Assessment Practices for Strategic Disruption of Assessment Practices

Michael T. Conner, Ed.D.

The most recent release of achievement data from the Nation’s Report Card demonstrated that over
half of our nation’s students function at math levels on the lowest quartile. The achievement data is
sobering and calls us, as educators, to review our educational structural processes to ensure we’re
meeting student needs. The Disruptive Excellence Framework creates a strategic framework to create
innovative systems that will prepare our youngest generations for academic success.
Over the past three years, the pandemic environment has forced us to change educational practices.
Now, post-Covid, we must deconstruct traditional systems to advance excellence and equity. Traditional
assessment practices before Covid historically worked against Black and Brown students in the
education model. The historical focus on achievement assessments has stymied many cultures from
accelerating excellence in the system. Using elements from the Disruptive Excellence Framework,
assessment protocols should be vigorously examined with intentionality to close gaps amongst
historically marginalized subgroups.

Gaps in Assessing for Excellence and Equity

The pandemic years illuminated stark disparities that exist in the educational ecosystem. Post-pandemic,
we can disrupt inequities for ALL and “reset” and reimagine various threads in the model, starting with
assessment practices. The role of assessment is fundamental to closing excellence gaps – elements
embedded in the Disruptive Excellence Framework. In collaborative context, Riverside Insights
developed the Balanced Assessment Playbook with actionable steps to create assessment coherence
and ensure that assessment programs meet the foundational needs of ALL.

The Excellence Loop to Close the Gap with Assessing Your Assessments

Innovation, the process of taking an idea from inception to impact, is a disruption of how an
organization would develop, process, articulate, and implement the shared strategy for ALL. A significant
shift in dialogue is necessary to close the Expectations Gap in accordance with key demographic
indicators such as race, gender, preference, and zip code. Assessing Your Assessments using the
Excellence Loop elements can assist in this paradoxical change within any learning organization. Here are some core ideas from the elements of the Excellence Loop that can assist your process with Assessing Your Assessments with innovation and excellence in mind.

Expectations Gap: Assessment tools embed rich standardized language that can contradict the broader
demographics you might service daily. I am not advocating for compromising assessment rigor – closing
the Expectations Gap is recognizing areas to improve so ALL benefit from achieving their goal rooted in

Preparation Gap: Before Covid, leaders within the ecosystem underscored academic achievement data.
Painstakingly, this standard assessment practice has left many students behind. Closing the Preparation
Gap in the Excellence Loop is targeting data decision making processes with growth indicators grounded
in the voices of ALL. As we progress with implementing other elements from the Disruptive Excellence
(i.e., Coherence Processes), education structures and systems will have to radically
transform to align with the new demands of younger generations.

Performance Gap: With the demographic trends in Generation Alpha being majority Black and Brown,
every dimension in the education sector must target practices of excellence and inclusion. Closing the
Performance Gap is designing equitable assessment processes where reflection and accountability are
metabolized for organizational growth. An example of this would be aligning ability data, such as
Riverside’s Cognitive Abilities Test TM (CogAT®) metrics to organizational learning needs to plan for
coaching/development support of leaders and teachers.

Access Gap: After conducting a causal analysis of their learning organization’s assessment program,
eliminating Access Gaps in the context of pedagogy, outcomes, and innovation should elicit
opportunities for students to become co-authors of their personalized learning pathway. Universally,
traditional assessment norms have historically been static. Being intentional with how you evaluate your
assessment pragmatics (e.g., Riverside Insights Balanced Assessment Playbook) will enact systems to
close inequities and promote academic growth for all students.

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