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Engaging in Instructional Agility by Trusting Ourselves

The other day, I was sitting with a colleague after we had facilitated a reading intervention lesson with four grade six students. It had been a lively hour, with the students finding it difficult to engage in writing about reading after we had spent time reinforcing comprehension. They needed to be reminded often to focus on the task and apply their understanding of the text in written form.  We discussed these challenges and proposed reasons why the students were finding the work difficult. Read more


Diving Into Common Assessment

Are you ready to take the plunge? Is the water too cold or too warm?  Do you take a tentative step with the big toe or throw caution to the wind and commit to an adventurous leap – uncertain of the outcome? Either works, depending on your style, whether in swimming, living, or building common assessments. Read more


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Most Recent? Most Frequent? Most Accurate?

One of the fundamental tenets of standards-based grading is that greater (if not exclusive) emphasis is placed on the more recent evidence of learning. For years now, the consensus among both experts and practitioners is that the combination of old and new evidence (most often via calculating a mean average) distorts the accuracy of reported achievement levels (O’Connor, 2011; Guskey, 2015; Reeves, 2015). As students move through their natural learning trajectories, they should be given full credit for their learning, regardless of how low or slow the start. Read more


Designing Assessment through the Lens of Engagement

It is not often that teachers consider engaging student work when designing assessments. The technical aspect of identifying standards or learning goals and matching them to items and tasks is certainly an important aspect of design, but it cannot be the only thing. There are times when educators talk of engaging instruction and design lessons and activities that captivate students. Read more


Achievement—It’s More Than a Number

Post 1 of 4 on Using Assessment to Improve Achievement

A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.
Einstein

The primary mission of schools is to help kids learn. That’s it. That’s the bottom line. It stands to reason, then, that the primary indicator of success will always be achievement scores. But our work with making decisions about learners must remain far more humane then making decisions about learners based on a set of cold, calculated scores (and it doesn’t matter if those data come from the grades in our gradebooks or external test scores). The measure of achievement should never mask the face of the learner. This is personal. And, it’s very serious work. Read more


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Why Assess?

The question of “Why Assess?” is one that is posed in schools and districts everywhere. It’s important to challenge educators to think about their assessment practice and how they derive information about student progress. If the purpose of assessment is merely to rank and sort, then little needs to change from the assessment practices of previous generations. If, instead, the purpose is to focus on student learning, then educators need to examine whether their current practice is aligned with that outcome. Read more


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Developing the Sub-Habits of Self-Assessment

The ultimate goal is assessment as learning, where assessment occurs in real time and is the process by which people reflect on their own thinking and diagnose how they’ve changed.
Sir Ken Robinson (2015)

In a previous blog post, I shared conditions that support an environment of habitual and authentic student self-assessment. This post will focus on “digging deeper” into why students may find self-assessment a challenging enterprise and how to develop the sub-habits that support this essential skill. Read more


Powerful New Book Promotes Collaborative Assessment Practices

This is a guest post by Kelly Rockhill, Solution Tree

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Bloomington, Ind. (January 25, 2016)—Solution Tree, a premier educational publisher and professional development provider, announces the release of a powerful new book that seeks to reinvigorate teaching and learning through collaborative assessment practices.

In Collaborative Common Assessments: Teamwork. Instruction. Results., author Cassandra Erkens outlines the practical steps teacher teams must take to establish clear, comprehensive assessment systems that guide instruction and strengthen professional learning communities. “When common assessments are developed and employed properly, as a collaborative, formative system aimed at improving learning for teachers and learners alike,” writes Erkens in the introduction, “the gains in teacher efficacy and student achievement can be staggering.” Read more


Self-Assessment: Yes, but…

While student self-assessment is not a brand new concept, it has emerged as an essential aspect of effective formative assessment strategies and processes. There is general consensus that self-assessment is positive and has many benefits for students, but it is seldom implemented in many classrooms (Brown & Harris, 2013). Read more


Effective Feedback—Inspiring our Students

Last week when I picked up my 5-year old daughter from gymnastics I asked how she did. She excitedly replied, “My teacher said I did a good job with my forward rolls, and I need to start working on my strong arms and straight legs in my cartwheels.” During previous weeks, we had similar conversations and had gone home with a clear goal in mind. Read more