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Design Your Own Assessment

From Fall 2006 to the present, Dean Cecelia Traugh, Jessica Trubek, director of field experiences and school relations, and Jane Andrias, former principal of Central Park East I, have worked with a group of progressive elementary schools in the Children’s First Network #102 of Empowerment Schools in New York City to create a system of alternative periodic assessments. This work uses Collaborative Descriptive Inquiry* to build learning communities within and among schools, and to design a system that views assessment as inquiry.

Two years ago, when the schools agreed to become Empowerment Schools, they became responsible for meeting performance targets for their students on a regular basis. Each school was required to participate in an ongoing analysis of data in order to improve student outcomes. The schools were asked to choose a method of assessing their students every six weeks. Given the choice of giving a standardized test or designing their own process, they decided to partner with LIU Brooklyn to create their own assessments.

Seven schools, The Brooklyn New School, The Earth School, The Neighborhood School, the Ella Baker School, the AmPark Neighborhood School, Central Park East I and the Muscota New School, work with LIU Brooklyn. Principals and teachers from each school work with us as an implementation team to study the use of the alternative system of periodic assessments that maintains our expansive understandings and hopes for children, teachers, parents and schools, and also responds to the Department of Education’s demand for data-driven assessment of children’s learning.

The purpose of this project is not to develop a new assessment tool or test. The schools with which LIU Brooklyn works have a wide range of assessment tools – quantitative and qualitative – that they currently use. The purpose is to use descriptive inquiry to develop a way to bring together these various kinds of assessment data and to help teachers make sense of that data in terms of working with children, individually and in groups.

We will continue this work during the coming year. Our focus will be the on-going process of making descriptive assessment part of the work of each school as well as strengthening the connections across schools. In particular, the focus of the work in 2010-2011 will be on longitudinal assessment of children’s work and growth.


* Collaborative Descriptive Inquiry is a phenomenological approach to child study and teaching practice that is designed to awaken people/teachers to see beyond what their habits allow, and in doing so become steadily more mindful of individual children, classroom dynamics and their teaching practices. It is based on the inquiry work developed and carried out at the Prospect School, Archive and Center 40 years. These processes begin with the acknowledgment of human strength and capacity, as well as vulnerability. Each child and adult is a work in progress, unfinished and continually changing.