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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


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