“Whether we plan it or not, culture will happen. Why not create the culture we want?”
—Carmine Gallo, The Storyteller’s Secret
Have you ever started a new book and just . . . lost interest? Have you ever started a book and found yourself so enthralled that you could hardly put it down? Each school year, educators have the opportunity to write a new story—and the beginning of that story is critical. No matter the setting (face-to-face, virtual, blended), many educators begin with a similar focus: creating a culture of learning. Time dedicated to this work varies. Some educators feel the pressure of beginning content and spend minimal time focused on culture. Some believe the work of culture never truly ends. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, do you know the impact your assessment practices have on the culture you are trying to create? Read more
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
“How did the simple act of identifying strengths first in your students’ writing make you feel today?”
This was the question I posed to the eight teachers sitting around the table, after our fourth grade professional learning community (PLC) team had spent half an hour analyzing (not scoring) student writing artifacts. Read more
Have you ever made soup and had it end up being too salty? Or you realize it needs more flavor? Or, somehow, even though you followed the recipe to a tee, it just didn’t quite turn out like you had hoped? 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
While working recently with a high school mathematics team to write quality common assessments, I asked the teachers to bring in their previously used unit tests. They had already been giving common assessments for about three years as collaborative teams, so their unit assessments were in agreement. However, I noticed that every assessment item was multiple choice on every exam throughout the department.
When asking the algebra team about the reasoning behind only using multiple-choice items, I was told it was necessary in order to quickly analyze the data as a team and give results to students. When I asked what teachers or students did with the results, I was met with silence. When I asked how teachers and students learned from the common misconceptions shown on the exam—again, silence. Read more
About seven years ago, I decided the kitchen needed to be painted. Never having painted before, I quickly learned painting is messy and tedious and far from one of my favorite activities. Filled with indecision, I decided on a lavender paint color to replace the eggshell yellow that had been on the walls. After my husband and I started the work, I realized the color was not what I had hoped. Read more
Several years ago as an instructional coach in a district new to the work of collaborative teams in a professional learning community, I learned we should calibrate our grading of common assessments. I decided to ask our Algebra teachers if they would be willing to take on this task. My request was met with resistance as the teachers explained to me it was an unnecessary use of time since they had already worked together to write the test and had even determined how many points each question was worth and typed those points on the side of each item. I offered to bring donuts and a couple of student samples if they would agree to score a test together. They finally gave in. Read more
It’s been well-established in the literature around professional learning communities that team-developed common assessments can serve as powerful tools to monitor students’ level of proficiency in the essential standards (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Many, and Mattos 2016). Read more