XII. Collective Responsibility

     Collective responsibility means that the teachers in an academy consider themselves responsible as a group for each student’s growth and development. This breaks the traditional mold of each teacher being considered the only one responsible for the students in their class. While it is certainly true that one teacher might have the most frequent contact with a particular set of students, this doesn’t mean that multiple teachers collectively and substantively shouldn’t share in fostering the development of students. Academy teachers can practice collective responsibility in four ways: recording evidence, recording summative scores, transitions, and support for individual students.

Recording Evidence

     One of the best ways to manifest collective responsibility is to have multiple teachers submit evidence scores for students not specifically in their class. To accomplish this, specific teachers would be designated as responsible for entering evidence scores for specific topics for any students working on those topics. For example, consider mathematics measurement topics at the fifth grade level. Certainly, the fifth grade mathematics teacher would be responsible for entering evidence scores for these topics, but the science teacher might also be responsible for entering evidence scores for a small set of those mathematics topics because they fit in well with what the science teacher is addressing.

     Another version of collective responsibility for entering evidence scores is for time to be set aside during the school day when students can work with teachers of their choice on specific measurement topics. These teachers would provide instruction to those students who come to them but would also assess students and enter evidence scores based on their interactions with the teacher.

     In Empower, scores belong to the students. This means that wherever, whenever learning happens, scores will be attached to the student's account and will be visible to all teachers looking at that student's portfolio. 
     In the context of collective responsibility, this makes gathering evidence very convenient and reliable as there is no need to make sure scores go into certain gradebooks or groups to be noticed by the teacher who will later be responsible to make the summative decision. As long as the score is aligned to the correct standard, it will be considered during the summative decision-making process. 
     For more on reporting scores, see Chapter 3 of this manual.

Recording Current Summative Scores

     As described in the section of this manual dedicated to assessment, in addition to entering evidence scores, teacher’s measurement responsibilities include entering current summative scores on a regular basis—at least every few weeks. This can be done by groups of teachers. Specifically, the same teachers who record evidence scores might also be allowed to enter current summative scores. In doing so, it is important to remember that a summative score (referred to as the “standard score” in Empower) can be changed at any point in time by a teacher who has access to scoring a particular student.


     Another approach to assigning summative scores is to do so in collaborative teams. Groups of teachers who share responsibilities for teaching and assessing students on common measurement topics periodically meet to examine evidence scores. Based on the evidence scores, teachers agree on the specific summative scores that should be assigned.

     Empower can carry a lot of the weight in the summative decision-making process, but the teacher is the final arbiter. Empower will bring together all of the student's evidence and recommend research-backed, data-driven summative scores. 


     One of the most important types of decisions teachers in an academy must make is when students are ready to move up to the next level for a specific subject area. Teachers who have been involved in entering evidence scores or determining current summative scores should meet periodically to determine if specific students should be moved up to a higher level of content (e.g., from grade 4 mathematics to grade 5 mathematics). For some students, deliberation might focus on whether they should be moved down a level. Of course, the ability ensure smooth transitions for students is inherently tied to: 1) working effectively in collaborative teams and 2) flexible scheduling.


     Academy teachers should work together in collaborative teams as a matter of course. Indeed, meeting in collaborative teams is at the core of the professional learning community (PLC) process. However, within an academy, such collaboration goes well beyond simply designing and scoring common assessments. As described above, collaborative teachers should be examining patterns of evidence scores and making decisions about current summative scores. Decisions about which students move up or down in levels should be a natural consequence of and well informed by close examinations of students’ profiles on specific measurement topics.


     Scheduling can be one of the most challenging aspects of an academy, particularly if a pure competency-based approach is being used. The most straightforward way to have smooth transitions from one level to another for students is to have a schedule in which students have access to different levels of instruction at the same time as they were receiving instruction in their current level. For example, in elementary schools all reading might be taught at the same time. Thus, if a particular student needs to move up a grade level in reading then he or she simply does so during the same time frame. In high school, sequential courses (e.g., Algebra I and Algebra II) might be taught at the same time , providing for rather easy transitions.


     Of course many schools do not have the luxury of such options. In these cases, schools commonly rely on developing a strong system of blended instruction (see section V), which allows students to receive instruction and take assessments on their own and work at their own pace even outside of regular school hours.


     Finally, schools commonly embed at least one period a day into the schedule during which they can work on measurement topics individually or in small groups. Some schools refer to this period as WIN time, which stands for What I Need.  

Support for Individual Students

     Collective responsibility also manifests as deliberations about support required for individual students. This commonly takes the form of RTI (Response to Intervention) activities. More specifically, Tier 2 interventions occur within grade-level core instruction. To address this, teachers in collaborative teams should identify the instructional practices that are most urgently needed for students in general. Tier 2 interventions are those that are supplemental to what students will receive during regular instruction. This is typically accomplished in small group settings. As collaborative teams identify groups of students with common needs, they develop temporary groupings of students and ensure they are receiving adequate and targeted instruction in their common areas of need. Such instruction might occur during WIN time. Tier 3 interventions are for specific students whose specific needs require one-to-one interaction. In many cases, such interactions require the attention of teachers who do not have whole class responsibilities.

     To facilitate collaboration (among other things) Empower has messaging woven throughout the tools. Become familiar with it in this tutorial:

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©Robert J Marzano

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