The Future of Assessment Is Now

Changing expectations for competency-based assessments

by Dr. Rod Berger

Christa Krohn is a math coach for the Orange City Schools district in Pepper Pike, Ohio, outside of Cleveland. Having been a math and physics teacher and adjunct college professor for 16 years, people assume that math was easy for her in high school, but it wasn’t. She had to continuously study and fight to learn, and she was only average or slightly above average at best. Her experience in school was frustrating because the traditional method of teaching was not effective. She just wasn’t getting it, but she kept fighting, learning and enduring.

She notes that her first breakthrough came in the fourth grade when she was learning measurement with quarts, pints, and cups. As usual, she just wasn’t understanding it. “It wasn’t until my father took me to the kitchen sink, got out all these things, and I just played with them,” Christa says. “That was the first moment I had this hands-on experiential discovery learning that really meant something to me.”

Christa says it wasn’t until she got to college and her math and physics professor started making these connections for her. He allowed her to re-create some monumental physics experiments in the lab so she could see how the math worked out. “It wasn’t until I was allowed to do them hands-on that things kind of sparked within me,” she says. If she had been tested, graded and assessed in the traditional way at the time she was struggling to understand, Christa says she would never have followed her path and life now would be very different.

Parents and our educational systems have the same fundamental goals, but everyone appears locked into certain traditional ideas. Methods of teaching and administrative communication are caught in preconceived notions that inherently resist change. Parents expect their children’s progress to be assessed in the form of information and data that simply tells them information one way or the other that is logged, recorded, and shared. It has a way of changing with competency-based education and parents can become uncomfortable with the new procedures and standards.

Parents still see traditional records, grades, and transcripts as necessary for higher education but they are starting to understand that there is also a shift towards competency-based education on the college and university level. This means that higher ed is also shifting away from the traditional grading system of conventional report cards and transcripts. Parents are starting to catch up and understand that accountability on the secondary level is changing to meet the needs of higher ed, but they are struggling to accept some of the new non-traditional methods. “It's an ongoing education process,” Christa says, “and we just need to share this with more and more parents and really engage them in conversations to understand what this means for their child for the future.”

To change this mindset, Christa says we need a major cultural mind shift. She says the secret is to have the honest conversations with parents where they understand and accept that change to competency-based learning and assessment is the right choice. This is difficult from the start because everyone is still used to and leans towards the old traditional teaching and assessment practices. “Change is traditionally not something that schools do well,” Christa says. “We don't keep up with it at the rate at which businesses and other entities change to keep up with things.”

Parents need to understand and accept that competency-based education and the accompanying assessment standards are slowly but surely becoming the norm. The methods will continue to appear more widespread throughout the K-12 and higher education realms and soon, there will be no going back.

About Christa Krohn:

Christa Krohn has been an educator for 16 years teaching all grades from K through college in Math and Physics with various types of learners and student demographics. She has worked as a teacher, gifted Math Teacher, adjunct college professor and Instructional Math Coach (K-8). In addition to a teaching license, she also holds a Curriculum & Instruction, Professional Development, Principal, and a Gifted license.

Christa founded the NASA moonbuggy program at Lima Senior High School and has worked at MC2 STEM school where she wrote curriculum and helped to develop a model for PBL and capstone project planning. Currently, she is working as a K-8 Instructional Math Coach in Orange City Schools, Pepper Pike, Ohio. Christa is working with the Ohio Department of Education, the Innovation Lab Network (ILN) and Stanford University’s Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE) to integrate Performance Based Assessment and Competency Based Education into her district’s practices.

She has been instrumental in developing a coaching model in Orange City Schools, in integrating STEM and Project Based Learning, and in securing a sizable Straight A Grant to support innovation for the district. Christa is also on the Learning Forward Ohio Executive Board and was the recipient of the 2017 OCTM middle school teacher award for the Northeast Ohio District. She resides in Shaker Heights, OH with her husband, two kids (ages 13 & 15) and two dogs.


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