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Northwest Regional Professional Development Program, in accordance with the Nevada Revised Statutes, is committed to building regional partnerships which provide equitable access for teachers and administrators to support and sustain professional and student learning.

Northwest RPDP will work in collaboration with districts, the Nevada Department of Education, and institutions of higher education to provide high quality research-based learning opportunities, aligned with the Nevada Professional Development Standards and content standards adopted by the State of Nevada to: offer diverse professional learning opportunities centered around current research on effective instruction for student learnin; improve and increase communication among the Northwest RPDP region members concerning professional learning for teachers and administrators; improve and increase communication among the Northwestern, Southern and Northeastern Nevada RPDPs; use technology to build capacity among the partnerships.

Engaging Learners with Formative and Summative Assessments

The primary purpose of classroom assessment is to inform teaching and improve learning, not to sort and select students or to justify a grade.  --Jay McTighe

A topic explored in many NWRPDP Workshops is how to effectively engage K-12 students with formative and summative assessment tools that are aligned with our classroom objectives and standards.

The truth is this: there are many assessments our students take that teachers actually have very little control over. CRTs, writing exams, and HSPEs are designed by others, and they are imposed upon our learners; these are assessments of learning, not assessments for learning.

Most NWRPDP assessment workshops, like our two-year SLF Program, focus teachers' energy on classroom-built assessments that we do have control over; in fact, we have so much control over them that we can strategically design them to be interactive and engaging learning tools that create excitement and energy about the standards-based objectives for which we have designed our lessons.

Our Suggested PLC Plan for this Important Topic:

Assessment should promote learning– not simply measure it. --Grant Wiggins

Before collaboratively exploring formative and summative assessment techniques, we strongly suggest that teachers spend time working on improving their use of engaging students in lesson objectives; in our two-year SLF Program, an entire semester is dedicated to objectives before we begin a semester of exploring assessments. McTighe and Wiggins' Understanding by Design continues to be one of the texts we refer to in our assessment workshops, as it does an excellent job of linking objectives with classroom assessments.

While working with teachers to improve classroom formative and summative assessment techniques, we ask them to set personal goals based on the following five strategies. With each assessment tool they design, our workshop participants are required to explain how the tool attempts to improve that teacher's ability in at least one of these five:

  • Assessments for learning include the discussion of specific criteria for success and student exemplars;
  • Assessments for learning can be used to engineer effective classroom discussions, questions, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of student learning;
  • Assessments for learning provide specific and immediate feedback (in addition to praise) to learners;
  • Assessments for learning activate students as owners of their own learning;
  • Assessments for learning activate students as resources for one another.

Our NWRPDP workshops also stress the importance of assessing so well that students don't realize they are being assessed. The truth is, well-designed assessments can be fun, engaging, and useful to the teacher. To promote teacher learning around this goal, we also use Barry Lane's 51 Wacky We-Search Reports as a second text book. This book provides a great model of assessment ideas that involve writing and are fun for students to work on as individuals or in small, collaborative groups.

"To improve, students must know what good work looks like, be able to compare their work to the objective; understand how to close gaps."

--Royce Sadler

If you are a collaborative team of teachers tackling the topic of improving assessment for learning in your classrooms, we hope the strategies and books above and the tools below inspire engaging conversations between you and your colleagues.

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) for Learning

Having a variety of engaging assessment techniques, we believe, is an important element of a standards-based classroom.

The most popular assessment resource we provide teachers is our always-changing NWRPDP list of classroom assessment techniques (CATs). Each semester, as we work with new groups of collaborating teachers, we try to add several new teacher-provided CAT descriptions to this list. The link below is the most current version of this always-changing resource:

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Quick Check Formative Assessments from the NWRPDP's CATs List

Kindra Fox, one of the NWRPDP's original SLF Program Facilitators, maintains a section of the CATs list that is devoted to different techniques for quickly checking in with students on their progress towards an established learning objective. Here are links Kindra's favorite quick check resources:

Knowledge Meter Cards:
1-5 version

Knowledge Meter Cards:
1-10 version

Windshield: full page version
Windshield: 4-to-a-page

Traffic Light: full page version
Traffic Light: 4-to-a-Page

Is Like Simile Card: full page version
Is Like Simile Card: 4-to-a-page

Is Not Like Simile Card: full page
Is Not Like Simile Card: 4-to-a-page
More to come!
Four Versions on one page
(so students can choose one)
More to come!

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Comparison/Contrast-inspired Assessments from the NWRPDP's CATs List

Carol Gebhardt, one of the NWRPDP's original SLF Program Facilitators, maintains a section of the CATs list that is devoted to different techniques for having students do comparative formative thinking as a technique for showing deeper understanding of the topic of study.

This section of the CATs list is inspired by Robert Marzano's Handbook for Classroom Instruction that Works, which cites comparison & contrast as the number one strategy for improving students' ability to think deeply about content.

This section of our CATs list also inspired Carol's work on the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Going Deep with Compare and Contrast Thinking Guide (pictured at right), which is another resource we give to teachers in the NWRPDP's SLF Program. You can order your own copy of this thoughtful and comprehensive guide by visiting the NNWP's Publications Page.

Nine Compare & Contrast Resources from the NNWP's Guide:

Inspiring Analogies: Brainstorming Worksheet

"Poem for Two Voices"
Activity Write-up
Not enough comparison contrast tools for you? There are dozens of other ideas posted at the NNWP's Compare & Contrast Page at the WritingFix resource website.

The nine activity write-ups at left come from the Northern Nevada Writing Project's 146-page Going Deep with Compare and Contrast Thinking Guide. These are just a sampling of the materials from this guide, which is specifically written to inspire PLCs or collaborative groups of teachers working together on the topic of deeper thinking inspired by comparing and contrasting topics of study.

The guide is available for purchase from the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Publications Page.

Teachers enrolled in the NWRPDP's SLF Program receive complimentary copies of this resource during their second semester of the program

If you are a school or team of teachers in Carson, Douglas, Lyon, Storey, or Washoe County, the NNWP can arrange to send you a school set of these PLC guides for just $5.00 a copy.

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Writing Across the Curriculum Assessments from the NWRPDP's CATs List

The Northern Nevada Writing Project's 140-page print resource--The Writing Across the Curriculum Guide--is sadly now out of print. Many of its resources can be freely accessed on the NNWP's Writing Across the Currlculum Resource Page at the WritingFix website. Really great additional ideas can be found at this link.

Corbett Harrison, one of the NWRPDP's original SLF Program Facilitators, maintains a section of the CATs list that is devoted to techniques that have students write to prove what they've learned about the topic that's been taught. These writing across the curriculum techniques can be used as either formative or summative assessments.

Exit Tickets
Wacky We-Search

An Exit Ticket is a short piece of writing completed by students at the end of a lesson. The student hands the teacher the written Ticket as he/she exits the classroom.

In the best-planned lessons that use Exit Tickets, the teacher introduces the "Exit Ticket Question" to the students before they do any learning. Throughout the lesson, the teacher continually reminds the students of the question(s) they will be required to answer, inviting them to formulate pieces of the answer before learning a new chunk of information.

The teacher collects the exit ticket questions and scans them for information on how well the students learned the material. Corrective instruction can be planned based a quick look through the students' written responses.

Visit the NNWP's Exit Ticket Homepage (found at their WritingFix website) to find resources to help you teach one of the four exit ticket formats to use with your students. The four variations posted are purposely designed to appeal to different learning styles.

Barry Lane's book, 51 Wacky We-Search Reports, challenges students to reflect on and summarize their learning using creative formats for writing (Top Ten lists, Recipes, Wanted Posters, Personal Ads, etc.).

Lane's 51 formats not only push students to a deeper level of thinking but they comletely disable students from being able to regurgitate or--even worse--plagiarize.

Deep and original thinking is what Lane intends from the learner.

Pay close attention to the We in the book's title: We-Search. Most students are not used to this type of thinking about classroom content, and there is a purposeful push towards having students create these pieces of writing in small groups.

Visit the NNWP's Wacky-Wesearch Homepage (found at their WritingFix website) to find many ideas to complement your use of Wacky We-Search as an assessment tool.

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Summative Assessment Planning Tools from the NWRPDP's CATs List
Coming soon!

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