Blog


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


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


How many questions should you have on a summative assessment?

I love using Twitter as a way to communicate thinking in a markedly different way than when using blogs, articles, and books. By limiting the number of characters, Twitter forces us to be succinct in our thinking. I’ve discovered that followers often reply or ask a question related to a topic I’ve thrown out for discussion because the tweet only allows me to share a small part of my thinking.

Recently, I was asked an interesting question by a follower related to something I had tweeted. He asked “How many questions should you have on a summative assessment?” Read more


Calling the Audible: Be the Playmaker for Instructional Agility

Here we are again. Back-to-school season! For some students, this a highly anticipated time of year. Who are my new teachers? Will I know anyone in my class? When is recess? Where will I sit in the cafeteria? How will I remember my locker combination?

I absolutely love the rejuvenation and anticipation of a new school year. But I’ll admit. My geeky “director of research, assessment, and accountability” self also has a bit of sporty spice side. Fall brings out that sporty spice with the anticipation of another favorite season: football. Yup, pigskin. Love it. Plan my Sundays around it. And because I also have the common ailment known as “everything-always-connects-back-to-education,” I started making some connections with my current conversations at work as I was watching a preseason game this year. This connection hit me with a force as strong as a 300-pound tackle sacking a quarterback.

Teachers are playmakers. Read more


The Secret Ingredient to Effective Interventions: Students’ Perceptions

When students know they are getting additional time and support for learning essential standards, sometimes referred to as intervention, do they see it as a punishment? Does it contribute to their perceptions of themselves as a “low” achiever? If so, we have a problem. Brookhart (2013) and Moss (2013) cite confidence as a key indicator of achievement. If students have confidence, they are more likely to persevere when they don’t immediately know how to do something. Confidence is the thing that will help students see possibility and hope (Moss & Brookhart, 2012). It’s this intrinsic state of being that will ensure interventions lead to high achievement. Read more


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Group by Need, Not by Number

Let us talk about shopping for shoes. I am not one of those people who meanders through shoe stores, struggling to narrow down my choices (no judgment for those who do—that is just not me). Rather, I am a very pragmatic shoe purchaser. I have specific kinds of shoes I favor, and I am clear about my shoes size. So when I head into a store, I get what I need and get out. Read more


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What’s in a 4? DOK and Proficiency Scales

When it comes to measurement, four is a popular number; rather, a range of 1 to 4 is a common scheme. Two different powerful measurement systems use a range of 1 through 4 scores to clarify levels of quality. The Depth of Knowledge [DOK] framework by Webb, 2005, uses a 1 through 4 scale to rank the cognitive complexity of an assessment task. The Proficiency Scale framework by Marzano and Kendall (2008) uses a 1 through 4 scale to rank students’ performance levels on individual standards. Read more


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It’s Okay NOT to Reassess

It’s okay NOT to reassess everything all of the time; there, I said it. Now, before I explain more thoroughly let me say that I am fully aware that this post may not make me the most popular kid at the assessment table and that I’m almost certain that the standards-based purity police will be out in full force; doesn’t matter because what I’m about to say needs to be said. Read more