Gift from AT&T Funds Development of Common Assessments for UCLA Community School Students

The Common Assessment Project will provide students with an online "portfolio" to demonstrate progress, college and career readiness.

As access to skilled workers becomes increasingly vital to the U.S. economy, AT&T has stepped forward as a national corporate leader focusing resources on strengthening K-12 education. The corporation has launched a quarter-billion-dollar campaign to help more students graduate from high school ready for careers and college, and to ensure that the country is better prepared to meet global competition.  Among the most significant corporate educational initiatives in the U.S., AT&T Aspire has invested more than $100 million in the four years since the program was launched in 2008.

UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies is proud to announce AT&T’s generous gift of $100,000 to support an initiative that will produce a set of common assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for students in grades 7-12. The Common Assessment Project at UCLA Community School (UCLA-CS), will create protocols to build the school’s capacity for supporting common assessment administration, data management, documentation, scoring, reliability testing, and formative data use.

Dr. Karen Hunter Quartz, director of research for UCLA-CS and Center X, says that the AT&T gift will be “foundational to the school’s innovative effort to collect multiple types of data on student learning, and help teachers and students use that data to improve learning and ensure graduation.” The school aims to progressively archive a student’s work and assessments into a comprehensive “Bruin File” portfolio, accompanied by protocols that support reflection, deeper learning, and goal setting.  The Common Assessment Project will develop instructionally sensitive performance assessments in secondary mathematics, science, social studies, and English that will be used to support and track student growth over time.

Established in 2009, UCLA-CS provides a highly personalized learning environment that currently serves 1,000 students from the surrounding neighborhoods of Pico Union and Koreatown. Part of the school’s mission in a high-poverty community is to raise retention, achieve graduation, and foster a pathway to college for students from a population that is predominantly low-income Latino and Asian.

UCLA-CS is similar to a charter school with autonomy over its curriculum, and as such, strives to match its unique instructional programs with high quality assessments. For example, the social studies department has adapted the Integrated Learning Assessments (ILAs) created by the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST), for students in 7th and 10th grade to align with the school’s curriculum. The ILAs are intended to measure both students’ literacy development relative to the CCSS in English language arts and the depth of their content understanding in social studies and history.

The Common Assessment Project would extend the social studies department’s customization of these tools to all secondary grades. A similar assessment development process would be supported in language arts, mathematics, and science. In addition, the project would support professional development about assessment literacy across all departments.

The Common Assessment Project would complement an existing effort at UCLA-CS to establish “gateway” or competency-based assessment portfolios for students every two years in order to demonstrate that they are ready to transition to the next instructional division or level. The gateway portfolio facilitates this process by capturing assessments and other learning artifacts that demonstrate student progress and ultimately, their college and career readiness.

“Gateway exhibitions will happen every two years for a student,” says Quartz. “It’s the moment that they, supported by their teachers, reflect on all the work that they’ve done at the school so far, and in particular, the last two years. They can say, ‘I’m getting much better at writing, and I can show you that.’ Or ‘In seventh grade, I was failing math. In eighth grade, I got a C, and I’m getting there.’ Or ‘I’m really excited that I learned to play the guitar in my seminar and now I want to learn music theory.”

UCLA-CS faculty are currently working to establish the gateway assessment portfolios required for students as they transition from Division 1 to 2 (8th to 9th grade); Division 2 to 3 (10th to 11th grade); and from high school to a post-secondary plan (graduation portfolio).  The core content common assessments will be included as part of the gateway portfolio along with other forms of evidence such as grades, projects, internship reflections, and video blogs that align with the school’s four core competencies:  self-directed passionate learning, mastery of academic content knowledge and skills, bi-literacy and multiculturalism, and active and critical participation in society.

The AT&T gift, which is given for a 14-month period, will fund researchers from the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSE&IS), led by Quartz, who will work closely with a UCLA graduate student researcher to convene teachers and assessment experts to implement the project. Dr. Julia Phelan, CRESST senior researcher, will participate on the research team and provide expertise on assessment development, administration, scoring and reliability testing.  Beginning this month, lead secondary teachers will meet with assessment experts to evaluate the status of current piloted assessments and plan for end-of-year assessment administrations, which are instructionally sensitive and capture the innovative curriculum at UCLA-CS.

Quartz says that the Common Assessment Project will greatly enhance UCLA-CS’s vision of creating “self-directed, passionate learners.”  The assessments developed will require students to perform and think deeply about problems.  And the results will help students reflect on their strengths and needs as well as inform teachers about how to best meet these needs.

“Part of directing your own learning is to own your progress and to be able to talk about the help you need and the goals you need to set,” she says. “This project is about one more tool to help [students] be more self-directed in their learning.”

Through evaluations that collect on-track to graduate indicators and compare participant success to those in a similarly situated peer group, funders like AT&T play a pivotal role in identifying and bringing to scale programs that work.

“We know firsthand that data is an efficient guide to help organizations—for profit, nonprofit and governmental—reach their goals, and education is no different,” says Beth Adcock Shiroishi, AT&T’s Vice President of Sustainability and Philanthropy. “We are investing in organizations that use data to demonstrate the effectiveness of their dropout interventions and produce measureable outcomes for the students they serve.”

With more than 1 million students impacted since its launch in 2008, the AT&T Aspire program is one of the nation’s largest corporate commitments focused on ensuring that more students graduate from high school ready for college and careers. Earlier this year, AT&T announced an additional quarter-billion-dollar expansion to the Aspire program planned over the next five years, bringing the total commitment to $350 million.

Photo by Elena Zhokova


About AT&T

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is a premier communications holding company and one of the most prestigious companies in the world. Its subsidiaries and affiliates – AT&T operating companies – are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and internationally. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation’s largest 4G network, the corporation is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet, voice and cloud-based services. A leader in mobile Internet, AT&T also offers the best wireless coverage worldwide of any U.S. carrier, offering the most wireless phones that work in the most countries. It also offers advanced TV services under the AT&T U-verse® and AT&T |DIRECTV brands. The company’s suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world.

About Philanthropy at AT&T
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. Through its philanthropic initiatives, AT&T has a long history of supporting projects that create learning opportunities; promote academic and economic achievement; and address community needs. In 2011, more than $115 million was contributed through corporate-, employee- and AT&T Foundation-giving programs.