Topic: General


Assessment is the Engine

This past May, I upgraded my vehicle. Since February 2008, I’ve been driving a 2006 Ford F-150, which I owned primarily for towing my travel trailer, driving up to the ski hill, and navigating the mountain passes from the small town I lived within to Vancouver. While we now reside in Vancouver, we still have a travel trailer, and the need for more reliable towing capacity led me to the point where I decided it was time to upgrade. So last May, I bought a 2017 F-150.

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The Power of ‘This Means That’ in Creating Student Investment

What exactly does a strong critique of someone else’s work look like? How is it the same and different from a critique of one’s own work?

When do readers identify the main idea of a text? Which processes lead to the identification of a main idea?

What does a good data analysis look and sound like? What are the critical components of a strong analysis?

These are just some of the questions I have witnessed teacher teams wrestle with in the last few weeks of collaborative assessment work. The answers to these questions and others like them serve as the bridge between teacher assessment design work and student ownership of learning goals. When we explore goals in explicit ways, we can begin to imagine how we might explain complex skills like critiquing, identifying main idea, and analyzing data to our learners. We have to make these concepts tangible and accessible if we are going to nurture student investment and hope.

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What role does homework play in the world of grading and reporting?

I often hear teachers say they have been told that homework should not be graded. This message is a source of confusion. 

Somehow, students have interpreted this as “homework doesn’t count, so I don’t really need to put any effort into it.” This is not the message we want to send. Any work given to students should be designed to further their understanding and increase levels of achievement. It is crucial to their success and that message needs to be loud and clear.

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Do You Have a “Stop Doing” List?

One of my favorite activities when working with teams at this time of the year is to have them create a “stop doing” list. This is a list of lessons, assessments, instructional strategies, and curriculum that team members realize are not serving them well in their goal of high levels of learning for every student. It’s actually the antithesis of a “to do” list, and will likely be a highly reflective opportunity for collaborative teams. Read more


How Learning Targets Empower Students (and Help Me, Too)

This guest post is written by Shannon Finnegan, a social studies teacher at Hopkins High School in Minnesota.

Throughout my teaching career, I have taught in three vastly different schools: a suburban high school, an inner city 6–12 school, and an alternative high school. In these different settings, I have found that there are certain educational buzzwords and catchphrases that will provoke groans and eye rolls on teacher professional development days regardless of where you work. Words such as differentiation, backwards planning, and standards-based grading are just a few of the phrases that will make teachers cringe on inservice days. When I began teaching at a small school in Brooklyn, New York, I came to loathe one phrase in particular: learning targets. Read more


Teacher Efficacy: Who Needs It?

As schools struggle to identify what to do to improve student learning, many of us look to researchers for answers—or at least guidance—about which path to take. The work of John Hattie has transformed educational conversations around the globe and caused us to think about not just what works but what truly makes a significant difference. When you look at Hattie’s publications, it is hard to ignore the power of collective teacher efficacy and Hattie’s charge to teachers to “know thy impact.” Read more


What If Policy Focused on Learning Instead of Grading and Reporting?

Lately I have had cause to review a variety of grading policies from various districts. Clearly, I realize that the focus of a grading policy is obviously grading, but I can’t help but think that they unintentionally take the focus off of learning. 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