Collaborative Common Assessments: Teamwork. Instruction. Results.

Cassandra Erkens.
Solution Tree, 2016, 157 pp.

Principal, November/December 2016

Assessment is an established foundational element in education but, despite its pivotal role as a guide in teaching and learning, assessment often lacks energy and becomes mundane and common. To only compound the issue, educators often find themselves “data wealthy, but information bankrupt.” It is that concern that author Cassandra Erkens seeks to address in her book.

Erkens defines collaborative common assessment as “any assessment, formative or summative, that is either team created or team endorsed in advance of instruction and then administered in close proximity by all instructors so they can collaboratively examine the results, plan instructionally agile responses, analyze errors, and explore areas for program improvement.” Building on that thorough definition, Erkens guides readers through the process of establishing that assessment tool—from preparation to delivery and analysis.

A major premise throughout the book is that it is not the tool, quality, timing, or intent, but it is how the assessment is used that makes the largest impact. Educators must understand the systems they are involved with, which requires a knowledge of the educational system, as well as the influence of a vibrant professional learning community. Erkens spends a significant number of pages discussing the extended impact of educators collaborating to design and employ assessments, and then continuing on to collaborate on how to best use the data to impact instruction.

From there, she provides practical instruction and examples of making the data work for you—of using assessment data to improve instruction and results—all while emphasizing the need for a passion to use data not just to monitor or sort, but to inform and guide.

Erkens’ work is practical, credible, and real. She uses numerous real-life illustrations and extensive research to support her claims. Quotations from teachers personally involved in the process—of both successes and struggles—bring reality to the scene and give readers true insight as to the daily challenges of using assessment to impact teaching and learning. Collaborative Common Assessments is a fairly easy read, and one in which readers can relate and act on without additional extensive research or study.

Reviewed by Jennifer Klipp, elementary assistant principal of Bob Jones Academy in Greenville, South Carolina.

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