Literacy Advocate Wants Changes to Writing Assessments

The traditional way is not a fair assessment of student abilities

Christi Morgan, Assistant Superintendent at Sunnyvale ISD near Dallas, is a vocal advocate for student literacy. She believes the traditional way of teaching and assessing students in literacy doesn’t work, and she is working to change it. As she puts it, “Our kids all develop so differently, and those cookie-cutter, standardized-type measures just don't give a picture of the development of a child in literacy.”

Students taking a writing testIt’s not just the testing; it’s also the mindset of the way we traditionally teach our kids. And that starts with the teachers. Her district is a member of the Texas Public Accountability Consortium (TPAC), a collective of more than 40 districts that are looking to change the ways we determine student success and achievement, moving the focus away from standardized testing. When it comes to literacy, they are focused on giving teachers the tools, through professional development, to help students grow using the literacy continuum. It is a work in progress, but they are already seeing positive results.

The ultimate goal of changing the way teachers teach is to improve student outcomes. Christi and her group at TPAC have spent a lot of time thinking about the way it has been done, and how it can be orchestrated differently to produce a more well-rounded picture of student skill and achievement.

A lot of time has been spent answering questions like, “Where are these kids headed? What are the jobs? What are the skills that they're going to need to have?” And the results showed that testing every kid, no matter their background, with the same standardized prompt for a writing assessment was not a fair way to measure literacy.

“We spent quite a long time on our beliefs,” she says of the group’s initial few meetings. “We're not looking to come up with a bank of prompts. We're not looking to come up with rubrics that are just cookie cutter rubrics. We believe very strongly that depending on where you are and the culture of your district, the culture of your campus and who your kids are, you've got to be responsive to that. That's important in the process of writing because you can't disconnect social context from writing.”

About Christi Morgan

Vimeo Code 247336523 Christi Morgan, Assistant Superintendent at Sunnyvale ISD near Dallas, is a vocal advocate for student literacy. She believes the traditional way of teaching and assessing students in literacy doesn’t work, and she is working to change it. As she puts it, “Our kids all develop so differently and those cookie-cutter, standardized-type measures just don't give a picture of the development of a child in literacy.” And it’s not just the testing, it’s also the mindset of the way we traditionally teach our kids. And that starts with the teachers. Her district is a member of the Texas Public Accountability Consortium (TPAC), a collective of more than 40 districts that are looking to change the ways we determine student success and achievement, moving the focus away from standardized testing. And when it comes to literacy, they are focused on giving teachers the tools, through professional development, to help students grow through the literacy continuum. It is a work in progress, but they are already seeing positive results. The ultimate goal of changing the way teachers teach is to improve student outcomes. And she and her group at TPAC have spent a lot of time thinking about the way it has been done, and how it can be done in a way that produces a more well-rounded picture of student skill and achievement. They spent a lot of time answering questions like, “Where are these kids headed? What are the jobs? What are the skills that they're going to need to have?” And they determined that testing every kid, no matter their background, with the same standardized prompt for a writing assessment was not a fair way to measure literacy. “We spent quite a long time on our beliefs,” she says of the group’s initial few meetings. “We're not looking to come up with a bank of prompts. We're not looking to come up with rubrics that are just cookie cutter rubrics. We believe very strongly that depending on where you are and the culture of your district, the culture of your campus and who your kids are, you've got to be responsive to that. That's important in the process of writing because you can't disconnect social context from writing.” About Christi Morgan As an undergrad at Baylor University, Christi Morgan chose the field of education in order to serve communities and make a difference in the lives of students. Whether teaching in the classroom, supporting students as a diagnostician, or serving the district in an administrative role, she aspires to design innovative programs and experiences that meet the unique needs of students. Following identification of a need in the area of developing effective communicators, she worked with a team of stakeholders to develop a K-12 digital writing portfolio system, SISD Writes, to enhance the development of our students as writers. Following further collaboration with state legislators, TASA, and our regional service center, the SISD Writes portfolio approach has now been accepted as the model for the state writing pilot. As an assistant superintendent in Sunnyvale ISD, she develops innovative solutions to support the development of future-ready students. Follow Christi Morgan on Twitter.As an undergrad at Baylor University, Christi Morgan chose the field of education in order to serve communities and make a difference in the lives of students. Whether teaching in the classroom, supporting students as a diagnostician or serving the district in an administrative role, she aspires to design innovative programs and experiences that meet the unique needs of students.

Following identification of a need in the area of developing effective communicators, she worked with a team of stakeholders to develop a K-12 digital writing portfolio system, SISD Writes, to enhance the development of our students as writers. Following further collaboration with state legislators, TASA, and our regional service center, the SISD Writes portfolio approach has now been accepted as the model for the state writing pilot. As an assistant superintendent in Sunnyvale ISD, she develops innovative solutions to support the development of future-ready students.

Follow Christi Morgan on Twitter.

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