For several years, Education Systems Center (EdSystems) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) competency-based education (CBE) schools have collaborated through the Chicago Equity-Centered Innovation Forum to support the implementation of innovative instructional models as strategies for dismantling the systemic inequities in traditional educational approaches. This spring, our collaboration once again partnered with national expert Dr. Karin Hess to provide training to help teachers design subject-specific performance-based assessments (PBAs) that address real-world and real-community inequities that resonate with students. As an added benefit this year, CPS generously offered to share the opportunity with teachers from two other CBE schools, Round Lake High School and Ridgewood Community High School. It was a rare opportunity for teachers to work across districts. Teachers who successfully completed the professional development earned a micro-credential. They also produced terrific performance-based assessments.
At the Performance-Based Assessment Design Cohort Showcase on May 18, 2023, we heard teachers talk about their projects and the design process. The showcase was an opportunity to see up close how performance-based assessments can be used across disciplines and with students from a range of backgrounds with a variety of characteristics. Hearing the teachers talk about their projects, it was clear that they took care to craft projects that would spark passion in students while engaging with subjects as diverse as world studies, history, science, math, social studies, and biology. There even was a project created specifically to address developing social skills. The student populations the teachers targeted were diverse as well and included mainstream students, special needs students, incarcerated students, and students from magnet and selective enrollment schools.
With support from Dr. Hess, the projects the teachers developed were rigorous and appropriate for each teacher’s student population. The projects were as varied as the students and included investigating chewing gum and lactose intolerance, learning about social entrepreneurship, myth-busting tattoos, and scrutinizing Chicago crime rates. It was inspiring to see such innovative ways to connect a variety of subjects to real-world interests and social justice. These kinds of projects really help students own the work. As one teacher said, “The math is just happening.”