MEDIA ADVISORY: How Best To Measure Education Is Topic of U.Va. Curry School Conference

Educational measurements have the attention of every school leader nationwide as assessment results are increasingly linked to funding. But what are the best measures of student learning? What valuable developmental skills are not assessed by current standardized testing?

Those are some of the questions that will be tackled during a two-day conference on educational measurements, June 20-21, at the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning, or CASTL.

“The ultimate goal for measurement in schools should be to foster students’ learning and development,” said Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education. “One of our biggest challenges in education is connecting the right tools, measuring the right things, to the right schools and age levels.”

John Q. Easton, director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, will deliver the keynote address on “Using Measurement as Leverage Between Developmental Research and Educational Practice” on Thursday at noon in Zehmer Hall Auditorium, 104 Midmont Lane.

The talk is free and open to the public and media are welcome from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Select attendees will be available for interviews. 

The conference will bring active Pre-K-12 teachers and administrators from around Virginia together with educational researchers from across the country focused on effective teaching, and student growth and learning – known as developmental science, said Bridget Hamre, associate director of CASTL and one of the meeting organizers. 

“This will be an opportunity for researchers who have developed and used successful measures to share their expertise and lessons learned,” Hamre said. “Similarly, practitioners are critical to this discussion as it is important that researchers stay grounded in the real world of schools and don’t work on creating measures that are too complicated or impractical for real use.”

“We’ve all heard the old adage – what gets measured gets done,” she added.  “Some of the most effective efforts to integrate developmental science in schools have come as a result of good measurement work.”

The researchers and practitioners will discuss measurement tools as well as the larger issues around measurements, including the needs of teachers and administrators, policy goals, newly emerging policies that call for measuring the impacts of programs outside the schools, and possible disconnects between measurements and on-the-ground improvements in our education system.

For instance, some critical life skills like the ability to successfully regulate one’s behavior are not commonly assessed in classrooms, but bear heavily on learning.

Effective measurement beyond just academic or cognitive skills is needed, Hamre said.

The attendees will be divided into three workgroups, each of which will focus on one of three major topics:  self-regulation in early childhood, peer relationships in middle childhood and adolescent motivation. By the end of the meeting, each workgroup will identify concrete next steps to move the work forward, such as collaborative grant proposal ideas.

“The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation strives to build the capacity of local communities to advance school readiness for young children,” said Kathy Glazer, president of the nonpartisan group whose mission is to advance school readiness in the commonwealth. “Our partners are driven in their commitment to foster positive educational outcomes for young children through evidence-based practices and strategies. The CASTL gathering promises to solidly and practically link research to practice to performance measurement – a loop that is necessary to make a sound case for the investment that yields lifelong dividends.”

Meeting attendees are from a variety of organizations including the Council of Chief State School Officers, Virginia Association of Supervision & Curriculum Development and the Harrisonburg City Public Schools. Researchers are attending from Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Michigan, Virginia Commonwealth University, James Madison University and others.

About CASTL

The Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning works to advance the quality and impact of teaching through scientific study in educational settings from infancy to higher education. The Classroom Assessment Scoring System ™ or CLASS™ tool as created by researchers at CASTL to measure effective teaching. CLASS™ is being used nationwide including in every Head Start classroom, per federal legislation.