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Changing assessment practices in secondary schools allows students to follow passions and teachers to personalize learning and innovate

Essentials and Extensions change the paradigm of Assessment and Evaluation

Marker Riverview, Canada
This model is fundamental for teacher innovation. Teachers purposefully prioritize high leverage skills and content, struggling students have more time to learn content and demonstrate proficiency, all students have time to pursue passions, and teachers bring innovative projects into their classrooms. This model decreased failure rates from 30% to 5% and allows students to solve real problems.

Built by teachers


Chris Ryan, Teacher and Department Head

This model of assessment was built by teachers collaborating together to address many of the challenges they encountered when trying to implement current assessment practices in the classroom. 

Since its development and implementation it in, primarily math and science classes, it has been adopted in language arts and humanities and continues to be adopted by an increasing number of teachers and schools.

The model has been published in the following

Ryan, C (2018). Two Teachers Journey, One Teacher’s Tale: An Autoethnographic Narrative of Creating an Assessment and Evaluation System Using a Learning Community Framework (Masters Thesis). University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB.

Dealy, D., Ryan, C., Fowler, P., and Flinn, M. (2017). Hosting the Saxby Gale at Riverview High: Using Disaster Day to Teach Universal Design, Increase Student Engagement, and So Much More. In Sherman, A. (Ed.), Universal Design for Learning Action Research, New Brunswick Department of Education and Early Childhood Development: Fredericton, NB. January 2017.

Fogarty, I., & Ryan, C. (2017). Bringing Assessment Research to Practice Using an Essentials Model. In J. Cummings, & M. Blatherwick (Eds.), Creative Dimensions of Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century. Boston. Sense Publishers.

Ryan, C. (2016). Filling an Assessment Literature Gap: A Systemic Example of Formative Assessment in a High School Physics Course. In Proceedings of Global Learn 2016 (pp. 52-64). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Ryan, C. (January 01, 2014). Changing the philosophy of education with an education in philosophy. Antistasis, 4, 2, 38-42.

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Intended Outcomes
14 - 18
Age Group
Resources Needed
Teachers need access to curriculum documents and a dose of creative and innovative thinking. Administrators need to create structured time for teachers to have professional conversations and for students to receive structured interventions.

See this innovation in action.

The boring assessment stuff and interesting projects too.


Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Structured meeting time
Administrators create dedicated time for teachers to meet and have professional conversations. Administrators also need to create structured time to allow for teachers to provide interventions for struggling learners.
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Identify Essentials From Curriculum
Teachers need to identify what content, ideas, and skills are essential and which are extensions. This also includes defining the purpose of a given course or unit of instruction. For example, a science course is taken not just to learn science content but to learn how to think an like a scientist.
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Examine assessments and evaluations
Once the essential skills and knowledge are established, teachers will need to determine how they will assess and evaluate students' understanding.
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Personalize learning
Teachers can now personalize learning and incorporate innovative projects.
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Determine how to evaluate students
Teachers need to determine a means of evaluating students based on their professional judgement, local policy, and reporting structures.
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