Study Guide

Field 144: Principal Comprehensive Assessment 
Sample Constructed-Response Assignment

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Test Directions for the Constructed-Response Assignment

This section of the test consists of one constructed-response assignment. You are to prepare a written response of approximately 300to600 words on the assigned topic. You should use your time to plan, write, review, and edit your response to the assignment.

Read the assignment carefully before you begin to write. Think about how you will organize your response.

As a whole, your response must demonstrate an understanding of the knowledge and skills of the field. In your response to the assignment, you are expected to demonstrate the depth of your understanding of the content area through your ability to apply your knowledge and skills rather than merely to recite factual information.

Your response to the assignment will be evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:

 start bold PURPOSE: end bold  the extent to which the response achieves the purpose of the assignment

 start bold SUBJECT MATTER KNOWLEDGE: end bold  accuracy and appropriateness in the application of subject matter knowledge

 start bold SUPPORT: end bold  quality and relevance of supporting details

 start bold RATIONALE: end bold  soundness of argument and degree of understanding of the subject matter

The constructed-response assignment is intended to assess subject matter knowledge and skills, not writing ability. However, your response must be communicated clearly enough to permit valid judgment of the scoring criteria. Your response should be written for an audience of educators in this field. The final version of your response should conform to the conventions of edited American English. Your written response must be your original work, written in your own words, and not copied or paraphrased from some other work.

Be sure to write about the assigned topic. You may not use any reference materials during the test. Remember to review what you have written and make any changes you think will improve your response.

Sample Constructed-Response Assignment

Competency 0010 
Analyze and interpret information about a school's instructional program, climate, and culture, including student achievement data, teacher information, and survey data, and describe a strategy to address school issues relevant to the analysis.

Assignment

Using the scenario and exhibits provided, write a response in which you analyze a school strength and an area of concern at your school and outline your strategy for addressing the area of concern. In your response:

Be specific in your response, citing evidence from the scenario and exhibits as appropriate. Your response should be approximately 300600 words.

Scenario and Exhibits for the Constructed-Response Assignment

Scenario

You are the new principal at a magnet high school in an urban district. The school offers a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and currently enrolls 1421 students in grades 9 through 12. Students are chosen by lottery from the two to three thousand who apply each year. This year, approximately 6% of students are American Indian, 5% are Asian/Pacific Islander, 30% are Black, 19% are Hispanic, 9% identify as Two or More Races, and 31% are White. Approximately 58% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, 2% are English learners, and 4% receive special education services. The school has a reputation for academic excellence and consistently performs well above state averages on state assessments.

When you were hired, the superintendent described the school as a flagship school and noted that the district has invested substantial resources into realizing the school's inclusive vision and its mission "to provide an academically rigorous education with a focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in a learning environment that celebrates diversity, and to prepare every student to succeed and excel." During your initial meetings with the school's staff, you hear numerous teachers express their commitment to the realization of the mission and vision. Many mathematics, science, and technology faculty tell you that teaching at this school has given them opportunities to teach high-level content to small classes and to make extensive use of educational technology. In general, teachers are proud of the school and its reputation. Many of the students you speak with say they feel lucky to be attending the school. A few students acknowledge that they find the learning environment to be overwhelming. One student states that some teachers do not "waste time" on students who they do not believe have "what it takes to succeed" at the school.

Prior to the beginning of the school year, you discover several letters from parents/guardians that arrived shortly before the previous principal left. The letters express gratitude for the high-quality education that the school offers. However, many of the parents/guardians express concern that their children have been the subjects of numerous disciplinary referrals and even suspensions. "My child has been targeted by teachers," one parent/guardian writes, "and has been sent to the office several times each quarter" for reasons that are unclear to the parent/guardian. Another parent/guardian writes that their child seems to receive referrals "because of who he is, and what he looks like," rather than for any specific behavior.

As you prepare for your first year as principal, you review recent academic performance data, as well as teacher information and the results from perception surveys conducted at the end of the previous school year.

Academic Performance Data

 start bold Assessment Performance by Student Group 
(last year)
 end bold 

This table displays percentages of students meeting or exceeding grade-level standards by scoring at or above the proficient level on their state test.

assessment performance results by student group, last year
left intentionally blank All ELA Math Science
All Students 52 percent 45 percent 57 percent 55 percent
Female 46 percent 46%46 percent 46 percent 47 percent
Male 58 percent 44%44 percent 67 percent 62 percent
American Indian 60 percent 45%45 percent 71 percent 65 percent
Asian/Pacific Islander 82 percent 72 percent 88 percent 87 percent
Black 26 percent 23 percent 28 percent 26 percent
Hispanic 36 percent 34 percent 39 percent 34 percent
Two or More Races 62 percent 46 percent 72 percent 68 percent
White 79 percent 68 percent 84 percent 85 percent
Economically Disadvantaged 37 percent 34 percent 39 percent 37 percent
English Learners 46 percent Data Not Shown Data Not Shown Data Not Shown
Students with Disabilities 46 percent Data Not Shown Data Not Shown Data Not Shown

 start bold Discipline Referrals and Suspension Ratio by Student Group  
(last year)
 end bold 

discipline referrals and suspension ratio by student group, last year
left intentionally blank Total # of Discipline Referrals Student Suspension Ratio: 1 suspension for every  blank  students
All Students 288 15 point 1
Female 87 42 point 6
Male 201 9 point 5
American Indian 18 17
Asian/Pacific Islander Data Not Shown em dash
Black 112 8
Hispanic 78 12 point 9
Two or More Races 19 64
White 56 33 point 9
Economically Disadvantaged 229 10 point 8
English Learners Data Not Shown 28
Students with Disabilities 13 11 point 4

Data Not Shown (DNS) Possible reasons: (1) Not applicable (2) Data protected by privacy laws (3) No valid data to complete calculation

Teacher Information

 start bold Teacher Performance Ratings by Content Area 
(end of previous year)
 end bold 

This table displays teacher performance ratings from annual teacher evaluations, by content area (end of previous year).

left intentionally blank TOTAL (FTE) Ineffective Needs Improvement Effective Highly Effective Superior
ELA 13 em dash 1 7 5 em dash
Math 13 em dash em dash 6 5 2
Science 13 em dash 1 5 6 1
Social Studies 11 em dash 1 6 4 em dash
Specialists (Music, Arts, Languages) 5 em dash 1 2 2 em dash
Vocational-Technical 7 em dash em dash 2 4 1
Physical Education, Health 4 em dash em dash 3 1 em dash
Special Education Teachers 1 point 5 em dash em dash 0 point 5 1 em dash
TOTAL 67 point 5 em dash 4 31 point 5 28 4

 start underline Survey Results end underline 

Excerpt from Survey Results 
(last year)
Survey Question: percent agree or strongly agree
Teachers 
 open parens 94 percent responding close parens 
Students 
 open parens 86 percent responding close parens 
I am proud of our school.  97 percent   94 percent 
I support our school's mission and vision.  98 percent   91 percent 
Our school is a safe place for teaching and learning.  91 percent   88 percent 
Diversity is respected and valued at our school.  88 percent   56 percent 
Teachers at our school believe that every student can succeed.  88 percent   63 percent 
Teachers and staff at our school hold all students to high academic and behavioral expectations.  84 percent   59 percent 
Teachers at our school are able to meet the specific learning needs of every student.  91 percent   69 percent 
Teachers and staff at our school provide all students with the instruction and support that they need to excel academically.  92 percent   64 percent 
At our school, teachers, staff, and students treat each other with respect.  88 percent   58 percent 
At our school, discipline is an important concern.  64 percent   39 percent 
Teachers and staff at our school ensure that rules and behavior expectations are clear to students.  72 percent   47 percent 
At our school, rules are applied consistently and consequences for discipline infractions are fair.  69 percent   38 percent 

Views expressed by 5 or more teachers:

  • I am proud to be part of our school's mission.
  • I have some students who act out frequently. I do all I can to keep them from disrupting other students' learning.
  • I wish all of the students who attend this school appreciated the opportunity they are given.
  • Some of my colleagues do not hold every student to the same expectations.

Views expressed by 5 or more students:

  • I feel lucky to get into this school. Most students get into good colleges or get good jobs after they graduate.
  • This is a good school, but some teachers treat me and my friends differently.
  • Some students never get referrals, but other students get referrals and even get suspended for the exact same things.
  • Some of my teachers act like I'm not smart enough for their classes.

Sample Strong Response to Constructed-Response Assignment

 start bold Please note: The sample response provided below is for review purposes only and should not be used in a response on an operational exam. Use of the exact words and phrases presented in this sample response will result in a score of "U" (Unscorable) due to lack of original work. end bold 

One significant school strength is the teachers. They are committed to the school's inclusive vision and mission (Exhibit 1: Teacher Comments), 94% of teachers ranked as Superior, Highly Effective, or Effective (Exhibit 3: Teacher Information), and teachers have positive perceptions of the school (Exhibit 4: Survey Results). Teacher dedication to the STEM Magnet school coupled with high academic expectations is one key to closing the achievement gap. The strong support of teachers for the school is a huge asset.

The data suggest a discrepancy; however, between teachers' perception of equity and other stakeholders' perceptions (Exhibit 1: Parent/Guardian Comments; Exhibit 2: Discipline Referrals and Suspension Ratio by Student Group; and Exhibit 4: Survey Results). The school is very economically and racially diverse (Exhibit 1: Superintendent Comments) and the data suggest that disciplinary referrals and suspension rates are disproportionately students of color, especially black males. When students are out of class for any reason, learning is negatively impacted. Furthermore, the stated vision and mission focus on inclusiveness and yet, parent/guardian comments, survey results, and discipline data suggest a significant equity problem in who gets disciplined, the severity of the disciplinary actions, and consequences of missing class. The Academic Performance Data (Exhibit 2) suggest that black students are underperforming in all academic areas when compared to other subgroups. It is a cycle that needs to end.

The evidence suggests opportunities for improvement, which I will use to promote collaborative inquiry among teachers. It is our school and we need to work together to identify challenges, analyze relevant data, and set high expectations for all students. First, I will meet with the teachers to share the data and concerns and explain the purpose and value of collaborative inquiry teams. Collaborative inquiry allows teachers to systematically examine an issue more closely using data. In this case, inquiry teams can explore possible causes of the discipline gap and explore ways to provide interventions and supports, instead of practices that exclude students from classes. Non-punitive discipline practices will be beneficial at our school to address the achievement gap. Establishing a shared understanding is critical for teacher "buy-in" and the success of the inquiry.

The teachers are a significant strength at our school and building on their dedication, pride, and willingness to work hard for their students, collaborative inquiry teams can be well worth the effort. Effective collaborative inquiry teams draw valuable information from data, not only to pinpoint problems, but also to understand their nature and causes. Regular scheduled meetings with support from leadership is essential to the success of inquiry process. To support the teachers, I will provide sufficient time for meetings, protocols to guide data collection and discussion, and agendas focused on implications for instruction and improving our school. The intent of the process is to work together to find solutions to our problems. My actions will be effective because collaborative inquiry is a strategy for strengthening teaching and learning. It can be difficult to implement without the support of leadership. Time to meet regularly and providing appropriate investment in training teachers in the process takes patience and persistence. To that end, I will keep the school community and stakeholders apprised of our progress in addressing the issue as well as provide support to the teachers.

Rationale for the Sample Strong Response

Please note that the response is evaluated based upon the four performance characteristics of Purpose, Subject Matter Knowledge, Support, and Rationale. Please also note how the score point descriptions are based upon how the examinee attends to the performance characteristics. You should be very familiar with the CEOE performance characteristics and score scale and refer to them when reviewing this rationale.

The response fulfills the purpose of the assignment by clearly responding to all four of the tasks of the prompt. For instance, the response identifies and describes a school strength (i.e., the school's teachers in particular their dedication and commitment to the school's vision and mission). Moreover, the response identifies one significant area of concern (i.e., the use of discipline referrals and suspension rates seem to be applied disproportionately across the student population). The response describes this area of concern in detail and explains the implications this concern has on teaching and learning. The writer cites relevant examples from the exhibits throughout the response, thus providing sound supporting evidence complete with high-quality, relevant examples. By doing this, the writer shows a deep understanding of the subject matter. For example, the writer goes into detail on the strategy (i.e., promoting collaborative inquiry among teachers) that he or she will use to help alleviate the given concern. This level of detail demonstrates a strong knowledge base by the writer and reflects a thorough knowledge of the subject matter. Lastly, the writer explains how the school strength will help improve teaching and learning at the school and the writer goes into minute detail as to what the principal will do to help support the teachers through this process, which will ultimately help improve the learning at the school. Overall, the response reflects an ably reasoned, comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Sample Weak Response to Constructed-Response Assignment

One significant strength at the STEM High School is that diversity is well-respected and valued by the teachers and students because most teachers hold all students to high academic and behavioral expectations. Teachers said that they are proud of the school's mission and added that they are able to teach a lot of high-level content to small classes using the school's extensive technology infrastructure. Students said that they feel very lucky to be attending the STEM High School because of its focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

One area of concern for the STEM High School is total number of discipline referrals especially for the minority students who have a lot of the total number of referrals. The minority students also have a higher suspension rate than other students who receive a discipline referral. It is not a good thing for the school when students from different ethnic groups have more suspensions than other groups of students especially when the teachers themselves say that they have the same level of behavioral expectations for all students.

A strategy to fix this problem would be to have all the teachers look at the discipline referrals and suspension data from the previous years and discuss why they think that some students are more likely to get suspended than other students.

Since the teachers said in the survey that they hold all students to high academic and behavioral expectations, maybe looking at the data will show them that this isn't the case according to the statistics. Looking at this data could cause the teachers to discuss how to improve ways of dealing with behavioral referrals which means less students would be sent to the office and possibly suspended.

Rationale for the Sample Weak Response

Please note that the response is evaluated based upon the four performance characteristics of Purpose, Subject Matter Knowledge, Support, and Rationale. Please also note how the score point descriptions are based upon how the examinee attends to the performance characteristics. You should be very familiar with the CEOE performance characteristics and score scale and refer to them when reviewing this rationale.

The response partially fulfills the purpose of the assignment by identifying one strength (i.e., Teachers and staff at the school value diversity by holding all students to high academic and behavioral expectations). The response also identifies one significant area of concern (i.e., number of discipline referrals). This response reflects a limited analysis and is poorly reasoned because although 88% of teachers have identified as valuing diversity, only 56% of the students believe that the teaching staff values a diverse student body. There is also a gap between what teachers (84%) identify as holding "all students to high academic and behavioral expectations" and how the students perceive this issue (59%). The response lacks sufficient supporting evidence that describes how looking at the behavioral data would have direct implications for teaching and learning. Furthermore, the presented solution is too vague and does not have any specific approach that would decrease the number of behavioral referrals overall or from specific ethnic groups. Overall, the response reflects a limited understanding of the subject matter.

Performance Characteristics

The following characteristics guide the scoring of responses to the constructed-response assignments.

Characteristics that guide the scoring of responses
Purpose The extent to which the response achieves the purpose of the assignment
Subject Matter Knowledge Accuracy and appropriateness in the application of subject matter knowledge
Support Quality and relevance of supporting details
Rationale Soundness of argument and degree of understanding of the subject matter

Scoring Scale

Scores will be assigned to each response to the constructed-response assignments according to the following scoring scale.

Score Scale with description for each score point.
Score Point Score Point Description
4  start bold The "4" response reflects a thorough knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is fully achieved.
  • There is a substantial, accurate, and appropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence is sound; there are high-quality, relevant examples.
  • The response reflects an ably reasoned, comprehensive understanding of the topic.
3  start bold The "3" response reflects a general knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is largely achieved.
  • There is a generally accurate and appropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence generally supports the discussion; there are some relevant examples.
  • The response reflects a general understanding of the topic.
2  start bold The "2" response reflects a partial knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is partially achieved.
  • There is a limited, possibly inaccurate or inappropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence is limited; there are few relevant examples.
  • The response reflects a limited, poorly reasoned understanding of the topic.
1  start bold The "1" response reflects little or no knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is not achieved.
  • There is little or no appropriate or accurate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence, if present, is weak; there are few or no relevant examples.
  • The response reflects little or no reasoning about or understanding of the topic.
U The response is unscorable because it is illegible, not written to the assigned topic, written in a language other than English, or lacking a sufficient amount of original work to score.
B There is no response to the assignment.