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The Power of Common Formative Assessments

Many researchers have identified formative assessment as one of the more powerful practices to raise student achievement (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Hattie, 2009). When speaking of its power, we often compare formative assessment to summative assessment using metaphorical expressions. For example, formative assessment is like “tasting the soup before serving one’s guests,” or the “practice before the big game.” Others have described formative assessment as the rehearsal before the performance, or the “check-up before the autopsy.” Read more


Standards-Based Grading: A Million Little Things

Currently, one of my favorite television shows is A Million Little Things on ABC. It’s a show about a group of adult friends who, under unexpected circumstances, come together to support each other through an incredibly difficult time; the range of experiences is intense and the solutions often layered and complicated by their own personal stories. That said, the premise of the show (for this conversation) is not as relevant as the show’s tagline. Read more


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Teams as Action Researchers

A number of years ago, I had the good fortune to teach a cohort of practicing educators in a Masters in Curriculum program. As a part of this program, teachers were required to complete a culminating project which included action research in their classroom. At the time, action research was a pretty novel concept and many of the teachers were a little intimidated by the thought of doing this kind of research with their students.

As the instructor, I wanted to make sure that the research they conducted was both well done and that the conclusions drawn were meaningful. Read more


Standards-Based Grading the Right Way

My son began his high school career this fall and has had what I would consider a successful transition. He didn’t get used to his new surroundings, teachers, or student population overnight, but with time, he has grown comfortable and really enjoys the new setting. Not everything has gone perfectly, but he has responded when obstacles have arisen. Before school started we talked about what he would need to do this year to find the success he desired; we discussed what would be similar and different between his junior high and high school experiences. He wanted to get it right. But we also had to talk about the unknown, the things that he just wouldn’t know about until he got there, what he wouldn’t understand until he lived it. As uncomfortable as that may have been, this is transition and learning. For teachers, a change in grading practices can run parallel to this experience. Read more


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Simply Deep: Designing Authentic Assessments that are Meaningful and Relevant

“Being able to recall scientific concepts, identify historical events, or memorize mathematics facts and algorithms, while acutely impressive, is no longer sufficient to prepare students for the challenging world they will face. Identifying characters, theme, and symbolism used to be the focus of education, and it was enough. In the past, learners would occasionally have opportunities to collaborate, communicate, critically think, and creatively problem solve, but that was the means, not the end. Read more


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Strength-Based Assessment Practices Increase Achievement and Confidence

Assessment that provides information on students’ learning strengths builds confidence and increases achievement.

Too often, students get feedback on all they are doing wrong or their deficits. Assessment, at its best, provides information to students on their strengths. When learners gain insight into what they know and can do, it builds their confidence. Strength-based feedback signals to students that you see their potential and that you believe in them. Read more


Using Student Work to Drive Decision-Making

“How did the simple act of identifying strengths first in your students’ writing make you feel today?”

This was the question I posed to the eight teachers sitting around the table, after our fourth grade professional learning community (PLC) team had spent half an hour analyzing (not scoring) student writing artifacts. Read more


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Are Rubrics Counterproductive and Limiting?

A few months ago, a young teacher, Maggie, asked me what I thought of the use of rubrics. I thought it a curious question, so I asked her why she was asking. Maggie told me that she was taking some college post-graduate courses, and although a few of her teachers used them, one professor was very opposed to them and said they were counterproductive, limiting, and should not be used. Read more


Another Test? How to Plan Assessments So Students Can Learn

Ever feel like you are giving assessments all the time? Between the pretest, post-test, quizzes, district benchmarks, state interim assessments, or other nationally normed progress monitoring assessments, when is a student supposed to learn? When is a teacher supposed to teach? Is it possible to have too many assessments? Read more


Just a Little Push: Five Ideas for Intervention and Feedback

When you are unsure, not feeling confident, and scared no one will like you, it can be hard to get started. My son, Chase, is a fifth grader, and we signed him up for a basketball camp. He went alone and didn’t know anyone. As can be predicted, he was very nervous. Read more