Assessment Policy

  • Assessment Policy Harding Senior High 2016

    Erik Brandt, DPC


    Assessment philosophy and principles


    Philosophy of Assessment

    Assessment serves to provide meaningful feedback for students, families, teachers and the community about students’ achievement levels when they are compared to expected grade level or subject standards.  At Harding High School, we provide every possible support to ensure successful student learning and achievement.


    The following text outlines the Principles of Learning, which incorporates the Assessment Policy for St. Paul Public Schools.


    ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION PROGRAM (4) 1. The school district will maintain a program and process of evaluation, including standardized testing, which will provide information about student learning and educational program effectiveness. This process will meet state requirements and provide appropriate feedback about the educational progress of each student to the parents or guardians and to the staff to inform instructional decisions. 2. The assessment and evaluation process will incorporate a plan to evaluate how testing procedures impact any particular student groups. 3. In accordance with state law, the district will annually adopt and publish a test administration plan including the state-mandated tests in accordance with Minnesota law. 4. The school district will assess student performance in elementary, middle, junior, and senior high school academic standards while taking into consideration individual student needs as mandated by state and federal law. 5. The district will establish guidelines and procedures to assess student achievement, formatively and summatively, in all academic areas. The guidelines will address remediation, acceleration, or continuous progress needs for student achievement.

    - Board of Education 602.00  Curriculum Development, Instruction and Accountability


    These Principles of Learning govern instructional practices of the SPPS system.


    Saint Paul's Project for Academic Excellence (PAE) is a comprehensive academic reform initiative to enhance teaching and learning in Saint Paul Public Schools.


    PAE was developed to draw together administrators, principals, and teachers in a pioneering academic reform effort for the entire school district. Introduced in the summer of 2001, PAE provides a unified direction for curricular reform across all schools. What began in selected elementary schools has now expanded to include every elementary and middle/junior high school.


    PAE is rooted in the district's deep commitment to standards-based education and professional development opportunities for all Saint Paul Public School instructional and administrative staff. It is designed to dramatically improve how - and how well - students learn. It does so by transforming the way the core skills of reading, writing, mathematics, and, soon, science are taught in Saint Paul Public Schools, and by effectively and efficiently providing in-depth, ongoing training to teachers and administrators. These are the core elements of PAE:


       * A foundation of standards-based curriculum and instruction

       * Standards-based assessment to monitor progress

       * Focus on a small number of core academic skills

       * Extensive, continuing professional development to support quality instruction

       * Demonstration sites to promote replication

       * Provision of essential materials

       * Sustained on-the-job coaching of teachers, principals, and district leaders

       * A multilevel network of teachers for peer support

       * Principals as instructional leaders

       * District-level instructional leadership

       * Increase to scale across the district


    As the driving force behind the implementation of Saint Paul Public's Schools comprehensive standards-based reform effort, PAE is a lever for academic reform in every school across the district.


    The Center for Academic Excellence

    A comprehensive reform effort such as PAE, requires tremendous capacity and coordination. Yet, at the same time, efficiencies are imperative to allow the resources to be dedicated to the best training and trainers, and not to duplication of effort.


    Saint Paul Public Schools addressed this capacity need through the creation of the The Center for Academic Excellence. The Center coordinates and manages PAE, and supports it both as a training facility and as a base for continued research and development into the expansion and refinement of the standards-based efforts.

    PAE incorporated some of the most significant work that administrators, principals, and teachers have undertaken in the past few years. It also advances ongoing reform initiatives, including Achievement Plus, Teacher and Principal Leadership Seminars, the Elementary Literacy Initiative, and the Junior High Initiative.


    Principles of Learning

    Underlying the instructional practices modeled throughout Saint Paul's Project for Academic Excellence are the Principles of Learning developed by the Institute for Learning. These principles guide, administrative leadership, curriculum, instruction, and assessment in an authentic standards-based model.


    1. Organizing for Effort


    An effort-based school replaces the assumption that aptitude determines what and how much students learn with the belief that sustained and directed effort can yield high achievement for all students. Everything in the classroom experience is organized to send the message that effort is expected and that tough problems yield to sustained work. High minimum standards are set and assessments are geared to the standards.


    • Clear and high standards
    • Curriculum aligned to standards
    • Students responsible for their own work
    • Time to meet standards


    1. Clear Expectations


    High expectations are communicated clearly in ways that become embedded in the thinking of school professionals, parents, the community and, above all, students themselves. Descriptive criteria and models of work that meet standards are publicly displayed, and students refer to these displays to analyze and discuss their work.


    • Standards available and discussed
    • Models of student work
    • Students judge their own and others work
    • Intermediate expectations satisfied
    • Families and community informed


    1. Fair and Credible Evaluations


    If we expect students to put forth sustained effort over time, we need to use assessments that students find fair. Fair evaluations are those for which students can prepare: therefore, tests, exams, and classroom assessments, as well as the curriculum, must be aligned to the standards. Fair assessment also means grading against absolute standards rather than on a curve, so students can clearly see the results of their learning efforts. Assessments that meet these criteria provide parents, colleges, and employers with credible evaluations of what individual students know and can do.



    • Exams referenced to standards
    • Curriculum and assessments aligned
    • Grading against standards
    • Reporting system that makes clear how students are progressing toward expected standards
    • Public accountability systems and instructional assessments aligned



    1. 4. Recognition of Accomplishment


    Clear recognition of authentic accomplishment is a hallmark of an effort-based school: this includes celebrations of work that meets standards or intermediate progress benchmarks en route to the standards. Progress points should be articulated so that, regardless of entering performance level, every student can meet real accomplishment criteria often enough to be recognized frequently. Student accomplishment is also recognized when performance on standards-based assessments is related to opportunities at work and in higher education.


    • Frequent recognition of student work
    • Recognition for real accomplishments
    • Clearly demarcated progress points
    • Celebration with family and community
    • Employers and colleges recognize accomplishments


    1. Academic Rigor in a Thinking Curriculum


    Knowledge and thinking are intimately joined. This implies a curriculum organized around major academic concepts that students are expected to know deeply. Teaching engages students in active reasoning about these concepts. In every subject, at every grade level, instruction and learning includes commitment to a knowledge core, high thinking demand, and active use of knowledge.


    • An articulated curriculum that avoids needless repetition and progressively deepens concepts
    • Curriculum and instruction organized around major concepts
    • Teaching and assessment focus on mastery of core concepts



    • Students expected to raise questions, to solve problems, to reason
    • Challenging assignments in every subject
    • Extended projects
    • Explanations and justification expected
    • Reflection on learning strategies



    • Synthesize several sources of information
    • Test understanding by applying and discussing concepts
    • Apply prior knowledge
    • Interpret texts and construct solutions


    1. Accountable Talk


    For classroom talk to promote learning it must be accountable to the learning community, to accurate and appropriate knowledge, and to rigorous thinking.


    • Students actively participate in classroom talk
    • Listen attentively
    • Elaborate and build on each other's ideas
    • Work to clarify or expand a proposition



    • Specific and accurate knowledge
    • Appropriate evidence for claims and arguments
    • Commitment to getting it right



    • Synthesize several sources of information
    • Construct explanations and test understanding of concepts
    • Formulate conjectures and hypotheses
    • Employ generally accepted standards of reasoning
    • Challenge the quality of evidence and reasoning


    1. Socializing Intelligence


    Intelligence is a set of problem-solving and reasoning capabilities joined with the habits of mind that lead one to use those capabilities regularly. It is also a set of beliefs about one's right and obligation to understand and make sense of the world, and one's capacity to figure things out over time.


    • I have the right and obligation to understand and make things work
    • Problems can be analyzed and I am capable to analyze, ask questions, get information



    • A toolkit of problem-analysis skills (meta-cognitive strategies) and good intuition about when to use them
    • Knowing how to ask questions, seek help, and get enough information to solve problems



    • Habits of mind
    • Tendency to actively try to analyze problems, ask questions, get information


    1. Self-management of Learning


    Students are responsible for the quality of their thinking and learning and develop and use an array of self-monitoring and self-management strategies. These meta-cognitive skills include noticing when one doesn't understand something and taking steps to remedy the situation, as well as formulating questions and inquiries that lead one to explore deep levels of meaning. Students also manage their own learning by evaluating the feedback they get from others; bringing their background knowledge to bear on new learning; anticipating learning difficulties and apportioning their time accordingly; and judging their progress toward a learning goal.



    • Metacognitive strategies explicitly modeled, identified, discussed, and practiced
    • Students play active role in monitoring and managing the quality of their learning
    • Teachers scaffold student performance during initial learning; gradually remove supports
    • Students become agents of their learning


    1. 9. Learning as Apprentice


    Apprenticeship learning is brought into schooling by organizing learning environments so that complex thinking is modeled and analyzed, and by providing mentoring and coaching as students undertake extended projects and develop presentations of finished work, both in and beyond the classroom.


    • Students create authentic products and performances for interested, critical audiences
    • Experts critique and guide student work
    • Finished work meets public standards of quality
    • Learning strategies are modeled

    Assessment practices for teachers


    All teachers in the Harding IB Diploma Program are encouraged to use the exams and rubrics provided by the IB to inform and guide their assessment practices.  All IB DP teachers are required to show their students copies of previous exams and many of them use these exams as in-class formative and summative assessment tools.

    Teachers also endeavor to honor the “reflective” aspect of the IB Learner Profile and encourage students to look over their work and determine what the successes and failures were—and to make improvements for the future.  Many teachers also have a “re-do” policy, where students may correct their errors to improve their in-class scores as well as their understanding of the material.

    As an IB DP staff we have realized that many of our students struggle with the wording of exam questions.  Whether it is the complexity of the questions or formal register of the English used in them, our students need coaching to help them break down the questions into understandable portions.  To that end, we have been encouraging all teachers to use IB DP “exam language” in their regular coursework.  Additionally, all of our language, math and science teachers have and use the IB DP Questionbanks and attest to their efficacy.  We are finding that as students get more and more familiar with the language of the IB assessments, the more confident they are about their assessments and the more their scores will improve.


    Our IB Diploma Program is gradually working on reverse-engineering our teaching habits.  We have realized that what all of us should start with are the assessments—internal and external.  We need to determine what skills students must have to achieve at these assessments and then plan how to scaffold teaching these skills over the four years of high school.  We have created Vertical Alignment plans for Groups 1, 3 and 5 so far to help with this.  We attempted to create one for Group 4 but found that the sciences had too many differing needs to fit under one umbrella.  This process helps teachers identify what really needs to be taught versus what they might like to teach.  Additionally, this process gets IB DP teachers talking and working together to streamline and improve their teaching methods.  

    As of January 2015, we have vertical alignment plans for our Language A, Mathematics and Individuals and Societies courses.  Experimental Sciences is still in progress.


    Something Harding needs to work on is grading in a way that reflects the scoring we see in the IB DP subject reports.  For example, for English A HL Paper 1, a student could earn 9/20 and still get a 4—a passing grade.  If one does the actual division, a 9 out of 20 is a 45%.  In most American schools, a 45% is well below failing, and would cause despair for most IB DP students.  A benefit to this kind of grade curving, however, is that it acknowledges that there is much to learn in a subject and that is it unrealistic for most students to get 16 or higher out of 20.  In the American model of grading, a student would have to get at least a 12/20 to pass (60%) and at least a 16/20 to earn a “decent” grade (80% B).  This American model causes teachers, in my opinion, to inflate grades.  The IB DP (or international) model is more reflective of a student’s real ability in a subject and does not unduly penalize a student for being a “risk-taker.” I believe our IB DP teachers need to grade their students on a curve that reflects the way the IB assessments are graded as well as encourages students to be risk-takers (If a student earns too many low marks, often he or she will take the safe—and often unimaginative—route).  I have worked hard over the last eight years to help my teachers re-think their ways of assessing their students and next month we will meet again to discuss grading scales.


    Specific IB DP Assessment Details

    • Individual IB DP teachers are expected to upload all IA/PG into IBIS.  
    • Individual IB DP teachers are expected to record all oral exams, determine the authenticity of all External and Internal Assessments (excluding exams), and comply with guidelines and expectations set out by the DPC and school Administration.
    • When there are multiple IB DP teachers of the same subject, the teachers take a “marking day” to compare marking to ensure calibration before submitting scores to the IB.
    • In Minnesota, IB DP classes fall under the “Rigorous Course Waiver,” which makes students exempt from having to complete other state academic requirements.
    • Individual IB DP teachers determine the regularity and natures of formative and summative assessments – there is no building policy about this.




    HARDING HIGH SCHOOL REQUIREMENTS FOR GRADUATION:  In addition to passing the Grad Reading and Grad Math exams, a student must successfully earn a minimum of 90 quarter credits in order to graduate with his or her class. Harding offers seven classes each quarter, plus Advisory.  Students earn 1.0 credit for each class.  If credits are not earned, students need to retake courses at summer school or through the Area Learning Center.  Students are responsible for checking with counselors to make certain that graduation requirements are met or exceeded.  Transfer students must meet with their School Counselor to determine graduation status.

    GRADING SYSTEM AND HIGH HONORS DESIGNATION (Beginning with Class of 2008):  The Board of Education approved a new grading scale for high school courses in which grade pluses (+) and minuses (-) carry significance for student GPAs.  They also approved a revision in the formula for the weighting of grades in honors courses.  The changes went into effect for the class of 2008.  Students achieving a GPA of 3.0 or better are considered Honor Roll Students for that quarter. ‘A’ and ‘B’ Honor Rolls are posted each quarter.  A cumulative GPA for each student is also computed at the end of each quarter by dividing the total honor points earned since beginning ninth grade by the total number of credits attempted since beginning ninth grade. The cumulative GPA is used in determining the class rank, Academic Letter Awards and the Senior Honors List.


    The grade point scales is:  A+ = 4.0; A = 4.0; A- = 3.7; B+ = 3.3; B = 3.0; B- = 2.7; C+ = 2.3; C = 2.0; C- = 1.7; D+ = 1.3; D = 1.0; D- + .7; N = 0


    The formula for honors courses, effective with the class of 2008, will be figured for GPA via a 1.25 multiplier effect.  (e.g. An “A” [4.0] in an honors course will be multiplied by 1.25 to yield a weighted grade point of 5.0 [4.0 x 1.25 = 5.0].  A “B” in an honors course will yield a weighted grade point of 3.75 [3.0 x 1.25 = 3.75], and so on down the scale.)


    The Board also approved district-wide graduation with honors categories and criteria that begins with the class of 2008.  In 2008 and beyond, students graduating with cumulative grade point averages of 3.75 and above and who have completed at least two years of world language study (or demonstration of oral and written proficiency at an equivalent level in a language other than English) will be awarded “High Honors” at graduation.  Students graduating with cumulative grade point averages of 3.3 to 3.74 and who have completed at least two years of world language study (or demonstration of oral and written proficiencies at an equivalent level in a language other than English) will earn “Honors”.


    GRADE REPORTING:  Progress grades are mailed home midterm, with final grades after each quarter. These show grades and credits earned.  Parent Conferences will be held four times per year.  If parents are unable to attend, they should contact the school to talk individually with teachers. A parent, teacher, counselor or student may request a special conference to deal with academic or behavioral issues

    Links amongst the assessment policy and other Harding IB policies


    Assessment Policy and Academic Honesty Policy.  

    If students are academically honest, they will be able to achieve according to the guidelines mentioned above.  Academic dishonesty will prevent them from being successful in school.


    Assessment Policy and Language Policy

    All possible efforts will be made to assess students in ways that honor their mother tongues and cultures.  That said, the language of instruction at Harding is English and the majority of assessments will be delivered in English, so supports are provided (English Language Learner services as well as Reading Support classes) for students who struggle with the mastery of academic English.


    Assessment Policy and Inclusion Policy

    All students are allowed to take IB DP classes at Harding.  Students who receive Special Education services have Individual Education Plans that determine the best levels of assessment for each student.  It is impossible to discussion these plans generally since each is unique – but all of these students already receive the necessary accommodations as directed in their IEPs.

    Roles and responsibilities for implementing, evaluating and reviewing the assessment policy


    Much of this policy is language crafted by St. Paul Public Schools administrative leadership teams and, at the building level, we have little control over.  


    We will endeavor, regardless, to review this policy yearly in the Autumn in our Administrative, IB leadership and PBIS teams.


    Additionally, this policy will be re-introduced yearly in the opening week of school as teachers are preparing for the year ahead.