ToolsAndResourcesTOOLS & RESOURCES
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Envision Teacher Abby Benedetto on The Teaching Channel website, talking about the POWER OF DEFENSE!


Bob Lenz on Edutopia:

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more info and to register!

January 2015
In the Spotlight: A new book about Envision Schools and boosting student outcomes!
Tools & Resources: Buy the book; register for a Defense Design Studio; read good stuff
Defense Design Studios 2015: See a student defense LIVE.
Partnering for Success: Ways to get involved with ELP and Envision Education


We are thrilled to announce that Transforming Schools Using Project-based Learning, Performance Assessment, and Common Core Standards -- a new book from Envision's co-founder Bob Lenz, with Justin Wells and Sally Kingston -- was published today, January 27, 2015! Many years and classrooms in the making, this book shares the how, why, what, and who of transforming a school so that students reap real rewards, in the form of successful preparation for college, career, and life.   


We are pleased to share this excerpt with you, from chapter two of the book.  Enjoy!


An Old Pedagogy for a Newly Demanding World


Long before the term performance assessment ever existed, Professor Henry Higgins took Eliza Doolittle to the horse races (Lerner & Loewe, 1956). Proof that Eliza's learning had gone deep was not to be found in the cozy confines of Higgins's library, where she recited "the rain in Spain" until her accent was perfectly aristocratic. The bet was that Higgins could make her pass as an aristocrat; naturally, she needed to prove her skills among them. So off they went to the "Ascot opening day."


It was a challenging test in a new and authentic context. Of course, in one of the more memorable scenes of musical theater, Eliza, until that moment indistinguishable from the blue bloods surrounding her, exhorts her horse to "move your bloomin' arse!!!" (p. 78). Eliza wasn't quite ready to pass this famous example of a performance assessment.


Jargon deserves our skepticism. So often it turns out to be wrapping paper. You tear it off and are miffed to find an old concept, regifted.


Performance assessment, as a term, can make us feel that way, especially when it is uttered in a tone that pretends to some revolutionary new invention. But good teachers have, through their own judgment and sense, been designing good performance assessments for as long as humans have been teaching each other things. Many of us can think back to a teacher whose course culminated with some demanding assignment, one that required us to do the subject rather than just learn it, one that not only challenged us but helped us make sense of what the course was ultimately about. Student-designed experiments, research projects, presentations of learning-such oft-cited examples of performance assessment were around long before the term gained currency. Visual and performing arts teachers have always dwelt in the land of performance assessment, never left, and have good reason to wonder what all the hubbub is about.


Still, performance assessment, though not describing a new thing, is an increasingly useful term, for two reasons. One, a lot of non-performance assessment has grown up around it, competing for sunlight. The denser the thicket, the more attentive we must be to the difference between what to prune and what to let grow.


Two, though performance assessment has always been good pedagogy, it is fast becoming the only pedagogy that can possibly address the demands of this changing world. Tony Wagner, an education professor at Harvard, has been a consistently eloquent voice on the matter:


Today, because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate-the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life-and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me, "We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can't teach them how to think-to ask the right questions-and to take initiative." (Friedman, 2013)


That job falls to our schools. And that list-thinking critically, communicating, collaborating-keeps popping up every time someone thinks about preparing students for their future, whether for college, career, or citizenship. It is a set of skills, not a body of facts. It's a list of verbs, not nouns. If we agree on their importance, then we must design educational experiences that allow students to practice and teachers to coach those skills in action.


A multiple-choice question is not inherently bad. It can be an appropriate and certainly efficient way of assessing certain kinds of content knowledge. But when cast in the light of the task at hand, it just looks woefully inadequate, even irrelevant. We realize that performance assessment-however jargony it may sound-is our only possible means for measuring what our students need measured.


Actually, there is much to appreciate about the term performance assessment, because the words it comprises point in the direction that school design needs to go. The word performance connotes action, creativity, and the presence of an audience. The word assessment suggests something ongoing-a process-in a way that the word test does not. These are important themes for the design of a schoolwide performance assessment system.


* * *



Interested in more?  Get more information about the book, which comes with a DVD and can be purchased in hard copy or as an e-book at the book's website here.  Or purchase from Amazon by clicking on the book image at the top of the column to the left.


At Envision, the College Success Portfolio Defense is at the heart of our model and our work.  We believe that students are ready to succeed in college and in career when they are able to demonstrate what they know, what they can do, and how they reflect on their growth and development.  The Defense, the dissertation-style presentation where they do just that, is the culmination of four years of studying, learning, working, revising, doing and reflecting; it's a transformative moment.  

But don't just take our word for it: come see for yourself. Register for one of ELP's Defense Design Studios!  Come spend the day at an Envision School, where you will:
  • Learn what it means to participate in Performance Assessment at Envision.
  • Observe an entire student Portfolio Defense.
  • Process what you saw and connect it back to your own learning or educational context.
This year, our Design Studio dates are as follows:
  • City Arts & Tech High School, San Francisco: Thursday, May 14, 2015
  • Impact Academy of Arts & Technology, Hayward: Friday, May 15, 2015
  • Envision Academy of Arts & Technology, Oakland: Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Register here today.  Spaces fill up fast and we offer an early bird discount: we encourage interested folks to act quickly! 

Questions about the Defense Design Studios?  Just email Rachel Maida, our Program Manager, and she can assist you.  


INSPIRE: Capture and share student and teacher success!   Email your stories, photos and videos and we will share them in a future newsletter.  Email Rachel Maida, Program Manager.

INFORM: Learn more about Envision Learning Partners (ELP), our partnership opportunities and our events.  Contact Rachel Maida, Program Manager.

INVOLVE: Join us!  Visit the Envision Education Career Center for opportunities to join our teams. Currently, Envision Schools has an opening for a principal at Envision Academy of Arts & Technology in Oakland, CA.  Spread the word!

INFLUENCE: Spread the word about ELP.  Forward this newsletter to your colleagues and friends, and encourage them to subscribe to Reflections.

INVEST: Support Envision Education! Invest in our programs to make a difference in the lives of American students. Contact Kate Schwass, Development Director to learn more.