11 November 2010

The Flock

I'm deeper than knee-deep in assessment development at the moment---both my creative energy and the one set aside for writing will continue to be focused elsewhere for a few more weeks. If there is one point that was driven home to me more than any other this week, it is that it is even more critical to get things done right in the six months or so we have left on this project. Legislatures are fickle things: Their budget needs from biennium to biennium are never the same.This may be the one and only cycle we have time and money to create assessments.

My work is the youth at the table amongst older and more experienced assessments. It's a bit like going for tea with one's old biddy aunts---the jealous ones who are passive-aggressive in their reminders that one day, you will be just as wrinkled and saggy as they are. These sadder-but-wiser assessments developed nearly half a decade before us are starting to show significant signs of aging. Alas, there is no funding for facelifts and tummy tucks, the Legislature having turned its fickle eyes elsewhere in the intervening years. All of this a healthy reminder for me to build classroom tools that can stay toned and fit---to not just do what feels good now, but keep an eye on the future.

This is not simple. In fact, it's rather heavy. Whatever faces the outside world must be the very best it can be: meaningful learning experiences, deeply aligned to standards, and reflecting best practices in instruction and assessment (including Universal Design, interventions, and enrichment). Instructions must be crystal clear and ready to be interpreted by pre-service teachers and 40-year classroom veterans alike. Supporting materials have to be flexible enough for the range of Internet filters, bandwidth, and ability levels. Professional development materials need to be rich enough to support a single teacher in a remote district or one involved in department or PLC work in an urban area.

Can we do it? Other than having to breathe into a paper bag now and then, I'm starting to think that yes, we can. I have such an amazing group of teachers to work with. Their vision of what they want to do for their peers is breathtaking in its ambition and their commitment unwavering. We will make it happen.

I'm in this odd little space at the moment as I work over the first drafts. Each assessment is different and has its own personality. Some are easy to raise into independence. Others are real stinkers to work with and test my patience. I am sure that, like a good parent, I am supposed to say that I love them all the same...but I've never been much for doing what is expected. I am brooding the most extraordinary little flock of assessments in all the land...and am anxious to introduce them to you in a few months.

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