Building the Tribe @ #2015EdFest

I was thrilled to be part of the Ideas in Education Festival yesterday, hosted by The Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning at St Andrew's Episcopal School. It was a balmy 75 degrees in DC and the blossoms were out - bliss!

The Center’s Director, Glenn Whitman, was explicit about the event being a true ideas festival, not a regular conference. His goals being that existing ideas would be further iterated, new ideas would be born and alliances would be built. I believe his goal was achieved :)

During the event I participated on a panel discussion and two pitch sessions. I was honored to be part of a panel which included Brad Jupp - Senior Program Advisor on Teacher Initiatives, U.S. Department of Education, Eric Westendorf - CEO & Co-Founder, Learnzillon and Lisette Partelo - Senior Policy Analyst, Center for American Progress. Glenn brought together a great mix of perspectives and backgrounds.

Some of you reading this post will be familiar with the ‘IFL Assessment Database’ project. A generous donor has provided seed funding for the initial research phase and I was eager to pitch the idea at the Festival and to hear advice and suggestions from the attendees. Attendee feedback was exceptionally helpful. Here’s the deck I used for the pitch and here are the comments and feedback from the group:

  • What drives assessment at the High School level? SAT scores, not creativity, collaboration, etc. Reach out to Higher Ed and ask what could replace the SAT, seek their input on the design of the assessment database. Could the database be a resource for Higher Ed to think about how they might assess potential students in a fundamentally different way?
  • Parents need to be convinced that other things which are being assessed, e.g. critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, etc. are what is really important for long term success, not SATs. Conduct a parent outreach program alongside database design? World is shifting from the need for individuals to have a generalized set of skills to a a specialized set of skills.
  • Inventory colleges and universities who do not require SAT scores and list these in the database - include in parent outreach strategy.
  • The current tests are meant to measure whether or not you are prepared for college, but are losing credibility.  Need to get admissions counsellors in on this conversation.
  • Which populations are being served by the database? How far behind will public schools lag? How can we transform the idea of what teaching is? "Leveraging Leadership, Driven by Data” - how will the IFL link in with this? - Pedagogy and the theory of learning need to be made explicit.
  • Indian Creek School - all project based - as a teacher I don’t have to teach to the test. Authentic, deep knowledge. Using rubrics to assess projects. The Sierra School also doing great work.
  • Outreach to policy makers needed, begin to build those relationships now as you build the database. Provide brief case study examples by way of demonstration and impact.
  • Take baby steps - the database can be used alongside traditional assessments - run parallel paths.
  • Identify those schools which allow their teachers to take risks, highlight their work. Note the specific location of where great work is happening - I’m more inclined to have the courage to try something if I know another teacher 20 miles up the road from me is doing it.
  • The biggest opportunity for ‘Early Majority’ adoption is public school - this would be huge. Can you identify some of the more progressive public school leaders and approach them directly as partners?
  • Could you start with new teachers (in teacher preparation programs)? Provide downloadable starter packets?
  • Could you conduct an event and bring together 4,000 people? Start a movement - meet and energize!  Teachers meeting teachers who designed these assessments, showcasing work, learning from each other. Being a resource and support to each other.

Bottom line, I came looking for feedback #2015EdFest and left with a MUCH bigger vision of what is possible! Participants confirmed the need for the work and the appetite for an open source database of assessment practices - built by and for educators. Thank you to all of you who shared your feedback during the formal sessions and the breaks.

Will keep you posted on how the IFL Assessment Database project unfolds.  In the meantime, a big shout out to Glenn, Molly, Monique and Maggie and the entire team who organized and executed such a great event!