by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Gabriela Orozco Gonzalez
Meet Gabriela Orozco Gonzalez, who teaches a first- and second-grade combination class at Montebello Gardens Elementary School. She’s also an NEA ambassador to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and an “assessment writer,” meaning that she wrote some of the questions and performance tasks for the Smarter Balanced field test, which schools are piloting throughout California. The Montebello Teachers Association member and CTA Teacher Leadership Cohort member shared her opinions with the California Educator.
In Gabriela’s words:
How did you become involved in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)?
Three years ago, during research of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), I found that the standards were aligned to what I was doing in the classroom: project-based instruction with a high focus in writing. In 2012 I was selected as an assessment writer, and I developed performance tasks in language arts for the primary grades. In 2013, Smarter Balanced contracted me to work on “item review” for grades 4-6 mathematics, specifically in accessibility, bias and sensitivity. I continue to work as an item reviewer, and I see this experience invaluable to the work I do with development and differentiation of my classroom curriculum.
How were you trained in writing for the test?
I received all my training through webinars and literature provided by Smarter Balanced. It was insightful to be with a room of teachers across the nation and listen to their questions, concerns, and perception of what is occurring in their state thus far in implementation of the Common Core standards. This component of the training was invaluable. It expanded my knowledge, especially the Q&A with Joe Willhoft, the SBAC executive director of the assessment system components.
What are you looking for in terms of accessibility, bias and sensitivity on the test?
I make sure the language is at grade level and free of ambiguous words, idioms and jargon, in an effort to avoid any kind of language that could be confusing to students. I want the questions to be free of unnecessary contextual information and free of the passive voice, and to ensure that directions in sentences are short statements without extraneous clauses. I don’t want the language to be so complex that students in third grade are exposed to words they should be exposed to in fifth grade.
How do teachers help students to be successful on the test when they find it difficult?
Because the test is completely computer-driven, I think it will force teachers to relook at their current practices and integrate technology in the classroom. Sometimes adults don’t use technology with ease, but for students it’s like fish to water. As teachers become savvier with technology, they will begin to feel more comfortable.
You’ve invited educators to the Common Core Café. What’s on the menu?
Resources, ways to collaborate and share. As one of 24 teachers in California accepted into the CTA’s Teacher Leadership Cohort, I was asked to develop a project that would impact my district and fulfill an identified need to advance the teaching profession. What better forum than a professional learning community (PLC) to give teachers an opportunity to discuss the strategies they use in their classroom with other educators in the district? The idea behind the Common Core Café is to have a core set of master teachers working together to develop expertise of the CCSS and utilize technological resources to enhance instruction. Drop by and visit commoncorecafe.blogspot.com
What’s next for you?
Last month I was selected, through a national search, to be an NEA Great Public Schools Network online community facilitator. I will assist in the area of third-grade CCSS English language arts. The NEA GPS Network is a place to share ideas and to find resources to improve student success.
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