November 6, 2019 | Blog

Breaking Down “Silos” with Technology

A perspective from Kim Bolz-Andolshek.


The word silo by definition, means to isolate (one system, process, department, etc.) from others. As a midwesterner, the word silo automatically conjures up the image of tall-round buildings on farmland that holds all the fruits of the farmers labor! It is so similar to our school systems and our buildings, which hold the fruits of educators labor-our learners. In public education, it’s common to see silos naturally occurring due to physical location. Are you a district with multiple elementaries? Does your middle or high school have multiple locations and/or multiple educators within a content area? If you answered yes, to any of these questions, you likely have some naturally occuring silos taking place due to separate physical locations,  time or funding constraints 

Public education, by design, has a collaborative spirit, but the naturally occuring silos can make it challenging if there are not scheduled PD times/days dedicated to working together. Therefore collaboration starts to be limited to those located in  your own building or those that have similar schedules. These independent silos also make it difficult for districts to gain a true picture of student performance as each silo group may be focusing on assessment in their own way leading to inconsistency.

Collaborative scoring is an incredible way for educators and districts to have learning opportunities beyond PD days. When districts work together in collaborative scoring, educators are looking together at their students work. They start to align on grading norms, they challenge each other’s evaluations, perhaps one teacher saw something in the student response that  another did not see. Teachers are exposed to examples of student work that may be very different from their own, allowing new insight into their own teaching practices and student learning. Finally, a second set of eyes, allows for equity for the student, decreasing possible bias rather than only having one teacher in a course review their work. 

Technology is changing the opportunities educators have to create curriculum with anyone in the world, offer professional learning anytime/anywhere…why stop there? Now there is an option to bring down the silos for teachers, with collaborative scoring. Click here to learn more about OSCAR Classroom and how it’s changing the way educators collaborate on scoring and build fidelity with curriculum. 

My goal with our efforts at the MAC and with the use of OSCAR Classroom, is to get teachers to assess each other’s work, and then collaboratively develop students’ assessments.  When teachers have these conversations, they begin to develop common understanding. When that occurs, it has a very positive impact on learning: It leads to more consistent standards in performance expectations, teaching standards, and assessment across students and districts.

Dr. Edward Roeber, Assessment Director
Michigan Assessment Consortium