This chapter takes up issues of opportunity to learn (OTL) and assessment at the level of schools, considered as organizations. An effort directed toward improving OTL for students in a school is an effort to bring about learning by the organization that is that school. The question we address is part of the general question of OTL for an organization: What kinds of resources, programs, and commitments may be needed or helpful in an effort to improve the learning effectiveness of a school? In keeping with the focus of this volume, we concentrate on issues of obtaining and using information to evaluate and support an organization's progress in changing its practices and achieving stronger OTL.
In Chapter 9, Moss focuses on the practice of assessment, broadly conceived, within a single (classroom) activity system. Here, we enlarge that focus. Assessments and evaluations used to inform changes in practice across a school are practices that cross the boundaries of activity systems to support professional learning, decision making, and accountability. Here, we consider aspects of such practices, especially ways in which teachers and other participants are positioned in the processes.
We begin with the premise that assessment is (or should be) at least, in part, about professionals learning to support students' learning and, in turn, to support one another's learning. Another way of saying this is that it should be about OTL for the professionals in the educational system as well as for students.