Academics News

Assess for success

Research-based assessment practices that support student learning.

Posted on September 22, 2016 by Julie Funasaki Yuen

On Monday, Sept. 12 Mid-Pacific welcomed renown education experts Dr. Anne Davies and Sandra Herbst to discuss the school's research-based assessment practices that support student learning. The "Journey to Excellence" meeting was sponsored by the Mid-Pacific Parent Association - Na 'Ohana Pueo, and also featured introductions from Na 'Ohana Pueo President Eric Koike, Mid-Pacific President Dr. Paul Turnbull, and Principals Tom McManus, Dr. Edna Hussey and Dr. Dee Priester. For the past five years, the principals and teachers have worked together with assessment experts, Dr. Anne Davies and Sandra Herbst, to develop guidelines that are based on national and international best practices, and proven to enhance student learning.

Preschool and Elementary School Principal Edna Hussey gave her heartfelt thanks to all Mid-Pacific teachers for their hard work on this process and for what they do every day in the classroom on behalf of all students. "Three places, one school. Everyone should be working together so that our children have a continuous experience from preschool and the elementary, through middle school and high school," said Dr. Edna Hussey.

During the discussion, Davies and Herbst outlined how traditionally, "assessment" referred to measurement in the form of grades. Today, the actions of classroom assessment involve much more including

  • Understanding what is to be learned
  • Looking at samples and building descriptions of quality and proficiency
  • Providing specific, descriptive feedback to the learner
  • Engaging in rounds of self- and peer feedback to improve the learning
  • Setting specific goals for next steps in learning
  • Collecting evidence of learning from multiple sources over time
  • Communicating learning to others (Davies, 2011; Chappuis, Stiggins & Chappuis, 2009)

"It's not just about the grading and reporting," said Dr. Anne Davies. "It's about the learning. If assessment does not support student learning, then we have to question it. Because everything we do must support student learning."


Dr. Anne Davies discussing assessment in the service of learning at the "Journey to Excellence" meeting on Sept. 12.

Mid-Pacific's guidelines offer students multiple opportunities for displaying learning. Students participate in an ongoing dialogue with teachers, receive additional feedback, and are measured after developing a solid understanding of subject standards and expectations for success.

High School Principal Tom McManus discussed how Mid-Pacific was recognized by the Hawaii Community Foundation as a 'School of the Future' and received funding from the organization because Mid-Pacific embodies the ideals of a forward-thinking institution that prepares students for the world of today and tomorrow. "We've been in this (assessment) work for some time," said Tom McManus. "What does a student know? What can they do? What can they say about what they know? Those are the ways that a teacher knows that learning is happening. And it guides our instruction."

Student learning is at the heart of assessment explains Middle School Principal Dee Priester. "At the core, we fundamentally believe that the ways in which we educate our kids is the same from elementary through senior year. Assessment has allowed us to really deepen that focus, come together with a common language and common understanding about what's best for our students."

Dr. Paul Turnbull shared with parents "So what we've done is compile this incredible program that says, yes, subjects matter. But more importantly, the relationships between you (parents) and the school and the children matter. And by the time those grades end up on the transcript and the report card, those grades are going to have a deeper meaning..."

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Mid-Pacific parents discussing student learning and assessment during the "Journey to Excellence" meeting on Sept. 12.

Following the presentation, Dr. Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst and Tom McManus, Dr. Edna Hussey, and Dr. Dee Priester answered questions from parents.

For more information about Mid-Pacific's Assess for Success practices, visit the Frequently Asked Questions on the Mid-Pacific website or contact the appropriate teacher or principal.

A video of the "Journey to Excellence" meeting is available for viewing on myPueo after logging in with a username and password. The video will be posted online until the end of the fall 2016 semester. For more information about Dr. Anne Davies and Sandra Herbst, visit