Academic Assembly Council Focuses on Instruction and Professional Development During Recent Meeting
Academic Assembly Council Focuses on Instruction and Professional Development During Recent MeetingAbby Hexter, Assistant Director, Member Communications, The College Board
The Academic Assembly Council (AAC) met in New York City, May 2–3, 2014. The Academic Assembly is charged with considering issues and actions related to providing universal access to high standards of learning. During the AAC’s most recent meeting, the council discussed several important issues and programmatic developments, including:
- The role of professional development at the College Board
- The development of a high-quality, innovative program at the College Board that supports rigorous instructional opportunities for students in grades 6–12
- Communications around the redesigned SAT
- Member engagement and delegate outreach
The council also discussed possible speakers, discussion points, and session topics for College Board Forum 2014. Pam Paulson and Michael McDonough, chair and chair-elect of the AAC, discuss the work of the council below.
College Board All Access (CBAA): What are the top priorities of the Academic Assembly and how do they reflect major issues affecting academic professionals right now?
Pam Paulson (PP): The top issues span a large range because education is a complex system that is connected or disconnected across the country, across grades pre-K–16, across disciplines, and even involving partnerships with outside institutions. If this enterprise wants our country to thrive and continue to innovate, all of our students must succeed and have the ability to contribute.
We must be concerned with both the students who are struggling and the students who are doing well. Both groups need to have the right amount of challenge and support to continue growing. Teachers are tasked with the enormous responsibility of educating all students in preparation for being contributing citizens who lead productive, fulfilled lives. This makes teacher preparation and professional development central issues in the education system. High-quality instruction that meets students’ needs leads to successful learners.
One way to understand student academic performance and growth is to gather information from external measures of student achievement. The College Board offers high-quality tests and courses like SAT® and AP® that give students a sense of how they are doing on rigorous exams at a point in time. Academic achievement also includes continuous improvement so that students learn how to improve their work along the way — getting feedback to understand what they know and what they still need to learn. Feedback from their teacher, from experts in the field, from peers, even from self-assessments of their work can help students reflect and refine their thinking and skill development.
That is one reason the College Board is developing the AP Capstone™ program and diploma — to give students another way to learn from assessments and demonstrate their achievements. The Capstone project uses multiple forms of ongoing data to help students better understand their level of accomplishment and need. Students need to be inspired to do their best, and information about their progress is a key component of keeping them engaged in their own learning and development.
CBAA: Talk about some key takeaways from the council meeting. Were there any surprises throughout the discussions? Any topics that were particularly divisive among council members?
Michael McDonough (MM): At the most recent council meeting, members identified and discussed a number of engaging and timely topics. There was a dynamic conversation regarding how to better collaborate with members, especially during program redesign and draft assessments. Although much of this conversation focused on AP assessments, members were clear to identify other opportunities for enhanced collaboration and partnership.
Members also discussed the College Board’s significant capacity to report on a wide range of student data points. Members reviewed some initial data regarding community college retention, transfer, and completion, insisting that more focused analysis is needed, and that our language in framing and reporting this data not privilege one sector over another.
In the other wide-ranging discussions, four themes or topics seemed to emerge: the passionate support for access and equity; the strong advocacy for professional development opportunities at all levels; the sustained focus on supporting academic rigor; and the building interest in designing robust and transparent pathways for students as they transition into high school, college, or career.
CBAA: Are there any new topics on the horizon that committee members can expect to see on the agenda for the next meeting?
PP: As the Academic Council council, we are involved in gathering information to provide insights and advice as the College Board develops new academic initiatives or refines existing programs. Our involvement often is in an inquiry format as we ask questions meant to stimulate thinking about what is possible, what might be challenging when the programs actually get into schools, and what might be unforeseen issues. One area we know will capture our attention is diversity as we spend time asking how we can reach and teach all students.
MM: Assembly members are hoping to see more presentations and vigorous conversation regarding data analysis, especially related to the community college sector and to student success; to hear more about the emerging initiative in career technical education, and to help shape a more collaborative culture.
PP: The future of this country and the world is dependent on an educated population. We cannot afford to educate only some of our students. In order to continue creating and making innovative products and services, we need to tap into the interests and talents of each student. This means we are interested in a broad range of opportunities for students to find their strengths and passions and consider their possibilities. Each of the disciplines brings something to the education of our students.
By bringing together subject-area experts and regional leaders at council meetings, we can spend time thinking about how the interaction and combination of academic disciplines in the education system makes for an even more powerful education for our students.