Tilton School - Assessing the Learning That Matters Most

In early October I was honored to be invited to Tilton School to discuss assessment.  My friend and colleague, Grant Lichtman, is working with the Tilton board, faculty, administrators and students as they build capacity for long term organizational change. Grant suggested I make a trip north to meet the faculty, share the recent IFL ‘Assessing the Learning That Matters Most’ report, and facilitate a discussion with the team tasked with reimagining assessment.

The team comprises a broad cross-section of Tilton faculty, administrators and students. Our agenda for the afternoon was to deepen the assessment discussion and identify next steps for the team. After I shared the context to the IFL work and a number of key findings from the ‘Assessing the Learning That Matters Most’ report, we built on previous conversations by starting with these questions:

  • What questions do you have regarding assessing the learning that matters most?
  • In your experience, what works when assessing the learning that matters most?
  • What questions do we need to explore today as a group regarding assessing the learning that matters most?

The group responses were uploaded to a Google Doc post session here.

We followed this discussion with a Q&A Skype call with the fabulous Bo Adams, Chief Learning and Innovation Officer at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. Bo shared the progress he and his team are making on assessing the skills, knowledge and habits of mind embedded in the Mount Vernon Continuum and responded to the group’s questions regarding the challenges and opportunities of assessing the learning that matters most. One of my biggest takeaways from Bo’s comments, was his reference to John Kotter’s dual operating system and how schools, districts, and charter management organizations all need that dual operating system to continually innovate.

We concluded the afternoon by inviting the team to imagine it was September 2020 and Tilton was the 'go to' school for faculty and administrators wanting to learn how to embed these assessment practices in their work. Using Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey as our frame and call to action, each group brainstormed and presented a compelling story of how we got from here to there.

I always learn so much when I facilitate these team discussions. My biggest takeaways from the Tilton visit were as follows:

  • This is daunting work and nobody has all the answers, but if we can be honest about that and commit to the work, we will succeed over the long term.
  • The work requires humility and faith. Humility at the size of the task before us, and faith that we can do it.
  • Diverse, integrated teams provide the ‘dual operating system’ needed to launch and iterate on this work. There is no finish line.

I would like to extend my thanks to Kate Saunders and Mike Landroche for masterminding such a great afternoon. I will be following Tilton’s work closely and hope to make another trip northward to New Hampshire soon.