Authentic Assessments for Multilingual Learners with Stef Just and Jackie Griffin

Uncover innovative strategies for authentic assessments, tailored for multilingual learners. Learn from leaders Stef Just and Jackie Griffin about formative assessments, inclusive systems, and maintaining high expectations with flexibility. Elevate your teaching practices with practical insights about the cycle of formative assessment and informed instruction.

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Justin Hewett: [00:00:00] Hey everybody welcome to the ML Chat Podcast.

We are going to have so much fun today. We get to meet with Steph Just and Jackie Griffin. Steph and Jackie recently presented at the WIDA Conference on Authentic Assessment and they just had rave reviews. Everybody loved it. We heard so many good things about it that we just had to get them on the ML Chat Podcast and we’re so excited you’re here.

Steph and Jackie, thank you for joining us. Thanks for being here. This is going to be fun today. 

Jackie Griffin: Thank you for 

Justin Hewett: having us. Oh, my pleasure. Our pleasure. Mandy’s pleasure. My pleasure. Let’s get into it. Stephanie Jess is an instructional coach in the North Shore School District 112. Located just north of Chicago she works with students in grades one through five to help build teacher capacity to make content more accessible for all of their students.

She’s , in dual language and half the students are served half the day in English and half the day in Spanish which is pretty awesome. We love that. In addition to that, she’s a [00:01:00] Kagan Cooperative Learning School trainer and contributor on authentic assessment for multilingual learners.

in portraits of collaboration with Andrea Honexfield and Maria Dove.

Jackie Griffin is the Director of Curriculum, Professional Learning, and Language in East Prairie School District 73 in Skokie, Illinois. She has a passion for implementing systems so all learners have the opportunity to thrive and be successful. Jackie first received her Master’s at Concordia University in Curriculum and Instruction With an endorsement in EL and later on went on to get her admin degree so she could pursue her passion for implementing effective instructional systems to serve students.

And lo and behold, Stephanie and Jackie actually worked together for a number of years. Our good friends have, worked in the same district. Steph talked about how she covered for you, Jackie, when you went out on maternity leave. And and you said, and I knew it was in good hands. So anyways.

We’re so excited to have you here and it sounds like we’re going to have some fun together. We’d [00:02:00] love to start by just jumping in and talking a little bit about authentic assessment and how you ended up landing on presenting at WIDA. And we’ll start there and unpack it and jump into it from there.

How did that come about? How did you end up presenting at the WIDA conference, 

Jackie Griffin: Yeah, I can start with that and then Steph jump in at any point. Steph and I, as we worked together in our previous district, in District 96, we did a lot of collaborating on what We were teaching students what we want students to know and be able to do. And after a lot of collaboration and reflection, it all came back to assessments.

It all came back to how do we know that they’re learning? And after looking at what we were assessing, we kept thinking. Is this the right assessment and can we make it better? Are we getting the right data that we want to know from students so we can improve their learning? So as we just work together and collaborated we just grew a passion for assessments.

[00:03:00] And in the, in all this time in 96, we worked with Andrea Honningsfeld, and she helped us understand co teaching in general. The co teaching cycle is the co plan, co teach, co assess. And that assessment really jumped out at us. It’s we don’t have to assess on our own, we can involve other people in this.

We can collaborate with classroom teachers and other people on the assessments that make the most sense. with our multilingual students. 

Stef Just: We also felt like a lot of the assessments focused on content and not language. So we were both really passionate about making sure that through our assessments we were also finding opportunities to really figure out where students were at in regards to their language domains.

Making sure that we had very clear goals with the assessments of what language we would expect and how we were going to test to see if that was actually happening or not. 

Justin Hewett: I love that. We are hearing about co teaching across the nation. It [00:04:00] feels like it’s sweeping the nation right now, right? The pendulum kind of swings back and forth through the years, but it really feels like there’s a big focus on co teaching.

Not everybody is necessarily doing it, but a lot of districts are just getting started or working towards that direction. Some have been doing it for a number of years. We just had Keenan and Kathy from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They presented at the WIDA conference as well. And they came on and we just got done talking with them about co teaching.

The thing that really stands out to me that you just said is that it’s not just co teaching, it’s co planning. It’s co teaching, it’s co assessing. And that is it, that really resonates with me. Just recognizing the fact, I think. I hear a lot about, the importance of planning together to get ready for teaching together, but one thing I haven’t really, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anybody talk about the importance of assessing together and having a plan for that, and starting with that end in mind of, how do we know that they are learning?

How did you get there? Where does that, where did that come from? 

Stef Just: [00:05:00] When Jackie and I worked together previously, our district that we worked with had common formative assessments that were given very regularly across the grade level and across the district. And at that time, those were really rooted in Specifically content that we were learning and then we started to layer on that language piece because we really didn’t know how to plan without that information.

If you don’t know where the students are at, it’s really hard to meet them where they’re at and then get them to the next level without having an idea of where you’re starting with. Really, we. I truly don’t know how to plan without knowing what our students need to know and be able to do. The only way to figure that out is with the assessment.

Jackie Griffin: And I’ll just add on a little bit to that, when we look at, we, we’re both rooted in a professional learning community. And within that, we answer the four questions of what do we want students to know and be able to do? And then as language coaches, we add on to that, not only academically, but [00:06:00] linguistically.

So when you’re meeting with a co teacher, you have an EL specialized teacher who knows a lot about language, paired up with somebody who has taught the grade level and knows the grade level content, each of you bring something to the table of, okay, if this is the content we are teaching, what language needs or demands are within that?

And how are we going to address what level are our students at if we’re asking them to do a speaking activity? Okay. What can we expect students to do and what are we going to specifically put in place so that students are successful? So it’s all starting with that question. One of what do we want?

Clarity on students to know and be able to do. 

Mandi Morris: Jackie, could you talk about a specific way that you’ve gone about implementing that with teachers so you know that? You need, teachers need to set learning objectives and language objectives. And with the co teaching model, you’ve got teachers supporting both.[00:07:00] 

How have you implemented that in a really practical way in a school or a district where you’ve 

Jackie Griffin: worked? Yeah, thank you for asking that because that was a big part of our presentation is looking at like, how do you even get to understand what do you want students to be able to know and be able to do?

How do you get to that point? Larry Ainsworth is actually a person who’s specialized in literacy standards, unpacking standards. The practical way that we have is unpacking standards into learning intention, success criteria and then learning progressions within that. So what we do is we’ve identified our essential standards that we are promised standards, right?

Like by the end of the school year, every student will know These standards and be successful with them. But what does that mean? What verbs are in there? What nouns are in there? What? What’s the knowledge and skill items that are embedded within that standard and so we take it. We have a formal document that just has a standard at the top [00:08:00] on the right below it.

It outlines the nouns, the knowledge items and the verbs are the skills and we highlight them and we list them out there. And then we look at our depth of knowledge. What level of knowledge do kids are being expected of them? We outline that then move on to our success criteria. If these are the skills that we are expecting kids to know and be able to do, how do we write that in kid friendly language?

I can statements, like I can identify a main topic. I can Site evidence that proves that these reasons support the main idea or main topic. So those are the, I can statements, and then we even break those down even further to say, within this main idea. What are some progressions to get to that?

Do they need to know, like main idea details? Do they need to know like good to know? Nice to know details. So we break it down from standard to skills and knowledge, to learning intentions, to [00:09:00] progressions. And that’s where we get to a point of we are so specific on what we want kids to know and be able to do.

Justin Hewett: And so how does that inform then? Like the method you use for creating those authentic assessments for then creating assessments, at what point are you looking at more of the progressions, like you’re, formatively assessing to be able to measure that, or, is it just what you’re trying to do at the end of the unit, break that down for us, if you don’t mind, and how you approach that and thinking about assessments.

Jackie Griffin: Yeah, I can tell how it is in my district. And I think Steph has something very similar in her district and she probably does it just a little bit differently. In our district, we now have looked at once we have our success criteria, we look at our assessments to make sure questions on the assessment match and address each success criteria.

So what’s really exciting is that our, middle school math team just gave a presentation to our staff the other day on how they do it. We’re really trying to embed some professional development from teachers that are doing this [00:10:00] work in the district and how do they embed it. So they design their assessments.

They look. And put the overall standard at the top of the assessment, and then they have each chunk of the assessment is a different success criteria, and they put it right on the assessment for the students to know in these couple of questions. I want you to be able to, and I couldn’t even tell you a math standard right now for algebra 1, but it says it up at the top and then the students answer the couple of questions.

And so each success criteria is on each assessment and kids know what they’re being asked to do and then their grade book reflects that each success criteria is on their sheet of paper that they give back to the student and say on this success criteria, you got a developing a mastery and on this success criteria, you got beginning developed mastery, whatever it is.

So kids can see specifically I’m not just good at math or bad at math. Like I have specific areas where I am thriving and [00:11:00] specific areas that I need to grow in to 

Justin Hewett: build our assessment capable learners. I love that. That is fantastic. Yes, Steph. We’d love to hear about how your approach with that, especially knowing that.

You’re working in a dual language environment, where you’re having to do it. And probably in Spanish and English 

Stef Just: to a degree. Yeah, you got it. So we also have learning progressions in my district. We rolled them out this year, actually. And similar to Jackie it starts with the state standard that we’ve identified as a focus standard.

And then those standards are broken down into a progression of knowledge and skills very similar. And then what we’ve done with. Dual language is will have teachers work up to a certain skill step. For example, if we’re thinking about the main idea and key details standard, we know that a student needs to know what a main topic is and how to identify a main topic before they can.Extend that to a main idea

[00:12:00] So we would give a check in or an assessment on identifying a main topic. So we would stop at that step and assess it in whatever language of instruction we used at that point. So for this example, let’s say we taught it in English. We would then give the check in on can they identify a main topic?

Do they have the skills and knowledge to be able to do that? Then once they show us where they’re at within that standard, and they’re like, we’re good. We try to shoot for about 80 percent of the class is showing us mastery at that level. We then bridge the language over to the other. So if it was an English first, at that point we would bridge from English to Spanish.

So here’s what main topic is in Spanish. Here’s the skill, here’s the strategy that we’ve taught you. That way we’re not teaching it all over again and it’s not a main topic is what the focus of the text is. Instead, we’re just explicitly giving them the language and then moving on to the next [00:13:00] level of the progression in that language.

Then they go through the next chunk of the progression in Spanish, about 80 percent of the kids get to a certain point. We assess them, we bridge from there, and then you keep going. That way you’re really working through the progression in chunks of it so knowledge and skill chunks, and then assessing them at each one of the skills to make sure that they have them.


Mandi Morris: in your model for, 50 percent of the day is in English and 50 percent is Spanish, and I, that’s just so interesting how you just explained, explicitly making the connection between language because they already have the content. What is the ratio of students look like? How many students do you have that are their L1 is Spanish or their L1 is English?

Stef Just: It is about 50 50 in our building. Which is really awesome. So it’s about I, it’s not like a perfect 50 50 split and some grade levels are a little bit different depending on which grade level we’re looking at, but generally speaking, [00:14:00] We’re at about 50 something, 40 something around there. And so what’s really nice about that is you always have native English models and native Spanish models in the classroom.

But when you think about it, at 50 percent of the day, there’s always 50 percent of the kids that are learning a language. And so we really have to think about language learners as kids that are learning Spanish and the kids that are learning English, where previously when Jackie and I worked together, we had students that spoke all different languages.

And so all of those kids were being immersed into English language and really trying to acquire that language. Where this one, it’s like all day long. Kids are learning one language or the other. So it is nice because it levels out the playing field for everybody. And it really gives everyone a chance to be the expert at some point of the day.

Justin Hewett: My kids are they do [00:15:00] the same thing in Chinese. My three oldest are learning Chinese in an immersion program. And it’s just, it is. It’s incredible to me what these young Children are able to do and how quickly they’re able to learn and work through some of this.

Mandi, it sounded like you’ve got a question. I have a 

Mandi Morris: question 

earlier about your model at your school. I heard you talk just in passing about standards based grading. And I don’t know, Steph, if you have the same model at your school, but I would love for you to talk a little bit about, and I don’t know if that was a shift you had on campus or did you start there on campus like that?

Has it been going for a while? I’d love to hear you talk a little bit about how that impacts language learning for your students. 

Jackie Griffin: Sure. , when I started here, which I’ve been in this district for this, my 3rd year. 2 years ago, we started standards based grading.

The district had been talking about it for probably 6 years prior. Saying let’s learn about standards. Let’s think about standards based grading. And when I got here and had [00:16:00] come from a district that did standards based grading, I was able to lead out the team in developing a standards based grading system.

So I guess specifically where the mindset has changed is that it’s more about learning instead of teaching. For example when we give students a grade, which is like they’re developing mastery they know specifically that. It’s okay to be in a developing range all the way up until really the end of the school year is when we’re expecting mastery in these standards, and there’s always something to grow in.

Because even when you get to mastery, you can extend that learning by doing something deeper or applying it in a different way. So kids have shifted from, did I get an A to what did I learn? And how can I get better? It’s a different way of thinking. It’s also a different way of thinking for families, right?

There, a lot of [00:17:00] it is like motivation for, did you get an A on this test? Everything is a lot of developing, right? Like a D all the time for developing what does that mean? And that’s why these intentions, learning intentions are so important because we can say within this standard, you are, You’re mastering these components of it, you’re working on these components of it, and it gets rid of that saying I’m a bad reader.

You’re not a bad reader. You may have to work on analyzing what a character says, but you’re not a bad reader, or you’re not a bad mathematician. You have things to grow in, but you are a good reader and good at math in certain areas, and in certain areas you have to grow.

Justin Hewett: As I think about, chunking it down into the different aspects of reading it’s what you’re doing in that aspect. And, with a flashlight, that’s one of the things that we have worked really hard to do is speaking, for example, because for a lot of teachers, speaking is a bit of a black box.

And they’re, they get the one speaking score on access or whatever it might be. And that’s all they really know and understand. [00:18:00] And it’s just so ambiguous. Oh, it’s a student has a three and speaking and so that’s why, we broke speaking down into five different areas. It just makes it more approachable, right?

And not only for the teacher, but also for the student, for the parents. Now you can have that common language or as you talked about all the different, common formative assessments you have or common assessments. Now we can start doing that around productive language, and that’s what we’ve worked really hard to build at Flashlight 360.

But as I’m listening to the two of you speak and break all this down, I’m thinking to myself, oh man, if I’m an instructional leader serving multilingual students, I’m listening to the two of you and I’m going, these two are experts in creating assessments. They are so good at what they’ve done.

They’ve probably done this so many different times. And, how do I know how well my assessments are working, right? Like, how do I, I’m not the expert at this necessarily, but, we want to make a difference. We understand that having, authentic assessments and starting with the end in mind is really important.

But [00:19:00] gosh, that seems so overwhelming to me. Where should someone start? Like, how do they start approaching this work?

Stef Just: Jackie earlier mentioned that we really follow four critical questions when we are looking at the instruction that we’re giving and the assessments. And so the first thing is really breaking it down into what knowledge and skills do students need in order to be successful. with this standard. And so when you have the knowledge and skills broken down, then the next step following that is, now how are students and I going to know if they’re successful?

And that’s where the assessment lies, because we really want to know if the skill is to identify a main topic What do we want that to look like? So what would we expect a student to produce for us? And what would we expect for a student to say for us or write? And so we start to layer on the [00:20:00] language piece from there.

But that really is going to depend on where they’re at within the progression of learning within a specific standard. It’s really the what am I supposed to know and be able to do, how are they going to know if they’re successful, and how am I going to know if they’re successful, and that’s where you start to create your assessment from there.

And I think the how are they going to know if they’re successful piece is really important because if a student is taking an assessment and they don’t even know why they’re taking it, what kind of information we’re looking for, it’s really hard to produce what we’re looking for. And so it really starts to get you to dig into what language domain am I expecting right now from these kids?

And then they know. And when Jackie was talking earlier about. Standard base reporting. It was making me think to for us at least long gone are the days of summative assessments where it’s we give the test and you never get a chance again. We are really constantly giving formative assessments, so they’re [00:21:00] always getting a chance to show you again.

If they’re now getting that skill, if they’re now showing that knowledge so it’s really rooted in a lot of frequent assessment that is, can be obtrusive or unobtrusive, but really focused on language embedded into the standards.

A teacher 

Mandi Morris: who says, I’ve had this assessment for the last five years of my class. This is our unit that we do on the ancient world. This is our summative at the end of the unit. And I’ve always done it that way. And that’s just how I do it. And how do you convince that teacher that there’s a different way, a better way without that teacher walking away and saying you just told me that I had to go from one summative to now I have to do all of these micro.

Assessments, all these formatives, like what is the language that you use to coach 

Stef Just: that teacher? That is the golden question, right? Because that is the life of an instructional coach is the constant, but I’ve always done blank and it’s always [00:22:00] worked. And so a lot of times my question is. How did it work?

Show me how it worked. Show me the data that you got from that. And so that is the piece you have to dig into, is what kind of data am I getting and how are you able to instruct based off of that data? If that information isn’t allowing you to build your instruction based off of student need, then it’s not an accurate assessment.

The other piece there that you asked about was, okay, I went from this one nice assessment, stop, take a test. I get all this information at once to I want you to assess all the time. And I think. Where part of the misconception lies there, and Jackie and I touched on this in our WIDA presentation, is people think assessment and they automatically go to test paper and pencil.

And we really believe that there are a lot of opportunities for unobtrusive assessments that [00:23:00] don’t have to be with paper and pencil. You had mentioned earlier, I am a Kagan school trainer and Kagan cooperative learning. It’s really just structures for kids to be engaged in their learning. And so when you have kids talking to each other, interacting with each other, those are all assessment opportunities.

It doesn’t have to be an assessment that you make on a Google Doc or on a slideshow. It doesn’t have to be a big production. It can be something as simple as tell your partner a word that represents the main topic. I’m walking around on a checklist and marking who gets it and who doesn’t. So we really try to emphasize that assessments don’t have to be these grandiose tests that kids are taking for an hour, but they can be just quick, unobtrusive checkpoints to see where kids 

Jackie Griffin: are at.

I’m going to jump in and go back to just Justin’s first question. And yeah. It’s funny that you say that we know a lot about this. I think we only know [00:24:00] what we know because we’re curious about it and are living in action research. So I think that everybody probably knows the things that we know.

Just asking the right questions and reflecting on the assessments are what’s super important and really alive in our work. Especially at my school right now where I am, we have so many data conversations about How do we know that this assessment is assessing what we want? And it’s going back to are we clear on what we want students to know and be able to do?

And then having a conversation afterwards and even an item analysis, like, all the kids got this one wrong. Why did that happen? Did we pose the question wrong? So having those conversations, but even developing the common formative assessments. We’re not afraid to use chat GPT We’re not afraid to use the IAR questions.

We’re not afraid to go on to like map examples Look at other people’s examples. Like how do you even come up with a question? We probably take it from somebody [00:25:00] else who already did the work and then reflect on it and change it and use it in Your 

Stef Just: own way.

I do think too A lot of times once people start getting in the habit of it and they see the power of it, that’s where the mind shift happens of, oh my gosh, how did I ever teach before I had all these assessments and I was actually checking in on my students. I think once you start to get the feel of it and you realize like how much information it gives you and how much better you can plan your instruction, I think that’s where people start to really believe in it and they’re like, Oh my gosh I don’t know how I did this without the information that I have now.

Justin Hewett: People just have to jump in and get started. They know how to do it or they, they’ve had some training on it. It’s just a matter of jumping in. Getting your hands dirty. Is this a big summer project or is this something you can do throughout the school year as you’re building curriculum where you’re co planning, right?

You’re co planning, you’re co teaching, you’re co assessing, you’re [00:26:00] co planning for those assessments. When do you do this work to create these 

Jackie Griffin: assessments? I can speak as a systems person again, just there, you can start it tomorrow with just asking yourself in this lesson right now, I’m doing it for a reason.

What do I want kids to get out of this lesson? What is it that they’re supposed to do right now? And how can I collect the data of who, who got it? And who didn’t and then just maybe collaborating with one other person, right? If you don’t have this system in place yet, get the mindset of what am I looking for?

And then who can I talk to about it? Or even yourself of let’s reflect on who got it and who didn’t and what am I going to do about it? So that’s a, what you can do today, tomorrow. Our system did a full implementation over the summer. We did some summer work, a couple. full days of PD over the summer, learning about breaking apart a standard, unpacking it into skills and knowledge, adding them to your common [00:27:00] formative assessments.

And the work is ongoing now. So we did it in June. It’s still going on now and it will continue to go on next summer as a summer project. So it’s a long term thing, but it is something that you can start tomorrow by identifying your I can statements of what do you want kids to know and be able to do During this lesson.

Justin Hewett: I love that. So I don’t have to wait till summer. I can get started tomorrow. Get started today for my I love that. I love that. That’s fantastic. But it doesn’t sound like the work really ends necessarily because you’re telling me It’s gonna continue to go and probably by the time you’re all the way through you’re gonna Want to go back and revamp it to a large degree as far as different approaches so it’s really just understanding the role that assessment plays in driving student learning and student outcomes.

Jackie Griffin: Exactly. We I said before that middle school math team that presented we had a fifth grade math team present to as they were getting their presentation ready. They looked and said, [00:28:00] Oh, I don’t like that intention that learning intention that we came out with. Let’s change that to this. And I think that’s more of a progression.

Let’s move this. So they, they change it and they just created those, 6 weeks ago and they’re like, Oh, let’s change it. I


Mandi Morris: if you could speak to how this might look different in one classroom compared to the next because formative assessment can be flexible. That’s what you’re saying is that it doesn’t have to be the summative. It takes an entire class period. Everybody sits silently. When you’re done, put your pencil down like that more traditional formative assessment.

A long, hefty assessment that we all know you’re speaking to you like this can be a checklist. This can be walking around the classroom. This could happen while students are talking to one another. This could be me kneeling down next to a group and asking some probing questions. So with all of that flexibility, how do you coach teachers around?

This isn’t going to look identical in one classroom to the next, and that’s okay. 

Stef Just: Yeah, I can definitely [00:29:00] speak to that. So with the progressions, when we, once we implemented those, we tell teachers as much as we want a guaranteed and viable curriculum, meaning everyone is getting exposed to the same focus standards, they’re being taught at full rigor of the grade level, right?

Exposure to full, rigor of the grade level standards, but you shouldn’t be going through the progression at the same rate just because the rest of your teammates are going at them. So you should be going based off of what your students data is showing you. So if your students aren’t meeting, Step two of the progression, then you shouldn’t move on to step three until they get step two.

The room down the hall could have potentially met step two, so they can move on to step three, but that doesn’t mean that you are doing anything wrong. It would be great to tap into that person to find out what they did to get their kids to meet step two, but it doesn’t mean that you just have to go there because your teammates [00:30:00] have went there.

And really, we’re trying to get in a habit in my building of really assessing kids every single day in some way, shape, or form, and again, that doesn’t mean a sit and take a test with a paper and pencil, but it could be something like, what is the main topic of the passage? Tell your partner. If I notice that 80 percent of my kids aren’t able to do that, and I have hands going up and silence around the room, I’m like, I’m not moving on the next day.

I need to stay where I’m at, and maybe I’ll talk to my teammates because they’re moving on, but it’s not something that we have to do. 

Jackie Griffin: The other thing I’ll just say to that is when we look at the different ways to Informally assess students, right? Just that formative assessment of what can I gather?

How can I gather it? We talk about a lot of different ways. And this kind of goes into your teaching style to, so everybody’s teaching the same standards, but how you’re teaching [00:31:00] it. probably looks different based on your preferences, based on your personality, based on a lot of different things.

So if one teacher likes to do now I can’t think of that quiz that goes on the board with the countdown, to get that assessment. That’s one way to do it. Another one is a checklist. Another one is a debate. Another one is like, how do you want to put this in there and get the information and encouraging teachers to try different ones?

Because you Our students have different personalities and preferences too, but just trying to get the different ways of assessing out there is in addition to those like common formative assessments that are all similar, 

Mandi Morris: something that you both speak to that I think is so important is that you have high expectations and rigor.

With flexibility. . And it reminds me years ago there was a sixth grade curriculum I was teaching in ELA and it was like, you have to finish all six units, period. You have to finish. And it was like this high pressure. And I kept, talking to our team [00:32:00] lead for the ELA department was like, but my kids are failing these assessments.

What? It was like you have to get to unit six. And then in the one of the last units. There was a play and some of the other teachers were like, we’re not doing the play. We don’t have time. I was like, I’m doing the play with my kids. , this is gonna be so much fun. We’re gonna have a great time.

And we did. Like we built relationship and they laughed and they had fun and they learned what they needed to learn and we had some fun while we were doing it. And I love that you are naming that. Yeah, we’re gonna have the high expectations and rigor, but we’re gonna accept that there’s flexibility in the way that we get there.

It’s not gonna look the same one room to the next. 

Stef Just: Exactly. And I think to Justin, you asked earlier about can this, when can this work happen? And it was making me think to my district is also starting to implement these common formative assessments. And this summer we worked on. Those assessments and all of those are at full rigor of the grade level standards because we wanted to make sure that we all had a shared [00:33:00] understanding of what full rigor looks and sounds like and so that work happened over the summer because that takes a lot of time and it also sets the foundation For the rest of your assessments that you’re going to have that are checking into that point.

And then, Mandy, like you were saying, having those high expectations where. We don’t say things like the EL students aren’t going to take that assessment. No, all students will get exposure to that assessment. They will get a chance to show us what they know. And then if they can’t do it yet, that’s where I scaffold the assessment to see where are they within that progression?

What can they do right now and how can I support them? But they always at least get a chance at full rigor. And we get to see where are they at? Because a lot of times without data we hear things like my ELs can’t do that. What can they do? And are we sure that they can’t?

And and if you don’t even give them a chance to take it, then how do you [00:34:00] know what scaffolds to put in place? Really making sure that we’re constantly giving them those chances at full rigor of grade level. 

Justin Hewett: I love hearing that I feel like so often we, put curriculum together or we put assessments together and then, the language part or our English learners are an afterthought and it’s what scaffoldings can we put in place?

And what I’m hearing you say is no, we’re going to start with language and then we’re going to build the assessment around that. And all of our students are going to do it. And look, the truth is some of our students who are not learning English as a second language. Could use some extra focus on language development, and there’s some work to be done there.

And so I just love hearing that and that approach. I want to kind of shift gears just for a second. I know we’re getting towards the end of our conversation. And I feel like we’ve done a really good job of kind of talking through, how to do it and the methodology and the thinking.

And I guess there’s just a part of me that also wants to know like why. Why are you so passionate about this? Is there something that you saw [00:35:00] Happen with a class or with a student or that kind of changed your perspective Like what is it that has made, this such a such a critical piece to you

 Well, it has become more of a passion for me the more I’ve worked with different teachers and buildings and grade levels and I oftentimes see scaffolds being put in place for students before they even get a chance to show us what they know and be able to do. And I also hear a lot about my ELs can’t, like I mentioned before.

Stef Just: And I have worked with students that have come from Japan or Ukraine or Russia, and they genuinely have not learned a single word in English by the time they leave us a year later. They’re able to say, good morning, Mrs. Jess. How are you? And have a conversation with me. And so it’s the more I’ve been in it and the more that I’ve [00:36:00] seen how assessment can help us figure out what scaffolds we can put in place to make them successful.

That has made me so passionate about it because I know it’s possible. And there is nothing that hurts my heart more in education. Then watching these students continuously perform lower than their grade level peers, when , there isn’t, an excuse because they’re learning the English language, it is our job to make sure that we’re providing them with what they need.

And a lot of our work with Andrea. Over the course of our time with her, we would talk about different scaffolds, right? And oftentimes you hear word bank, sentence stem, sentence frames. And so I think it became this thing that you just start throwing into lessons. Oh if I put a sentence frame, then they’ll be great.

They’ll have it. And the reality is that’s not the scaffold that kids always need, right? Depending on what language domain you’re working on, depending on where their language level is, depending on their skill level with the content, [00:37:00] they might need something different and they might need nothing at all.

They might just need a chance to show you that they can already do it. So really just seeing it work with kids has been really encouraging and knowing that when you just give them a chance. then they’ll show you what they know and can do. Really trying to change the stigma around our EL 

Justin Hewett: population.

I love that, Steph. Thanks so much for sharing that, diving into that. I’d love to hear yours, Jackie. I know that I can tell that you’ve got, something to, that really influenced your thinking on that as well. 

Jackie Griffin: Yeah. And I think my answer would be different before I had kids versus after I had kids.

I think just like I said earlier, maybe talk to you ahead of time. Just my passion for even getting into working with multilingual students is just starting off and seeing that every kid does have potential. Every kid can learn. Every kid will learn. And it’s really depends on us.[00:38:00] We put these choices that, like we, we decide every day what we’re gonna do and how we’re gonna do it.

And I say that my answer would change after kids, because I have four kids and I have three that would learn without me doing anything. Like they, they were reading going into kindergarten. I don’t know if I read to them. I’m sure I did being an educator. I’m sure I did. But they went into kindergarten reading.

And I have. One of my kids, my youngest Patrick is just, he’s the sweetest kid in the entire world, but he needs something different and he doesn’t learn the way that everybody else does. He’s very energetic, very funny. He’s the funniest kid I’ve ever met in my life, but he needs something a little bit different.

And when I hear that, he has to do exactly he’s not performing well in school because of these tests that they’re giving. What are you doing to make sure that he learns, because he deserves to learn just like everybody else. So what are you doing in particular, and when I say you, it’s like the teacher, what are [00:39:00] the teacher, the school, the system, what’s in place so that everybody learns?

And so that’s where I grew this passion of going from a teacher to a coach to an administrator that puts in a system that not only do I, in my role right now, we look at like the data, then we change the master schedule so that the students are getting support where they need the support. And then we implemented tiers of services so that every student is.

is working with somebody specialized and can identify this specific skill to help them. So I think in my work, like it goes with that, I know Every kid can learn, but it’s our job to figure out how and that path does not look the same for all kids. And every time I do this work, every time I present or talk about it, I keep Patrick in mind and think about him and just say he deserves it just as well as every other kid deserves it.

So how [00:40:00] this work is hard and it’s never going to end. But how are we going to handle that hard and how are we going to continue to work and grow because all the kids deserve it 

Justin Hewett: and that’s where we drop the mic. Boom. Wow. That was beautiful. And I really appreciate both of you sharing those stories and why this really resonates with you.

Assessment to a large degree has become a bad word and in a lot of circles in education, right? Like I think we all have certain experiences with it and some PTSD from certain experiences at different times in our career.

But look, the reality is formative assessment is what drives instruction. Formative assessment is the feedback we need to be able to give the student what they need next on their journey. And not every student needs the same thing. And so if we’re not doing that formative assessment, we’re guessing. We don’t know what the student needs and if we’re guessing, guess what, we’re flipping a coin and there’s just as much a chance that we’re wrong is that we’re right.

I might [00:41:00] argue that there’s a better chance we’re wrong than that we get it right. It’s almost like we need to come up with another way to frame formative assessment that we take out the word assessment and we just, call it formative, whatever we want to.

Okay. Because it really is about the feedback that we can give students and helping them understand. What they’re trying to learn and what they’re working through. Gosh, I have absolutely loved this conversation. Mandy. I know you’ve got a burning question that you want to ask.

You can ask that and then we’ll work towards our wrap up here.

Mandi Morris: Steph, when you responded earlier, you really talked about the teacher craft, and it’s that thing that teachers learn with time and with mentorship and experience of knowing. When do you have a scaffold?

And when do you drop a scaffold? And what is the right scaffold? And then using the data from the formative to inform instruction, it’s really where it’s not just I’m alive today in my classroom. My kids are alive and it’s moving to that teacher craft. [00:42:00] And Jackie, you brought it from a different perspective of the admin having structures in place that are very intentional, having systems in place that are specifically created.

And Taylor to support all students and then refining those systems when they aren’t hitting the mark, asking the right questions. So it was really beautiful for me just to hear from those different perspectives of how we’re supporting students from the teacher, growing their own craft. And then from the admin, having that responsibility to build out systems and structures to support all students.

Justin Hewett: It reminded me a little bit of what Connie shared Connie is the multilingual director in Temple ISD down in Texas and she was on our podcast a few episodes ago, but one of the things that she talked about was really about those systems and creating the systems, adjusting the systems to make sure that, they’re very inclusive, right?

That they’re giving these, our students and their families, the supports that they need to be able to, continue to move [00:43:00] forward. And. You know how often our systems are not created for those families. Exactly. Which is why Jackie, you were so driven to get into the systems.

We are. You wanna build end-to-end systems. You know all of it. I do. I love it. Let’s wrap up. Thank you so much for being here with us, working through, and talking through authentic assessment. I think that you probably have some pieces that we can share from your.

Presentation at the WIDA conference that we can put in our show notes and we’ll share those out. I know the listeners will love to go in there and go a little bit deeper. I think this is something everyone’s trying to get a little bit better at, is, creating and providing authentic assessments.

I also know that they’re probably going to want to reach out to you and go a little bit deeper and maybe have additional conversation. Are you open for that? And if so, what’s the best way for them to reach out to you?

Jackie Griffin: Absolutely. We can definitely share email. We both have Twitter, I don’t know, is it X?

Yes, an X account. And an email account that that anybody can reach out to us at any time. To ask questions, share [00:44:00] ideas. We’re always open to learning about what other people are doing as well. 

Justin Hewett: I love that. Fantastic. So we’ll grab your Twitter handles and your email addresses. We can put those in the show notes as well and make those accessible for everyone to, to reach out and continue the conversation.

I guess I want to just end with the question of. If you don’t mind, like what piece of advice would you give someone that’s just getting started down this road of really trying to create authentic assessments or overhaul their assessments, what advice would you give them?

And Steph, maybe we’ll start with you. If you don’t mind what. Where would you recommend they get started, or what would you recommend they keep in mind, or whatever it might be? What piece of advice would you give? 

Stef Just: I think the first thing that came to my mind is to keep it simple. And really, it doesn’t have to be a big thing.

And really keeping it simple on What is the skill I want to know? And what is the language that I expect from students with this? And try not to make it bigger than it is, because I think the more simple that [00:45:00] you keep it the more specific data that you get, and then the easier it is to actually implement in your instructions.

It’s nothing like groundbreaking, but keep it simple. 

Justin Hewett: That’s easy to complicate though. I think it’s easy to overthink it. And I think that’s actually really good advice is that, Hey, just get started. Get started, simple, get moving. I love that. What about you, Jackie? What could you share? 

Jackie Griffin: It’s funny, Steph and I usually finish each other’s sentences too, and I was going to say something very similar.

Mine was just, 1 percent better every day, right? And we keep saying that to our staff now. We’re in a really good place, but like what can we do better? Just start. Just like Steph said with your class tomorrow what are you doing, why are you doing it, and what are you going to learn from it?

That’s, really just ask yourself these questions, keep going with the work, understand learn from other people, and see what else is out there, and be inspired by other people, and the work will come. There’s systems you can put in place, but those are bigger systems , my advice is just One percent better every day.[00:46:00] 

Justin Hewett: Oh man, and if you can do that is quite the compounding rate of change and growth. And I love that idea, but it does sound simple. One percent, just a little bit better. And absolutely, what a wonderful conversation. Steph and Jackie, thank you so much for being here with us on the ML Chat Podcast.

We will look forward to the next conversation we get to have, but thanks for being here today. 

Stef Just: Thanks for having us. 




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