More assessments will be worked into the classroom at Pacific Department of Defense Dependents Schools this year.

But they won’t be of the traditional, anxiety-provoking, pencil-and-paper variety.

The “assessment for learning” model focuses on getting students more involved in classroom assessments, which research shows instills students with confidence and a desire to learn, driving up academic performance, school officials say.

Education in the past “seemed to rank order kids so kids would achieve at certain levels,” said Dr. Peggy Bullion, education division chief for DODDS-Pacific and Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools-Guam. “Our mission is to ensure every child achieves rigorous standards, taking them from the point where they are, forward.”

The assessment for learning initiative began four years ago in the Pacific with administrator training.

Dr. Nancy Bresell, DODDS-Pacific/DDESS-Guam director, said the program’s goal now is to institutionalize initiative so it becomes an inherent aspect of classroom instruction.

This year, voluntary after-school training sessions on the assessment model will be offered at all schools, Bullion said. “Learning Communities” will be similar to a study group, she said, led by a teacher versed in assessment strategies and provided with training materials. Groups will review classroom assessment practices that researchers say motivate students to learn.

The concept comes from Dr. Richard Stiggins, an educator who founded the Assessment for Training Institute in 1992.

“We can realize unprecedented gains in achievement if we turn the current day-to-day classroom assessment process into a more powerful tool for learning,” Stiggins wrote in a June 2002 article for the education journal Phi Delta Kappan.

Strategies that teachers can work on with students as part of the model, Bullion said, include:

Establishing clear learning targets and providing models of strong and weak work.Providing very descriptive feedback on student work.Showing students how and giving them opportunities to self-assess and set their own learning goals.To help students meet the curriculum standards, teachers should:

Engage in very focused lessons, modifying instruction to the student.Allow students to revise their work.Encourage students to self-reflect and communicate their progress to the teacher.Assessments could be in the form of group projects, a test, an essay or a computer presentation, Bullion said, citing some examples.

As the strategies take hold in the classroom, the hope is that “students will be able to articulate what they have learned, what they want to learn next, more easily and more readily,” Bullion said. “I think that parents will have a better idea of how their student is doing in class … either through the student or teacher having a much clearer understanding of what they’ve learned and are able to do in each of the content areas.”

Megan McCloskey contributed to this story.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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