Jess Alfaro is a third grade teacher and Math Content Coordinator at Summit School in North Carolina, USA. Summit began using the Great Teaching Toolkit in 2022 to support their ongoing commitment to evidence-based and personal professional development of their staff. Her focus has been working with a couple of colleagues through our Assessment Lead Programme, so we caught up with her to find out how that’s helping in their practice.
How are the team at Summit approaching using the Great Teaching Toolkit so far?
We have several teachers working on one or two of the teacher-level courses that are available. A group of three teachers, myself included, are taking the Assessment Lead Programme together. We were already working together on math curriculum development and assessment selection, so it was a great fit for us to take this course; it neatly supports the work we were already doing.
In what way do you think the Assessment Lead Programme has benefitted your thinking and practice so far?
I feel that I have a much deeper understanding of how great assessments are developed, used, and interpreted. The Assessment Lead Programme has been very helpful in several ways, both within my classroom and more broadly in the lower school.
A team of us are working to write assessments to help place students into different math tracks in fourth and fifth grades (an accelerated track and a more typical track). We have used the information and tools from the Assessment Lead Programme to help us write these assessments this year. The research around purpose, reliability, and validity helped shape our conversations and planning. Specific tools included in the course have been incredibly useful too. For instance, the assessment blueprint was very practical and useful as we decided which items to include, both in terms of content and depth of thinking.
More generally, I also think it has led to much more careful, thoughtful, and intentional decisions around creating and choosing assessments that are used for students across the lower school division. As one of the math content coordinators for the lower school, it has helped me as I work with teachers to implement curriculum and assess and interpret student understanding.
Finally, what would you say to others considering using the Great Teaching Toolkit?
It is important to understand that it is a significant time commitment to take a lead course, so this highlights for me the significance of senior leadership support and time being allocated for it—I’ve noticed that this is one of the key features in the School Environment and Leadership report published last year, which resonated with us here.
That being said, when it is connected in a meaningful way to work you are already doing, it has proven to be an invaluable resource. It is well organized, detailed, full of relevant information and research, and includes many practical and hands-on tools that make it relevant immediately in your practice. Highly recommend!