Topic: General


Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About! Using Academic Conversations to Assess Student Understanding

“Something to Talk About,” recorded by Bonnie Raitt in 1990, happens to be one of my favorite songs. While listening to it the other day, I began to think about the lyrics in a different context: meaningful assessment of student conversations. Tapping into student discourse is one of the most informative means of examining student thinking, particularly with students who might be culturally or language diverse. According to Zaretta Hammond, “One of the most important tools for a culturally responsive teacher is instructional conversation. The ability to form, express and exchange of ideas are best taught through dialogue, questioning, and the sharing of ideas.” (Hammond, 2015, p.149).

There is seemingly vast potential for educators to gather authentic evidence through the observation of academic conversations. Teachers can gain valuable insights into their students’ conceptual understanding and the language skills they demonstrate in real-time, authentic conversations. But as I reflect on the various assessment practices that I typically observe, I wonder if we are capitalizing on this powerful source of information? Are educators assessing the quality of rigorous academic conversations and providing support when needed to enhance that quality? Read more


Data as a Flashlight: Using the Evidence to Guide the Journey (Yours and Theirs)

My granddaughter was struggling with the latest topic in her grade 3 math class and her recent assessment result validated that she did not fully understand the learning target of patterns and the equations that supported them. Determining patterns is not always an easy process as this example would indicate:

2, 6, 3, 9, 6, 18, 15…

With a big test coming up, my daughter-in-law reached out to me to help get my granddaughter past the block and gain some confidence in her ability to master the concept. We connected online a few times over the days before the test and worked through a lot of questions and strategies. As she grasped the concepts and different ways to get to the solution, I could see her confidence soar. By the time we concluded all of the practice and she routinely got every solution, she was excited to demonstrate her skills on the assessment. As I write this post it’s been well over a week since the assessment was completed and my granddaughter has not received any feedback.  Read more


New Year….New Me! Revisiting Assessments in 2021

It was with excitement and enthusiasm that I welcomed 2021 until the unthinkable happened and angry citizens stormed the United States Capitol. Frankly, 2020 was a year like no other so I could not imagine 2021 starting off in this way. The list of events that transpired throughout the year making it the most unprecedented included epic fires, social injustices, a pandemic with no clear end in sight and a divisive election among many others.  While everyone experiences the new year transition differently, I chose to focus on deep, intentional reflection, both personally and professionally. 

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Seeing Possibility: Using Learning Progressions to Help Students Climb toward Mastery

Over these past few months, I have come to embrace one distinct truth: things are predictably unpredictable right now.  From the method of instructional delivery, to student access and opportunity to receive academic and emotional support, the dynamics around how we are able to “do school” this year have presented themselves as anything other than consistent and reliable.  Read more


Let’s Talk Strengths and Celebrations

When I am working with teacher groups to analyze student work, our first area of focus is always student strengths. By identifying areas of celebration from the outset, we nurture optimism and hope in teachers, which they can then pass on to learners.

I have seen the power of this approach, and this is why I would love to show it to you in this blog post. By making time to focus on strengths and celebrations, I am explicitly acknowledging the progress educators are demonstrating—and make no mistake, we are doing some amazing things in education right now! Read more


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Enough: (Re)Designing Assessment Practice to Interrupt Racial Inequities in our Schools

Enough.

How many times have you uttered that same word in these past few months? Pause for a moment. How often has the word “enough” emerged as an emotion or direction toward your children? To your spouse or partner? To your neighbor? To your social media feed?

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How Do We Do Common Formative Assessments in a School of Singletons?

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