A Little Something Something About Timing

Today’s lesson is about timing.  More specifically, it is about how one times the release of announcements so that the media and key stakeholders take notice and hear the actual message that folks want to deliver.

Many of us have heard the tales that if you don’t want someone to know something, announce it over a weekend.  Or announce it over a holiday.  While the 24/7 news environment brought to us by the Interwebz, Twitter, and all those citizen bloggers has changed things somewhat, the rule is still pretty much the same.  
When making a media announcement, one should be mindful that the media, at least those covering education, primarily work the traditional work week.  You can expect them “on duty” from 9 or so in the morning until 6 or 7 in the evenings, Monday through Friday.  Afternoons are usually spent writing on deadline.  Most reporters are, of course, always on call.  But if you want to reach them, starting during those core times is a good first step.
So it is a major headscratcher to see last week’s announcement from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.  PARCC is one of the two Common Core State Standards consortia, developing a comprehensive summative assessment to measure the K-12 standards adopted through CCSS.  The PARCC tests are seen by some as better aligned with the expectations of the US Department of Education and Race to the Top.
At any rate, late last week PARCC released a statement on the Race to the Top Technical Review and how it charted the RttT Assessment grant progress.  The finding was fairly simply, RttT found that PARCC was “generally on track,” the highest rating possible, according to PARCC.
The concern, though, was the timing of the release.  PARCC sent the announcement out on July 12, 2013, a Friday.  Email announcements were hitting reporter inboxes at 10 p.m. EDT.  So it begs the question, why dump an important and positive announcement late on a Friday night as Cinderella’s coach was turning back into a pumpkin?
Sure, one can chalk it up to bad timing.  To the release getting delayed for some reason unrelated to the announcement.  To delays in the world wide web.  All sorts of technical or manmade issues could be noted.  A cynic could even say that this was dumped late on a Friday night so that few would actually pay attention to it, not wanting to raise attention for the process of the consortia and testing in general at a time when “testing” and “assessment” are dirty words.
Regardless, we need to be a little smarter with our announcements.  PARCC’s announcement (along with the original RttT Assessment announcement) are important developments in our push toward adopting the Common Core and bringing meaningful summative assessments on line.  It deserves more than just the “document dump” treatment.  After all, any reporter wanting to cover this would now likely have to wait until Monday before someone is back in the office at Achieve or PARCC to follow up on the statement.
Nitpicking?  Maybe.  But with so many organizations and announcements jockeying to break through the white noise and have their issues heard by the media, one has to be media-friendly about the announcements.  Late Tuesday or Wednesday mornings are good.  Friday nights after prime time, not so good.  
Or maybe we just don’t want folks to know that PARCC is “generally on track.”

Promoting Assessment Literacy

Testing.  For some, it is the ultimate measure of public education, the rubric by which we determine if our nation, state, district, school, teacher, and student is making the grade.

For others, it is the embodiment of evil.  Bubble sheets.  High-stakes tests.  Stressed students.  Maligned teachers.
The fact of the matter is that testing is largely misunderstood, even by those who can most benefit from it.  Frustrations over assessment efforts under NCLB has led a groundswell of folks to condemn assessment in general.  But in doing so, we are throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.  We are forgetting all of the good that comes from assessment and how it can empower educators when they are given the right data and the power to do something with it.
Hopefully, we will soon see this dialogue start to change.  This week, the Northwest Evaluation Association released a new online tool to engage teachers and encourage a meaningful, fact-based discussion of assessment, its uses, and its impact.  Meet Assessment Literacy.
Why is this new site so important?  Let’s face facts.  Despite all of the talk about testing, many lack a real understanding of the topic.  Some are quick to condemn “assessment” without acknowledging the differences between summative assessment (those state tests we all love) and formative or interim assessments.  We bristle at student test scores being used as part of the teacher evaluation process, but gloss over how meaningful assessment data can be used to improve the teaching and learning process in the classroom.
Anti-testing forces may want to be believe that assessment will go away, that continued discussion of the “high-stakes” variety and recent testing mis-steps by companies like Pearson will do away with testing, but let’s be frank for a second.  Assessment has long been a part of our public education tapestry, and it isn’t going anywhere.  It also can have a valuable and powerful impact on how teachers teach, how students learn, and how all are better for it.  Rather than fighting a “testing or no testing” fight, we should be focusing our efforts on the quality of assessments and their proper applications.
Assessment Literacy starts making progress toward that point.  Developed by and focused on classroom educators, the site provides a fact-based look at assessment and its application.  From discussions on how tests are made, narratives on how major national policy issues address assessment, and a wealth of resources for educators on the topic, the site really strives to get every educator “assessment literate.”
We are in much need of a thoughtful, engaging discussion on assessment and its future in the American classroom.  And we need educators front and center in that discussion.  Assessment Literacy starts that dialogue.  
(Full disclosure: Eduflack has worked with a number of organizations focused on assessment and testing, including NWEA.)