As readers of blogs on this site know, I love the philosophy of Assessment FOR Learning. However, a philosophy is only as valuable as the results it produces. I'd like to share with you some results of AFL's impact on teaching and learning at the school where it is my privilege to serve as an Assistant Principal - Salem High School in Salem, VA.
From school year 1999-2000 to school year 2007-2008 (the school year BEFORE SHS began making AFL its professional development focus), Salem High School averaged 89.6 retentions per school year. This means that 89.6 students - which on a typical year would be about 7% of our student body - failed to move on to the next grade level.
AFL's focus is not about getting students to pass. It's about getting students to learn and then making sure that grades accurately reflect that learning. Obviously, though, passing classes would be a byproduct of such a focus.
Since the 2008-2009 school year, when Salem High School's teachers began adopting AFL strategies and exploring how to use assessment to increase learning, SHS has averaged 44 retentions per year. That is slightly fewer than half the number of retentions that we averaged during the 9 previous school years. On a typical year, 44 retentions would be about 3.5% of our student body.
During that same period of time our graduation rate has increased, our state test scores have continued to improve or stay at a very high pass rate, our percentage of students taking dual-enrolled and advanced courses has remained incredibly high, and our SAT scores have remained at or above the national average. Students at Salem High School are not passing because they are being passed along. They are passing because they are learning. And they are learning because the wonderful faculty of SHS is taking very seriously its efforts to use assessment as a learning tool.
AFL works, and I look forward to seeing our data get even better as our teachers become even more proficient at incorporating AFL strategies into their everyday lessons.