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#Winning: Anticipating Errors as Preventative Instruction

I was recently working with a team to develop common formative assessments, and they were having some difficulty generating appropriate questions and tasks for the standards being addressed in this particular unit of study. 

We talked through the standards, as well as the learning targets, and brainstormed assessments methods to match the various elements of learning required for students to master the concept. Still, we were in a pause. 

So, I decided to change course. 

Instead of further belaboring the learning targets and what student proficiency would need to look like, I engaged the team to consider what was preventing student learning in the first place. Read more


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Are You a Tough Grader or a ‘Tough Grader?’

The caricature of the tough grader is familiar to most; the teacher who only doles out As or top marks to the truly elite performances. They often begin grading a stack of papers with the idea of holding back the As early on, in case someone deeper in the stack produced a truly exceptional paper.  

Often, this caricature has a sense of pride about the competitive nature of grades, whether that competitive culture was inadvertently or intentionally created. Read more


Assessment Quick Wins

Okay, I will admit it…the title of this blog post is a little misleading. 

Assessment is something that deserves thoughtful and extended consideration. “Quick” has the potential to move teachers and students from valid and reliable assessment to assessment that is surface-level. 

However, I also know that when educators decide to shift assessment paradigms and adjust daily practices, looking at the whole assessment topic can seem daunting, and knowing where to start can feel out of our reach. Read more



Know Better and Do Better

I plan to explore self-assessment with my blogs this year. One of my favorite things about writing for this blog is that it causes me to reflect and formalize my own thinking about assessment topics. Maybe it is all of the talk about resolutions, or the fact that my own resolutions have not quite taken hold (Sorry elliptical machine! I promise to visit you soon!), or this looming birthday of mine, but the pulls of both reflection and action are pretty strong right now. Read more


Improving Professional Practice Through Assessments

It’s widely supported that using common formative assessments is one of the best ways to systematically improve student learning (DuFour et al. (2016); Reeves, 2004; Ainsworth, 2007). The impact of these assessments is best realized when teams collaboratively unwrap the essential standards into smaller learning targets, use formative measures to monitor student learning of those targets, and use the results to engage students with meaningful feedback and support to propel learning forward (Bailey and Jakicic, 2019). Read more


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Is Your ‘Standard’ Really a Standard?

We, more often than not, define the term “standard” as “something someone needs to know or be able to do.” We use this definition to develop curriculum, create assessments, plan instruction, and provide feedback to students and parents. No one can be sure when we started subscribing to this definition; however, we do know it is in direct opposition to the dictionary’s definition. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a standard as ”something set up as a rule for the measure of quality.” So, which is it?

In this brief article, I argue that the dictionary has it right. Further, I assert that it is our responsibility as educators to align our pedagogical practices to the dictionary meaning to ensure that our standards are, in fact, standards. Read more


Assessment: Why Bother?

The title of this post is intentionally provocative, and since you’re reading it, there might be some ideas rattling around in your head that might be aligned with that provocation. Let me be clear from the outset, however, that I am not on a rant to eliminate high-quality, effective evidence gathering.  

I do struggle, though, with the pursuit of numbers simply for the purpose of rank and sort, or mathematical computation as per a formula or computer program.   Educators are familiar with the work of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and the four questions originally defined by the DuFours and Eaker. I want to zero in on questions 3 and 4:   Read more


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Next Generation Assessment: Moving from Counting to Quality

In Growing Tomorrow’s Citizens in Today’s Classrooms: Assessing 7 Critical Competencies (2019), Cassandra Erkens, Nicole Dimich, and I outline how critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, self-regulation, digital citizenship, and social competence are the necessary skills for students to succeed as future citizens. In the book, we highlight two important, overarching aspects of teaching and learning in the 21st century.

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Implementing Changes in Grading Practices & Policies

This is the fourth and final entry of four blog posts about facilitating healthy grading conversations in schools. The first three posts (read posts one, two, and three here) outline a tremendous amount of work that may span a few years’ worth of preparation before implementing changes in grading practices.  

It’s a common mistake to assume that implementation simply involves pulling the lever while saying “ready, set, go!” Even after a solid foundation of establishing coherence, clarity, and readiness has been built, much care and attention must be given to the implementation phase.  The Guiding Coalition is active through the entire implementation phase. Members of the team help to facilitate conversations and consensus processes. They also engage in enacting staff decisions and monitoring the effectiveness of their efforts. The implementation phase offers the formal launch to a public process that is rife with opportunities for things to go askance. During the implementation phase, the Guiding Coalition is still actively pursuing evidence of effectiveness and troubleshooting concerns along the way.

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