Avant ADVANCE: Bringing the Standards to Life

Avant ADVANCE: Bringing the Standards to Life

Art Fry was so frustrated, he almost said a bad word in church. 

Every time he opened his hymnal, his bookmarks fluttered to the floor. Then he remembered that one of his colleagues at 3M had recently concocted a strange glue that wasn’t very sticky. He applied some of it to scraps of paper and, lo and behold, his bookmarks stayed in place. When 3M secretaries got ahold of the little papers, they started sticking them on memos, folders, and cubicle walls. Today, 3M sells about 50 billion Post-Its each year. 

Avant VP for Education and Assessment Kyle Ennis wasn’t in church when his “Aha!” moment came. He was in New Jersey. “Supervisors there were telling me that teachers moonlighting as STAMP raters were doing amazing things in the classroom. They thought we must be giving them methodology workshops or something. In reality, they just went through RaterConnection, our online rater training and certification system and began scoring student responses with detailed criteria.”

He remembered how developing and implementing standards-based assessments as a Japanese teacher in the 1990s had transformed his classroom. He had heard others say that OPI Training had changed them as teachers. Perhaps, thought Ennis, the process that creates accurate raters can create great teachers.

To test this hunch, he opened up RaterConnection to teachers in the Lexington, S.C. school district. After walking them through the process, he let them rate hundreds of student samples. The online system gave them immediate, concrete feedback after each rating.  The results?

“Amazing. Great. Just…awesome,” reports Lexington World Language coordinator Dawn Samples. “For the teachers who were on board with proficiency-oriented instruction, it was so affirming. It gave them confidence in their judgments and some clear vocabulary so they could communicate effectively with parents and students. For the struggling teachers, the concrete criteria gave them something to hold onto. The light bulbs went off. They finally got it.”

The three keys to training accurate STAMP raters — clear criteria, repetition, and immediate feedback — turned out to be the keys to making proficiency concrete for teachers so they could make the abstract principles of the ACTFL Guidelines come alive in their classrooms.

Based on the success of the Lexington experiment, Avant went to work re-engineering the internal RaterConnection tool into ADVANCE, which will be unveiled at ACTFL and available to districts nationwide on January 1.

The heart and soul of ADVANCE is repetition and immediate, specific feedback. Teachers have access to hundreds of samples at various proficiency levels and after rating each one, ADVANCE tells them what they got right and wrong. Before long, they can confidently and accurately score student samples and, just as important, articulate why it is scored at a specific level.

“The potential for this is huge,” says Ennis. “Imagine every teacher in a district agreeing on the specific indicators of proficiency levels. This catalyzes not just better assessment, but better articulation and more productive professional discussions.”

The first step is to have teachers complete learning modules and rate student samples, just like the Lexington teachers. Teachers can quickly get up to speed on what proficiency really means through practice of rating student samples and receiving immediate feedback. As Dawn said, light bulbs will start going off. But this is just the beginning.

To learn more about ADVANCE and see if it could be useful to you, visit the Avant booth at ACTFL (#539) or visit http://avantassessment.com/advance. If you don’t have time to do that right now, no problem. Just put a Post-It note on the fridge so you don’t forget.