The School of Education at Sonoma State University has developed and honed its assessment system in order to insure a comprehensive process that looks deeply into professional preparation and program quality at the candidate, program, and unit levels. The professional education unit developed an assessment system in 2003-2004 and named in PEARL: Pursuing Excellence through Assessment, Reflection, and Learning. PEARL grew from professional community input on the Conceptual Framework (CF) and professional and state standards. The plan was implemented in 2003-2004 while refinements were made during that year and each subsequent year since the system’s inception. In conceptualizing an assessment system, we used terms of transition points labeled: Into, Through, Completion, and Beyond. Into refers to the candidates’ Entry into a program (Table 2.3.b), determined by an interview and requirements applicants must meet; through refers to Entry into Clinical Practice (Table 1.3.c), as well as, Exit from Clinical Practice (Table 1.3.c)which includes course and field work, assessments, and other requirements that candidates encounter as they make their way through the program; and Completion reflects the candidates’ culminating activities and assessments that they complete in order to finish the program and receive their credential or degree. Beyond refers to follow-up with candidates after they have completed the program. For SSU School of Education faculty, beyond usually involves continued assessment and evaluation of our programs through field studies and graduate and employer surveys; for the candidates, it also involves their continuing professional growth—from a basic credential program to an advanced credential program, from advanced credential program to M.A. program, and from the M.A. program to further professional development in the field of education. Thus, the notion of Into, Through, Completion, and Beyond epitomizes our candidates’ continuing intellectual and professional growth, as well as each program’s and the unit’s growth through the analyses of key assessment data. The School of Education’s Key Assessment Matrices (Table 2.3.c) provide an overview and summary of the key assessments throughout each program. Faculty systematically evaluates candidate progress at critical checkpoints: admission, entry to and exit from clinical practice, program and post-program completion in all programs.
The unit views assessment as a comprehensive and complex process. PEARL includes a well-organized plan for assessing our candidates, programs, school, and ourselves at multiple transition points. As it has been refined over the past years, the system has grown with the incorporation into it of key assessments developed by programs to target the transition points of candidates as they move through our programs. PEARL is used as a basis for making decisions about what data we collect, and when, and why we collect it. It includes the processes of aggregation, interpretation, and evaluation of data that leads to decision-making. Each step of the way, all the decisions we make in our assessment loop consider our conceptual framework as a guide.