Responsive Classroom® and the New York Teaching Standards

A blog series: Part 5 of 7 Standard 5: Assessment for Student Learning

GirlReadingIn the last four OCM-RC Blogs we have looked at the connection with NYS Teaching Standards 1 – 4 with the Responsive Classroom® approach and practices.  In this fifth blog of seven we will focus those same connections with Responsive Classroom and standard 5: Assessment for Student Learning.

All the blogs I have written making RC connection with the NYS Teaching Standards have been pretty easy, but this one I have found a bit more challenging, but with that said, I am going to forge ahead and make the connections I see within Responsive Classrooms and assessments. Responsive Classroom is very much rooted in the constructivist model of education and the practices are founded in the belief that process is as important as product, that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn more deeply and grow.  This Standard to me is grounded in two of the guiding principles of Responsive Classroom: Knowing the Children We Teaching is as Important as Knowing the Content We Teach & Knowing How Children Learn is as Important as What They Learn.  These two guiding principles are so important before we can even begin to develop effective assessments for and of learning.   Standard 5 element 5.1 states that teachers “create, adapt, select, and use a range of assessment tools and processes to measure and document student learning and growth.”  Responsive Classroom teachers spend the first six weeks of school observing their students.   They formally and informally assess their students’ strength and weaknesses and where they are developmentally.  They use multiple pathways to assess and gather data about their students’ interests, social-emotional abilities and academic interests and needs.  They apply element 5.2: “Understand, analyze, interpret, and use assessment data to monitor student progress and to plan and differentiate instruction.” They do this when they plan developmentally appropriate academic choices and design assessments that are purposeful and learning goal (standards based) driven.   Many Responsive Classroom teachers use Morning Messages as a way to informally assess their students on a topic within content areas.  They also use them as a way to formatively assess and gather data on how much a class knows about an upcoming topic and plans instruction according to the findings.  Responsive Classroom teachers may also use Academic Choice as a way to assess.  Students then have some autonomy to choose how they will demonstrate their understanding using multiple pathways and rubrics to provide growth producing feedback.  A teacher needs to know his/her students and know how children learn in order to fully embody elements 5.1 and 5.2.

As for Standard 5 elements 5.3-5.5 (Communication, Reflection and Student Preparation), Responsive Classroom teachers are taught the importance of providing growth producing feedback to students and believe a strong relationship is needed with families so that open communication (element 5.3) with all aspects of the classroom, including assessments, should be articulated professionally and in terms that are easily understood.  Open communication and a strong relationship are keys to success in effectively assessing student learning.    In regard to reflecting (element 5.4), Responsive Classroom teachers not only teach their students to be self-reflective of their learning through the use of reinforcing and reminding language, interactive modeling, guided discovery, collaborative problem-solving, academic choice, morning meetings and closing circles they too are reflective on their own teaching practices.  They use all these Responsive Classroom practice to continually assess their students as to where they are currently and where they need to be next.  They use multiple paths to assess their students’ current state and reflect on the data to better inform their current practice.  Lastly, in regard to preparing students for assessment (element 5.5), Responsive Classroom teachers believe that 95% of how we manage our classroom needs to be proactive.  They would not assume that children would know how to take a test, they would proactively teach their students what to expect on an assessment and how to respond to best show what they know.  They would use Responsive Classroom practices such as role-play and/or think alouds to assist in preparing their students to be successful.  They would review rubrics with children and allow them to practice using them.  They too would be sensitive to the social-emotional needs of their students regarding testing.  They would take the time to make sure that they provide a learning environment void of stress and the tools to allow students to be calm and do their best.

CartoonLast year during testing season here in New York State, I received an email from Jonathan Abbott, a 5th Grade teacher from Mannsville Elementary School, part of the South Jefferson School District.  In his email he asked if he should continue on with his morning meetings during test week.  I encouraged him to continue to use his predictable routine and ritual to provide a positive learning environment of support during this time.  I encouraged him to focus his morning meeting around the topic of test taking and use it as a way to help children reflect on what they had been proactively taught in regard to test taking.  They would have opportunities to share how they remain calm during tests, what to do if you are not sure of an answer, to read directions carefully, and other test taking strategies.  The morning meeting can help children feel their sense of community during a time that might be stressful for some.  Responsive Classroom teachers believe in their children abilities and potential due to the proactive set up for success.  When teachers proactively set the stage for successful test taking abilities, provide opportunities to prepare and practice, communicate effectively toward learning goal growth, and take time to reflect on that growth, they have also embodied all aspect of the New York State Teaching Standard 5 and prepared their students to perform at high levels.  Research done by Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman, University of Virginia, Curry School of Education, Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning Showed that schools where the Responsive Classroom approach was used showed greater gains in state assessments in ELA and Math.

Share how your use of Responsive Classroom practices assist in your students’ success on assessments.

Shaw_PatrickPatrick Shaw
Certified Responsive Classroom® trainer through the Northeast Foundation for Children, developers of theResponsive Classroom
Staff Development Specialist – OCM BOCES – Syracuse, NY
(OCM BOCES is a licensed agency for Responsive Classroom training by the Northeast Foundation for Children, developers of theResponsive Classroom)

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