By all accounts, the 2010 National Evaluation Institute was a tremendous success! Hosted by the Dean and faculty of the School of Education at The College of William & Mary in beautiful, historic Williamsburg, Virginia, the 19th annual National Evaluation Institute drew a capacity crowd October 7-9. The NEI venue was split this year between two locations, beginning in the classic setting of the Williamsburg Hospitality House on Thursday and then moving to the brand new School of Education building on the campus of the College of William & Mary. The new School of Education houses a state-of-the-art professional development center, and the 2010 NEI was the first national conference to be held in the new facility.
More than 270 registered attendees participated in the 2010 NEI, representing 50 colleges and universities, more than 25 schools and school districts, nearly half of the states in the U.S., and four foreign countries. Attendees also represented a cross-section of PK-20 education, a clear manifestation of CREATE's mission to serve researchers and practitioners alike.
Building from the conference theme of "Assessment and Evaluation for Learning," the 2010 NEI began with a pre-conference workshop by assessment guru James Popham. Focusing on formative assessment practices, Popham alternately clarified and challenged participants' assumptions and understandings about formative assessment practices and principles. Of course, Dr. Popham's presentation was grounded in scholarship and experience, while spiced with insight and humor.
The conference itself officially began with greetings from the Dean of the School of Education at William & Mary, Virginia McLaughlin, and from CREATE President, Barbara Howard, who also introduced the keynote speaker, Diane Ravitch. Ravitch delivered a provocative address, taking head-on many popular political and media misconceptions associated with accountability and school choice. Dr. Ravitch has been on the front lines of educational policy in the United States for more than three decades, and her current work on The Death and Life of the Great American School System has received unprecedented national attention. Her presence in the intimate environs of the National Evaluation Institute was a tremendous opportunity for participants to engage with an individual whose voice and views carry great weight in our national discourse. Dr. Ravitch addressed conference attendees again on the opening evening of the NEI as the Hauben Distinguished Lecturer in a lecture series sponsored by William & Mary's School of Education, an event attended by more than 400 College and community members, as well as NEI attendees.
In addition to these featured speakers, this year's attendees were able to take full advantage of more than 110 concurrent sessions, roundtables, and poster presentations. Sessions were organized by the three core strands of CREATE's mission: program evaluation, teacher evaluation, and student evaluation. Furthermore, this incredible slate of presentations consisted of a variety of empirical studies, program evaluations, action research projects, and program descriptions, thereby providing for considerable choice among attendees.
The lineup of featured speakers continued through the conference. An international perspective on teacher evaluation was provided by Yaling Sun, Professor of Education at Yunnan Normal University in Kunming, China, Thursday afternoon. Dr. Sun's session highlighted both similarities and differences between teacher evaluation in the United States and China. Caroline Wylie of the Educational Testing Service delivered an engaging, multimedia presentation on innovative training for teachers in assessment for learning practices during the Friday morning general session. Then, following two rounds of concurrent sessions, the annual Millman Award luncheon and address took place. This year's Millman Award winner was Thomas Guskey. Dr. Guskey is widely known and highly respected not only for the strength of his scholarship but also for his enviable ability to translate sound research into plain-spoken practice. Dr. Guskey is deserving of the Millman Award for so many reasons, including his contributions to the fields of program evaluation, teacher evaluation, and student evaluation, as well as for his long devotion to the CREATE Board and membership. His Millman address was indicative of his work. In plain-spoken yet compelling terms, he challenged the audience to question that which is presumed to be rational thinking and then he illustrated the wisdom of this counter-intuitive approach with examples from the lives of a select number of giants in the field of education, including Jason Millman himself.
Friday of the conference—always a busy day—ended with a casual reception in the School of Education, and then the program resumed Saturday morning with the annual Business Meeting. Congratulations and thanks are in order, as Barbara Howard of Appalachian State University completed her term as President of CREATE, and Doug Davis of the University of Mississippi began his. Margie DeSander of Lincolnton County Public Schools in North Carolina was elected President-Elect. Plans are already underway for the 2011 NEI to be held on the campus of Ole Miss!
In addition to the CREATE Business Meeting, the NEI program continued Saturday morning with more than 20 concurrent sessions. The capstone event, however, was affectionately referred to as "The Tom & James Show," as Tom Guskey and James Stronge shared billing for the closing session of the conference. Tom and James have long been friends and colleagues, but this event provided a rare opportunity for these two scholars to collaboratively present as they reflected on the theme of "assessment and evaluation for learning." While each approached the topic from a different vantage point and respectively delved deeper into topics of particular interest, their shared commitment to education, to the field of evaluation, and to the work of the CREATE membership was clear. The esteem with which these two scholars are held was plainly evident in the packed ballroom at eleven o'clock on a Saturday morning!
Indeed, the 2010 National Evaluation Institute held at The College of William & Mary in Virginia was a tremendous success. Special thanks to the Program Committee, the CREATE Board of Directors, the School of Education at William & Mary, and the small band of staff members and graduate assistants from multiple institutions for making it so! The NEI looks forward to seeing everyone at Ole Miss next September 29 – October 1 for the 2011 NEI. This will be a very special conference, as it will be the 20th Annual National Evaluation Institute sponsored by CREATE!