It’s 5:00 p.m. on a Friday night, and my phone rings. It’s a close colleague, Bryan, who is a middle school assistant principal. Uh-oh, I think. Given the time of day, I don’t anticipate this to be good news. He starts in, “Ang, I’ve got a good one for ya…” And so the story begins.
Over the past year, Bryan and I had been engaged in some productive dialogue around current grading practices at his site. He was new to his school—just in his second year—and hadn’t been too comfortable with some of his observations of teacher practice. Coupled with complaints from students and parents, he had been trying to determine the reasons for the dissonance between the school’s grading policy—as it lives on paper—and what was actually practiced in classrooms. Read more
As I write this, I’m looking out my window to see green grass and flowers everywhere. It’s the time of year when we are enjoying final concerts, awards ceremonies, and the other typical end-of-year events. If you ask teachers about this time of year, they talk about trying to keep students engaged when the warmer weather and other distractions are competing for students’ attention. Thinking about my own efforts as both a teacher and a principal to keep the focus on learning until the very last minute made me think about student investment. Read more
My husband is a soccer coach for two groups of adolescent boys (ages 10–14), and a common struggle he faces are the parents who like to coach from the sidelines during the games. They want to help position the players and tell them what they think should be happening. He likens this to the videogames where a joystick controls everything on the screen. The parents are trying to be helpful and guide their children on the field, but this practice can actually stunt the growth of the player. The players need to hone their decision-making skills on the field, make mistakes, and recover from them. They need to learn how to work as a team and talk to each other on the pitch. This isn’t to say that coaching doesn’t happen throughout the game, but my husband chooses those moments carefully, and the coaching becomes a conversation on the sideline. Do the kids make some mistakes? Clearly, the answer is yes. Could a mistake cost the team a goal or cause them to lose a game? Yes again. Is there a chance to improve and correct the problem in future games? Absolutely. Read more
Recently, I had the opportunity to work with collaborative teams in a school whose principal had asked them to add common formative assessments to their arsenal of assessment practices. Many of these teachers had worked hard to develop classroom formative assessments that were used to diagnose student learning issues. This school also had a sophisticated response system that used benchmarking and progress monitoring assessments to identify and monitor students who were not yet at grade level in reading and math. Each of the teams I met with included teachers who were worried about the amount of time it would take them to write common formative assessments, give them to their students, and work collaboratively to plan how to respond to the results of these assessments. Early in our workshop, I asked teachers to talk together and brainstorm a list of their best hopes and worst fears about this work. Not surprisingly, several teachers articulated their concerns about adding more assessments in addition to those they were already using. My next step, then, had to be to explore the “why” behind this work. Read more
Professional relationships are at the center of my work in education. Read more
I have been visiting Rum River South, a small, pleasant school in rural Minnesota. Along with their partner school, Rum River North, they are staffed with a cheerful and dedicated group of educators determined to center their teaching on learning. Read more
Author’s note: In the spring of last school year, I offered 2 posts from a 4 part series on using assessments to increase achievement. The first was in regards to defining ‘learning’ beyond numerical indicators and the second was on holding high expectations for all learners. The third and fourth posts will be offered this fall.
August is the time of year when finalized standardized test scores are released to school districts and shortly thereafter shared publicly. It is a time for celebration, frustration, disappointment, and sometimes even a sense of panic or urgency that leads to questions such as, “What are we going to do? How do we share these with our community?” Read more
I have been working with a teaching colleague in her first and second grade combined classroom for the last number of months. Together, we have been exploring ways to enhance young learners’ abilities to self-assess. Over a series of lessons, we have focused on inviting students to practice some of the sub-habits needed for self-assessment (I have outlined these habits in a previous blog post). This past week, we were working on the sub-habits of revisiting, revising, analyzing, and decision-making (all important parts of a strong self-assessment process).
The average…I can’t remember how many times as a student I was told, “It will all average out in the end.” It was said time and time again that things would be fine even if I had a low score here and there. Read more