Rethinking Assessment

Last Friday our faculty engaged in lively discussion about assessment. It was a professional development day and the Academic Council, led by Bart Griffith, posed questions for faculty groups to explore in cross divisional pairings. It never seems as if we have enough time for teachers to get together and explore topics, especially all three divisions together, so the morning was a treat for everyone. As a community we have taken on the task of looking closely at how we evaluate boys, how well our students understand where they are in the learning process, and how well parents and other “stakeholders” know how students are progressing. On this day, teachers explored the following question- How might we articulate K-12 learning goals that drive and sustain relevant, authentic assessment at Gilman? Teachers took turns sharing authentic or real-world assessments they have tried in the classroom. We then looked at the specific skills that were being assessed and whittled down those skills into ones that could be applied in a more general K-12 environment. Some skills that made the final list were- ability to work cooperatively in a group, self-reliance and persistence, demonstrating creativity, making connections, and being able to justify your solution or idea. These skills and traits, among others, are ones that we might see being assessed in a kindergarten classroom as well as a senior year elective. The many post-it notes that survived the editing exercise will become food for thought as we write K-12 learning goals that we feel reflect who we are as a community as well as what we want our boys to master before going off into the world.


Over the weekend, I ran across an article about “deeper learning” as defined with six competencies by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Here is the overview below:


  • Mastery of Core Academic Content: Students build their academic foundation in subjects like reading, writing, math, and science. They understand key principles and procedures, recall facts, use the correct language, and draw on their knowledge to complete new tasks.
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: Students think critically, analytically, and creatively. They know how to find, evaluate, and synthesize information to construct arguments. They can design their own solutions to complex problems.
  • Collaboration: Collaborative students work well in teams. They communicate and understand multiple points of view and they know how to cooperate to achieve a shared goal.
  • Effective Communication: Students communicate effectively in writing and in oral presentations. They structure information in meaningful ways, listen to and give feedback, and construct messages for particular audiences.
  • Self-Directed Learning: Students develop an ability to direct their own learning. They set goals, monitor their own progress, and reflect on their own strengths and areas for improvement. They learn to see setbacks as opportunities for feedback and growth. Students who learn through self-direction are more adaptive than their peers.
  • Academic Mindset: Students with an “academic mindset” have a strong belief in themselves. They trust their own abilities and believe their hard work will pay off, so they persist to overcome obstacles. They also learn from and support each other. They see the relevance of their schoolwork to the real world and their own future success.



As we look at learning goals on which to base future assessments, these competencies may provide some guidance. I hope you enjoy looking these over. Parent feedback will be helpful for us as we move forward.


Earlier this month I spoke to the Lower School Parent’s Association about the results of our assessment survey this fall. We used the information we gathered to generate three questions that will drive much of our thinking about teaching and learning moving forward. I will share them below and continue to keep you informed of conversations about your son’s Gilman learning experience.


These are the “design prompts” that resulted from our school survey:

  • How might we articulate K-12 learning goals that drive and sustain relevant, authentic assessment at Gilman?
  • How might we provide the diverse community of learners at Gilman voice and choice in how they demonstrate their learning?
  • How can we report learning in a way that inspires growth and effectively informs stakeholders about student progress?


I hope that my communication with you each week encourages “talking points” to inspire conversation with your son or sons. Here are some “talking points” based on recent school events.



  • If you are in Kindergarten- How did you make your penguin sculpture in art class? Did you enjoy the pizza party celebration of your fraction lesson?
  • If you are in Prep-One- What did you make to decorate your door for the Student Council door decorating contest? What is a lily pad?


  • If you are in First Grade- What did you learn about the water cycle in science class? How did you use “Minions” to decorate your first grade doors?


  • If you are in Second Grade- How did you use energy from the sun with a magnifying glass? Did you go to drop-in makerspace this week?


  • If you are in Third Grade- What was your “Musher Banquet” all about? Which Iditarod musher are you following in the race? How will you track him or her? How are you enjoying the book Sadako? Why will you make 1000 origami cranes?
  • If you are in Fourth Grade- Are you looking forward to the 4A play next week? How are you using centimeter paper and decimals to create a model of the solar system?
  • If you are in Fifth Grade- Are you enjoying a change from number crunching in math as you explore geometry? What is a transversal?
Fifth grade boys exploring parallel lines with a transversal in a hands-on way!




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