We define singletons as those teachers who are the only one who teaches a grade level or subject area in their school.
When schools define themselves as professional learning communities, one of the hallmarks of that work is to work with a collaborative team with whom teachers learn together. Read more
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
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
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
One thing I’ve learned as I work with schools across the country is that there are a lot of different definitions collaborative teams are using for common formative assessments, and what these teams think common formative assessments are influences how they write and use these assessments with their students. In our book, Collaborating for Success in the Common Core, we offer the following definition to help teams make sure they’re able to use their results to improve student learning Read more
As I’ve worked with teams across the country in developing and using assessments, I’ve heard some interesting beliefs about essential standards (e.g., “We’re not allowed to do this in our district,” or “Our curriculum only requires us to teach the essential standards”). Comments like these have convinced me that there are lots of educators who have misconceptions about the first of the four essential questions we ask a collaborative team in a PLC to answer. That question is: “What do we want our students to know and do?” 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
When I work with teachers who are writing and using formative assessments in their instructional practices, they will sometimes tell me that while they understand how important formative assessment is, they also feel that they are wasting instructional time because they already know which of their students have learned the targets being assessed. They say that some students always need help, and others have asked questions during the instruction that show they don’t even have a basic understanding of the target being taught. For these students, they wonder why they should even give them the formative assessment. Read more
Since schools and districts transitioned to using the Common Core standards, I’ve been asked a number of times to show teachers how to write questions similar to the new high stakes tests. For example, PARCC has three different types of ELA items: Evidence-based selected response questions, technology-enhanced constructed response items, and prose-constructed response items.
Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to work with collaborative teams at meetings where they are discussing the results of their common formative assessments and planning how they will respond to the information from them. In some of these situations, I’ve been asked to work with teams who are frustrated by a process that they see as being overly cumbersome and complex, as well as not very helpful in their work. Read more