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Take Time to Smell the Roses

Along with the change of seasons from winter to spring comes the anticipation of new growth—it may be seen in the budding of leaves or blooming of early flowers.  But for many educators, when the calendar pages arrive at spring, it signals a different type of anticipation.  Instead of “Ahh, spring!” the reaction is “Agghh!  Spring!” The final stretch of the race is here, what some educators call “crunch time.”  We might hear worried statements such as “We still have so much to teach before the end of the year”, “My kids aren’t ready for testing”, or “I can’t get everything done.”  In our “busy-ness” and haste, we might not notice the many forms of new growth taking place right before us.  Maybe we aren’t taking the time to “smell the roses.” Read more




Do We Really NEED Common Formative Assessments, Too?

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with collaborative teams in a school whose principal had asked them to add common formative assessments to their arsenal of assessment practices.  Many of these teachers had worked hard to develop classroom formative assessments that were used to diagnose student learning issues.  This school also had a sophisticated response system that used benchmarking and progress monitoring assessments to identify and monitor students who were not yet at grade level in reading and math. Each of the teams I met with included teachers who were worried about the amount of time it would take them to write common formative assessments, give them to their students, and work collaboratively to plan how to respond to the results of these assessments.  Early in our workshop, I asked teachers to talk together and brainstorm a list of their best hopes and worst fears about this work.  Not surprisingly, several teachers articulated their concerns about adding more assessments in addition to those they were already using. My next step, then, had to be to explore the “why” behind this work. Read more


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The Unbreakable Bond: Assessment and Instruction

“I can see why I should probably do this assessing all the time! You really learn a lot about your kids!”

The words of this teacher, new to the profession and new to reading instruction, were music to my ears. Our collaborative time together had been initiated because deadlines were looming on the reading assessment required by both our district and our provincial government. However, I had asserted that we were actually learning about it because it was essential for reading instruction and great for students. The young teacher initially seemed skeptical so, after practicing a diagnostic assessment with two of her first grade students, when she came to see the true value of the assessment to inform her instruction immediately, I knew we had made a breakthrough. Read more



How Close are We?

Several years ago as an instructional coach in a district new to the work of collaborative teams in a professional learning community, I learned we should calibrate our grading of common assessments.  I decided to ask our Algebra teachers if they would be willing to take on this task.  My request was met with resistance as the teachers explained to me it was an unnecessary use of time since they had already worked together to write the test and had even determined how many points each question was worth and typed those points on the side of each item.  I offered to bring donuts and a couple of student samples if they would agree to score a test together.  They finally gave in. Read more


A Resolution to Keep: Sustainable Systems of Assessment

It’s that time again. We are four weeks into a new year; a time for renewal, an opportunity to refresh and rejuvenate, and a sense of hope to reinvigorate a part of your personal or professional well-being. You may have been among the estimated 40% of people who set a New Year’s resolution. Surprisingly enough, when it comes to keeping those resolutions, one-quarter of us will have fallen victim to abandoning our resolution within the first week of January, and nearly 75% of us will have slipped away from our resolution within the first month. Read more


SPARK Testing so students learn!

This guest post is written by Kara Hageman, a PhD student in Educational Psychology at the University of Iowa and former high school science teacher. She blogs at www.spiralingassessment.com. Kara can be reached via email at kara-hageman@uiowa.edu or via Twitter @hageman97

A poem is learned by heart and then not again repeated. We will suppose that after a half year it has been forgotten: no effort of recollection is able to call it back again into consciousness (Hermann Ebbinghaus, 1885, p. 8).
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Navigating Changing Assessment Paradigms: My Personal Experience

This week was filled with diverse experiences. I attended and presented at a conference and engaged in an online interview, sharing my school district’s eight-year journey into standards-based assessment. I spoke with a colleague in another country to brainstorm ways to move past road blocks in assessment reform and I worked with new teachers to refine their assessment practices. Finally, I planned a future session on data engagement and reflection between Board of Education members, in-school administrators, and district office personnel.

I mention these extremely diverse experiences because each one provoked deeper and deeper thinking about education, assessment, and what it means to adjust our approaches over time. Read more