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What a Difference Our Words Make! Asking Questions that Require Understanding

There are so many ways to ask a question! I was reviewing some assessments yesterday and noticed that one or two simple word changes can totally change the sophistication needed for the response. When we consider what we want a student to know, and then create the question, I think we need to look at the question from a different perspective. We need to ask ourselves if the question leads to a response that truly measures understanding. Read more


Is Assessment Having a Moment?

A recent job change has extended my daily commute and as a result I have been listening to audiobooks to pass the time and minimize the frustration with road construction.  I know that I am late to this party, but audiobooks are a pretty great way to both decompress after a challenging day and get excited about a new one.  I recently listened to The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath and it has been rolling around in my head for a while since I finished it.  (This poses a new challenge with audiobooks.  With a traditional book, I would flip through the pages and reread different sections.  I haven’t quite figured out how to do that with the audio version.)  I have been a big fan of the Heath brothers since reading their book Switch, which contained one of my favorite metaphors about the change process and proved incredibly helpful in a variety of settings.

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What are Common Formative Assessments Anyway?

One thing I’ve learned as I work with schools across the country is that there are a lot of different definitions collaborative teams are using for common formative assessments, and what these teams think common formative assessments are influences how they write and use these assessments with their students. In our book, Collaborating for Success in the Common Core, we offer the following definition to help teams make sure they’re able to use their results to improve student learning Read more


A Beautiful Noise: Productive Student Talk Time

It’s a beautiful noise
And it’s a sound that I love
And it makes me feel good
—Neil Diamond

I’ve been working a lot lately with educators in developing curricular units of study and the corresponding assessments while talking about the learning skills necessary for students to experience success. As an aside, I’ve deliberately not used the label “21st Century” in front of “learning skills” as I think we all understand in 2017 that we are in the 21st century. It’s lost its cache or novelty. Read more


Adult Leadership Skills and Student Dispositions

I was on a plane a few weeks ago and picked up the in-flight magazine. There was an interesting article about leadership and the dispositions needed to succeed written by Gary Kelly, the president of Southwest Airlines. The article concentrated on the following:

  • Leaders Must Care.
  • Leaders Must Communicate.
  • Leaders Must Have Character.
  • Leaders Must Be Competent.
  • Leaders Must Have Courage.

It occurred to me quite quickly that these are the skills we also want our students to have. Read more


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Start Your Year by Building a Learning Partnership with Your Students

It’s here. The start of the school year—that crucial time when educators excitedly “set the stage” with their students and jumpstart their vision for a successful learning experience in their class. It’s an official opportunity to initiate a strong learning partnership with students that empowers them to grow in their independence and empowerment as learners (Popham, 2011). Sounds good, right? Yet, if we think about the typical approach to setting the stage at the beginning of the year, it often falls short of establishing a strong foundation for that partnership. Read more


Beware Normative Tendencies in the Classroom

Ask any group of teachers if they grade on the curve and you will receive an almost universal, resounding no! Now, I believe teachers when they say they don’t grade on the curve; however, what has become apparent in recent years is that shedding some of our traditional habits—our normative grading tendencies—is easier said than done. Even those who have moved to a more standards-based approach to grading can, if not mindful, fall back into habits misaligned with a modern assessment system. Read more


Using Feedback and Success Criteria to Empower Students

This guest post is written by Tara Reed, a fourth grade ELA teacher at Hawk Elementary School in Denton ISD.

Being reflective is essential. Whether done by the teacher or the student, reflection allows an opportunity to think closely on one topic, make decisions about work, or ask peers for some feedback.

Last spring I took some time to interview kids about their interactions with feedback and co-constructed criteria. One thing I learned about my students was that they hunger for feedback. They crave someone with whom to collaborate, discuss, rehearse, revise, and reflect. Read more


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For Leaders: Recognizing Quality Assessment in the Classroom

A few years ago, after a number of professional learning experiences on the topic of assessment, several principals in my district asked how they might recognize strong assessment when they saw it during classroom observations or walkthroughs. They also wondered what questions they might ask to invite further reflection and refinement. These were fair questions because we often develop our assessment philosophies and practices in environments removed from the classrooms in which they will eventually be applied. Understanding something is one thing, and implementing it is an entirely different enterprise. So how do we recognize quality assessment as it is being lived out in classroom spaces, and how can leaders support teacher reflection on assessment practices? Read more


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Putting Reporting in Perspective

Imagine you walk into your doctor’s office, ready for the follow-up appointment where the results of your diagnostic tests are shared with you and your prognosis is revealed. You are a little anxious and uncertain, but you are confident you are in good hands. You understand that this appointment is intended to communicate information that may lead to future healthcare processes. You expect that you may need to shift your diet or your exercise and that you may need further tests or supports from additional health care personnel. You also know that there is a system in place that will take care of you the best way they know how, so in spite of your uncertainty, you feel confident you will leave that office knowing what you need to know. Read more