CenterPoint's CEO Laura Slover sent a letter to Secretary Cardona to congratulate him on his appointment. Read her letter and CenterPoint's statement about what we believe matters most for learning in 2021 below.
My team at CenterPoint Education Solutions would like to congratulate you on your confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Education. Your pledge to “boldly address education inequities head-on,” is what our team of veteran educators strives to do every day as we partner with states, districts, charter networks, schools, and leading organizations to develop comprehensive, aligned systems that prepare students for college and careers.
The upheaval of the pandemic has exacerbated these inequalities and educators must grapple with understanding the depths of learning loss, trauma, and the social emotional needs students face due to the COVID-19 crisis. Now more than ever, educators need practical high-quality solutions that align standards, assessments, and curricular tools to engage students in rigorous meaningful learning.
In this unprecedented time, I urge you to focus on what we know works. Alignment is a necessity for an effective and equitable system that helps keep all educators and leaders moving in sync towards their collective goals. This is true in the best of times, and it’s more important than ever.
The core CenterPoint team, which started at Achieve, has a strong track record in the development of college and career ready standards and assessments, including the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC assessments. After years working on the state levers to set the conditions for higher expectations, our team created CenterPoint to help states and districts maintain quality and rigor as they take the next steps in implementing aligned systems that put all students on a path to success. Today CenterPoint works in 22 states impacting over 180,000 teachers and 2.5 million students.
We have attached a statement about what we believe matters most as we work to catalyze teacher practice, deepen student learning, fuel meaningful policy, and promote equity in 2021.
I’m very pleased that Mike Cohen, former Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education and until recently the President of Achieve, has joined the CenterPoint team as a Senior Fellow. Mike and I would like the opportunity to meet with you when your schedule permits to discuss how we can support your efforts to find bold solutions to education inequities.
CEO, CenterPoint Education Solutions
CenterPoint Education Solutions: What Matters Most for Learning in 2021
During this time of uncertainty, alignment has never been more important. To operate in optimal mode, an educational system must be fully aligned starting with a set of rigorous standards that define what students should know and be able to do. Atop that foundation, schools need to place a quality curriculum and matching assessments followed by professional learning that connect these components. With an aligned system in place, educators can make informed decisions based on data that are accurate and reflect what was taught.
CenterPoint believes strongly that a high-quality curriculum in the hands of teachers can provide educational opportunities for every child. Thanks to clear findings from years of research and leadership from organizations like Chiefs for Change, UNESCO, and EdReports, as well as individual states prioritizing education, like Louisiana, the understanding that high-quality curriculum can advance student learning and promote equity is widening. We support and encourage the growing consensus that the surest way to meet the needs of all students and prepare them for college and careers is implementing well designed, standards-aligned, highly rated curriculum that sequences learning within and across grades to build students' knowledge, skills, and abilities.
State assessments still matter. We applaud the Department’s decision not to issue blanket waivers on summative testing in 2021. Everyone – students, parents, educators, state and local education officials, and the public – must have transparent, accurate and up-to-date information on the academic performance of our schools. While we recognize that summative assessment data are not the only data schools and school systems will need, we believe that some data – as imperfect as they may be – are better than no data at all, with the caveat that they must be used with an understanding of the limitations of the data.
High-quality aligned classroom-based assessments matter. Assessment tools are high quality when they provide actionable, accurate, and reliable information about students’ understanding of key concepts and skills. Assessments that are more proximate to student learning and closely linked to the curriculum offer immediate value to educators and schools which is a necessity in the coming year. To be most effective, classroom-based assessments should be administered to match the scope and sequence of the curriculum. This helps educators quickly pinpoint areas of growth and identify instruction and resources to fill in the gap. With aligned assessments, teachers can use formative, diagnostic, and/or interim data to inform instructional decisions to accelerates student achievement.
Professional learning matters.
Teachers must have access to high-quality professional learning that helps bridge curriculum and assessment to responsive instructional practices. By delving into the features of alignment and using data to drive instruction, teachers can strengthen how they engage students in deep learning. This process is particularly effective when teachers work together, and professional learning is connected to both the implementation of the curriculum and results from assessments. Targeted training for district and school leaders and educators is a vital component of every aligned system. When teachers work with peers, they learn from one another and build a shared understanding of the vision and goals for students. Professional learning that isn’t aligned to curriculum and assessments may result in a lack of understanding, improper use of assessments, or inconsistent use of data.
The research is clear that all students benefit from access to diverse teachers. Additionally, curriculum, assessment, and professional learning must all be designed with inclusivity in mind. Students should experience other cultures and see their own culture reflected and validated through the texts they read and visuals they see. Assessments should be developed and reviewed by a diverse pool of educators and reviewed for bias, sensitivity, and fairness. Professional learning should empower teachers to engage students in conversations to consider fairness, anti-bias, and people’s history. An aligned system must be inclusive and fair to be high-quality.
 “An instructional system is to be driven by content standards, which are translated into assessments, curriculum materials, and professional development, which are all in, in turn, tightly aligned to the content standards.” (Porter, 2002).
 Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop in Shadow and Substance: Afro-American Experience in Contemporary Children’s Literature (NCTE, 1982)