for teaching and learning, which support deep thinking, use of problem solving skills and an active learning involvement ( click here for details on it). From the strategic question, a set of standards were formed, called the Chappaqua Thinking Standards, which are used in connection with the question's principles. The standards, in turn, rely on the new assessments for measurement.

In addition, Byrne said that the local assessments are used for part of the new teaching evaluation. They account for 20 percent of a teacher's job review, according to a presentation given at a November school board meeting, with state tests, observation and inquiry accounting for the rest.

The new assessments are a far cry from traditional multiple choice testing. Byrne told Patch that they are "performance tasks," and they are applied at each age level.

In an NCCMC video of the board's Dec. 12 meeting, staff developers went into details about the process, and it was explained that performance is connected to looking at students engaging in real-world tasks, using important skills to apply what they know. In essence, the process of problem solving gets held in high regard.

Examples cited in the board video by staff developers include  8th-grade science students observing and explaining how two similar spheres fared after being dropped into two different liquids, along with data sharing with peers. Another example given the video is for 4th-grade physical education, in which students are graded, on a scale of 1 through 4, how they do in sportsmanship. At the high school level, an example was given of chorus students being able to critique music listened to.

While the assessments would come in many different forms, in was explained in the meeting video that they are each connected to the overarching standard criteria.

New assessments have already been piloted, the district announced, and will be given on a district-wide basis this spring. In the future, they will be given once a year.

Turnout for the Knowledge Café is expected to be strong; Byrne said that more than 100 people have registered. It will be held tonight at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of Robert E. Bell Middle School in downtown Chappaqua.

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