Last fall professor Michael Rodriguez hit the road. He teamed up with colleague Kate Beattie from the Minnesota Department of Education to give one-day professional development sessions tailored for school district assessment coordinators.
Rodriguez specializes in quantitative methods, especially educational assessments and measurement. Over a month, he and Beattie traveled to nine cities—Rochester, Mankato, Marshall, Sartell, Fergus Falls, Staples, Thief River Falls, Duluth, and Roseville—delivering high quality training to 400 Minnesota educators.
“The need for professional development is widespread and deep,” says Rodriguez, reflecting on the experience. “Educators across the state care about their students, their colleagues, and their communities. They want to do the best they can and are eager to learn more to improve their profession.”
As the amount of data available to schools grows, Rodriguez is aware that districts’ ability to actually use it can’t keep up, especially in smaller school districts, without trained data specialists. Every Minnesota school district is required to designate a district assessment coordinator, but in those where staff members fill multiple roles, a DAC may be a counselor or teacher with only a few hours to devote to a demanding task each week.
He also worries about inappropriate use of test scores—for example, sending results to individuals from tests designed to test the performance of schools.
For the tour, Rodriguez focused on using test and assessment data to better support teaching and learning. In Fergus Falls, for example, staff from 14 districts worked their way through the alphabet soup of test acronyms—MCA, MTAS, ACCESS, and the MSS. After a brief overview of assessment’s history, Rodriguez led them in discussion about assessment purposes, misconceptions, motivation, formative uses of assessment, testing environments, feedback, social-emotional learning, and test-score use.
Funds from the Campbell Leadership Chair in Education and Human Development, which Rodriguez holds, allowed him to make the tour. He and Beattie later brought a tailored program to Pine City, he brought another to Breckenridge, and other schools have followed up. And because of great feedback, he was invited to give a presentation to the Minnesota Department of Education assessment division in February. That led to further collaboration.
Rodriguez also continues to provide a day of training for participants in the Minnesota Principals Academy (see the related story).
“It just blew my mind to learn how we were using data compared to how we could be using it,” said principal Damian Patnode of Milaca about learning from Rodriguez in the academy.
Story by Gayla Marty | Illustration by Kirsten Mortensen | Spring/summer 2019