School-Based Assessment (Option 2)

Your School Trained & Certified to Conduct Standard Group Assessment 

     In this option, a DISCOVER staff member trains your school staff (or community members) to conduct the DISCOVER Assessment on our behalf.  Most schools prefer this option because of its flexibility and cost effectiveness. 

     The individuals you choose to receive training are called “Observer Candidates” (because they are preparing to become Assessment Observers).  The training occurs in three parts:  Initial Training, Practice, and Final Training leading to certification.

     Initial Training:  The initial training lasts for five consecutive days and has several components:  1) background and research of the Assessment; 2) practice sessions; 3) a mentored, live Assessment with a classroom of children; and 4) a full debriefing that analyzes the live Assessment results. 

     Practice:  Once finished with the initial training, the Observer Candidates conduct additional live Assessments to practice the skills they have learned.  At least four such Assessments must occur before the DISCOVER Trainer returns for the final training.  These practice Assessments typically do not count “officially” and the results are not used for placement because the Observer Candidates must first gain experience.  However, in many cases these Assessments can count officially if certain procedures and guidelines are followed.  The Assessment Trainer will provide more information about this process.

     Final Training:  After the four (or more) practice Assessments have been completed, the DISCOVER Trainer returns to conduct a final one or two day training session that involves yet another live Assessment.  Ideally this final training should occur within two or three months of the initial training.  During the final training, the Observer Candidates conduct a live Assessment, while being observed and mentored by the DISCOVER Trainer.  The Trainer then uses a performance checklist to evaluate each of the Observer Candidates, to determine those ready for certification (meaning that they are ready to conduct official Assessments without further training).  Those not yet ready will have the option of pursuing additional practice and/or training to potentially qualify for certification at a future date.

     When the certification process is complete, the new team(s) can conduct an unlimited number of Assessments within their school, district, or cooperative.  Observers maintain their certification by completing an annual re-certification process.

     When selecting potential Observers for training, keep in mind that a variety of backgrounds is good; Observers working as a team, with differing perspectives, adds depth to the final Assessment results.  Almost anyone has the potential to be an Observer.  Some schools train current teachers and cover their positions during Assessment periods.  Some mix in retired teachers or volunteers.  Others want representation from non-teacher, school-related professions.  We have even seen successful examples where older student peers and college students were trained as Observers.  At a minimum, Observer candidates should have some experience working with children and, ideally, should not personally know the children they will be assessing, to reduce the potential for bias.

     During the initial and final training segments, the DISCOVER Trainer will observe and mentor each Observer Candidate—sometimes in groups but often individually.  For this reason we limit the ratio of Candidates-to-Trainer at 10.  In other words, if your school will be training 20 Observers, two DISCOVER Trainers will be required (or one Trainer and two separate trainings).

How Many Observers Should We Train?

     One Observer can observe up to five students per Assessment.  Therefore, if your average class size is 25, you will need a minimum of five Observers per Assessment.  Most Assessment teams maintain between 5 and 6 regular Observers, with alternates available when needed.  Large schools, districts, and school cooperatives usually maintain several active teams so that they can assess more than one classroom per day, in more than one location.  Smaller schools also sometimes operate more than one team if they will be assessing an entire grade or multiple grades.  In general, our recommendation for small to medium schools, just starting with DISCOVER, is to initially train a minimum of 10 people who will be used to form one team. 

     We recommend training 10 people (even though the typical team size is less) for several reasons: 1) attrition—one or more initial trainees might take another job, move, or decide to no longer be an Observer; 2) absence of Observers during the Assessment period, due to other commitments, vacation, or sickness; 3) failure of a trainee to qualify for certification—on average around one out of ten.  By initially training a few extra personnel, you will be assured of having a full Assessment team when it’s needed.  Also, recognize that being an Observer can be a big responsibility and that it’s a good idea to have another person or two available to during the busiest times.  Most schools lighten the Observers’ roles by assigning the math and writing components of the Assessment to other people; for example they may assign these tasks to one or two of the initial trainees who are not the primary Observers.  Such individuals also can serve as Observer substitutes.  If you have a separate person in charge of data management, it might be a good idea to have him or her be one of the initial trainees, to gain a good sense of how the data is collected and used.  Some schools also put the Assessment Team Leader in a position of back-up Observer, so that she or he has more time to focus on the team’s organizational details.  And finally, if you can convince a member of your administration to be one of the initial trainees, do so; we have found, almost without exception, that the most successful DISCOVER programs have at least one administrator who is intimately knowledgeable of the Assessment process and has been trained as an Observer.  In other words—train all those who will be directly involved in some way, and make sure alternate Observers are available when needed.

Training Details (Initial Five-Day Segment):

     The Standard Assessment contains five activities.  Three of these—Spatial Artistic, Spatial Analytical, and Oral Linguistic—require Observers and are the primary focus of the training.  Each segment in the initial training begins with an interactive presentation explaining how that activity works, making sure everyone understands the three core components of DISCOVER, multiple intelligences, problem solving, and diversity.  Trainees then practice the activities, exactly as if they themselves are being assessed.  This gives them a good understanding of the experience, from the perspective of the children.  After the practice they analyze their own products and behaviors in the same way they will analyze the children’s efforts in the real Assessments, and they study the Behavior Checklist sheets, to understand the approximately 120 key problem-solving behaviors they will be looking for.  Then comes the actual live practice Assessment with a classroom of students. Your school needs to choose a class of students to be assessed and, ideally, the Assessment should occur in their regular classroom, with their regular teacher performing the role of Assessment Leader.  (Summer trainings sometimes include students who are participating in school-based summer programs).  Make sure the students are the correct age.  Assessment trainings are age specific, falling into categories of K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12, and procedures for each age group differ.  Observer Candidates need to practice on the age group appropriate to their future certification level.  This observation component of the live Assessment takes approximately 3 hours and is best done in the morning when the children are fresh.  The final part of the initial training involves debriefing the practice Assessment results, a process where the Observer Candidates come to consensus on which ratings will be assigned to each student.  A similar debriefing process occurs in regular Assessments, as well.

     During Assessments, Observers are seated at tables with no more than 5 children each, in a position where they can see and assist all children equally.  Children sit at the same table throughout the process, but the Observers rotate to a different table after each activity, so that they observe a different group each time.  Most people are surprised to learn that giving children assistance while they are being “tested” is an important part of the process.  How and when Observers give this assistance is discussed in great detail during the training.  The assistance must be given in a precise manner to maintain the Assessment reliability and validity.  Unlike paper-and-pencil tests that are static, the DISCOVER Assessment is dynamic—meaning that interaction between the children, and between the children and the Observer, is part of the design.  Basically, the Observers measure the children’s problem-solving abilities by guiding them into ever deepening problem-solving exercises.  To assure procedures are standardized, what the Observers say and do is scripted to some extent.

     It is important to note that Observers, while being the primary information gatherers, do not actually “run” the Assessment.  A person designated as the Assessment Leader performs this task, typically the regular classroom teacher or someone else known to the children.  The Assessment Leader does not need special training but does need to prepare for the role, by reading through the Leader instructions in advance.  The Assessment Leader’s responsibilities include reading directions for each activity (while the Observers visually demonstrate), ushering the children in and out of the classroom between activities, and addressing disciplinary issues.  In effect, the Assessment Leader is, for lack of a better term, like a circus ringleader.  He or she keeps the process moving along in a timely manner.  Very important:  The person filling the Assessment Leader role should never be, at the same time, one of the Observers.  It is impossible for one person to adequately fill both positions.  The Assessment Leader might need one or more assistants if the Assessment is to be conducted in more than one language.  All directions should be translated accordingly, and linguistic assistance given to Observers when necessary.  Making sure each child is assessed in his or her dominant language is important so that language does not become a barrier to recognizing other abilities.  (Don’t confuse the term Assessment Leader with the term Assessment Team Leader.  The Assessment Leader is usually an outside person—not a part of the regular Assessment team—whereas the Assessment Team Leader is the leader of the Observer team, usually the Observer with the best organizational and leadership skills.) 

     The other two Assessment activities—Logical-Mathematical and Written Linguistic—do not require Observers and generally are administered by the regular classroom teacher on a different day (preferably before).  Both activities do, however, need to be scored by trained personnel.  We provide training in scoring as part of the regular Assessment training but each school decides who actually will do the scoring.  Some schools have all of their Observer Trainees learn the scoring process, spreading the responsibility between them.  Other schools designate one or two Observer Trainees to learn scoring and this becomes their primary task.

     Most schools find the cost per student to be around $43, once the Assessment teams are operational.

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