When I first started teaching in Ottawa talk started to spread about a new Assessment and Evaluation policy. Teachers went ballistic. However, over the next two years we went to implementation meetings (both at the board level and within our schools) and special talks with Damian Cooper and anyone else they could find to promote these new ideas. Teachers in Ottawa reacted, some reacted with a fervor for change, while others reacted in anger. Now, I am teaching in the Waterloo Region District School Board and once again the board is traipsing out Damian Cooper to sell us on Assessment and Evaluation techniques.
The problems are various. First off, I have yet to see (or even hear) of a school board implementing a policy change well. For months I have voiced my concern that parents seem to know nothing of this new policy. Sure, the obligatory newsletter will go out, but ultimately it we be the teachers who, during awkward parent-teacher interviews, will be left to explain the changes. Instead of being upfront with our "clients" we are appear to be sneaking this policy change in through the back door.
Secondly, they have tried to sell it teachers by means of presenting us with Damian Cooper. Now, I should point out that I agree with many of the ideas that Damian Cooper puts forward. I believe wholeheartedly that we should do far more assessment. I also believe that assessment should be fair, transparent and equitable. However, there are few educators whom I react to as negatively as Mr. Cooper. I, and several of my colleagues, have found him to be condescending. Whether referring to teachers as "babies" to this new world of assessment or continuously saying things like "you don't understand" Cooper does little gain our support.
With that said, Cooper's ideas are essentially right.
However, what Cooper fails to acknowledge is that teachers in Ontario have been following these practices for several years. Our assessment practices are fair and balanced, our practices do support students, our practices do relate to the curriculum, and by embracing differentiated learning we are relating more and more to the interests, learning styles and preferences, of our students.
Sure there are points that we need to improve upon. For example, we do need to improve on providing ongoing descriptive feedback that is clear, specific, meaningful, and timely to support. And, this assessment will most definitely improve on student learning and ultimately our students' success.
The implementation of the new Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting policy in the Waterloo Region has done a lot to divide the Board, administration, and teachers. However, we teachers must now take this new policy and implement it. The arguments have been "made", our disagreements "acknowledged" and concerns "heard". It is now time for us to stop lamenting our pre-AER life. It is time for us to figure out how we as teachers are going to implement the new policy with the spirit with which it is intended. If we do not then we will create a divide between us and our most important shareholders: our students.
I write about education, music, politics and my own philosophical conundrums. If I have left you thinking about something let me know. Sometimes I think this world needs more thinking.