Thursday, April 26, 2012

Formative Assessment Ideas

We have been dabbling as a school on what our common formative assessments may look like.  I threw together a possible layout of what it could look like down the road. I used Lucidcharts to create chart.  Its not groundbreaking, but I thought it could easily be tied to our RTI program.  An argument one may have is that formative assessment needs to happen on a quicker basis.  My thoughts on this relate to a recent post on standards based grading.  I anticipate these assessments would happen on a weekly basis to check for 4-5 of the major concepts teachers choose as part of their power benchmarks.

Initial ideas of how it would work:

1. Give all students the quick assessment - check for understanding.
2. Students that are not proficient will be placed in our ELA/Math intervention rooms.
3. Small group setting - focused on mastery development of the benchmark assessment.
4. This will allow us to diagnose the learning breakdown faster.
5. Students take a similar assessment to "test out."

Below I posted some recent Tweets from some users in response to my question related to formative assessments.  I was impressed with some responses.

We need to focus on formative assessments not summative assessments as means to improve student performance!

How are you implementing common formative assessments?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Do you ask for feedback?

Recently, we have been discussing grades and more specifically feedback.  I started thinking about how I as principal ask for feedback.  Like most leaders I would say that I don't ask for enough of it.  I have been reading The Leadership Challenge and there is a good piece on feedback.

Kouzes & Posner reference a leader that sought out feedback from his team.
"The feedback that I received was kind of hard to hear...And that was really one of the benefits to the group.  To take that personal risk; to model for the group that it's okay to place yourself at personal risk and take that honest feedback."
Asking for feedback from your constituents is risky business, we may uncover the truth of what is really occurring in our organization.  I think we all know what we will hear from them, but are either too afraid of it or don't want to take the risk of knowing the truth.  As they say, the truth hurts.
"Learning to be a better leader requires great self-awareness, and it requires making ourselves vulnerable.  Modeling that for others makes it easier for them to do the same when it comes their turn." - Kouzes & Posner  
How do you ask for feedback from the constituents of your organization?

I personally need to do more of this! I would be curious to hear how you gather feedback.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thoughts on standards based grading

Tomorrow we will continue discussing grading reform at our school.  We are making small strides towards grading reform.  The chart above is how I envision standards based grading, which is where I hope our journey takes us.

Standards based grading is not easy and difficult to implement.  Below are a few of the must-do's to lay the ground work.
  1. You must decide what students need to know and be able to do when they exit your class.  
  2. Develop the formative assessment of each standard.  
  3. Discussions on how to respond to each student that is not meeting the proficient level. 
  4. What interventions will be used to develop mastery?
  5. How will the team decide to gather the evidence of learning?
I am not an expert nor have I gone through the entire process.  We are learning from mistakes as we go.  A few of my PLC teams have completed their powerstandards or essential learnings for each course.  These groups will begin developing their methods of assessments.  I believe this is the most important part of the whole process.  

Please provide some feedback to the graphic above.  What are your thoughts on standards based grading? 

A good source to spark a grading discussion is Elements of Grading by Doug Reeves

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Are we stealing dreams?

I am a visible leader.  I realize that my time to develop relationships with students is during lunch, before school, after school and during class breaks.  During these rounds I often stand by and listen to conversations of students, this helps me to feel the pulse of the school.  This morning as I was doing my usual ritual of talking with students a few students were talking about school.  Their conversation centered around how they couldn't wait to graduate and get out of here.  These comments resonated with me all day today, and couldn't help but think about our latest read on #edfocus.

Seth Godin recently published his manifesto for school reform titled, "Stop Stealing Dreams." You can find it here and it is free to read! Stop Stealing Dreams  Godin calls for a revolution in education.
"In order to efficiently jam as much testable data into a generation of kids, we push to make those children compliant, competitive zombies." - Seth Godin
When I think about those students comments and the way the world is going, are we becoming irrelevant?  My hope is that students love to come to our school, and that they are challenged. We should be instilling skills that will help them in the future not cramming as much testable data into them as possible.  I have asked this question before, can we teach these skills and still make AYP?

Is the system stealing the dreams from these students?

Is it just that time of the year?  Could it be teenagers just being teenagers?  Or worse yet, the truth?

Bill Ferriter asked this similar question recently in his blog, do you make ANY time for skills that AREN'T easily tested but ARE incredibly important? 
"But the sanctity of performance/testing/compliance-based school is rarely discussed and virtually never challenged." - Seth Godin
I feel the current focus of #edreform will only continue to hinder and decrease the joy of learning.  As leaders we are faced with a choice, worry about test scores or focus on 21st century skills.  Currently, test scores rank supreme.  I am fully aware that accountability will not go away, and we must find ways to combine accountability and these important skills.  Until then I hope that these comments were influenced by being just 'that time of the year.'

Thursday, April 5, 2012

21st Century Skills vs. Standardization

In education we find ourselves locked in a struggle between developing 21st century skills and skills that are needed to do well on standardized tests.  In our current state of standardization it is very difficult to focus specifically on skills that matter.  These are skills like; problem solving, communication, collaboration, information and ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) literacy, flexibility and adaptability, self direction, leadership, and responsibility.  Students will need to have these skills to be able to compete in the future.

As I finish up 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in our Times I question myself, are we doing enough to prepare our students for the future?  Or are we too focused on increasing proficiency levels at any cost?  Is it possible to meet proficiency levels and instill these very important skills?

Trilling & Fadel reference a Thinkquest called, The SARS Project throughout the book as the type of project we should be using to prepare our students for the future.  The team communicated and collaborated online.  Most were in different time zones which required quite a bit of coordination.  The students won multiple awards for this project.  Their passion for the topic sparked their creativity, and deepened their understanding.

Trilling & Fadel found,
"Using knowledge as it is being learned - applying skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity to the content knowledge - increases motivation and improves learning outcomes."  
This is very important and gives me hope that we can mesh 21st century skills and standardization together.  Let's use the knowledge needed to reach high proficiency levels and incorporate these skills into what is being learned.

Sir Ken Robinson,
"We do not grow into creativity, we grow out of it - or rather, we are educated out of it." 
I sat and watched my two children play at a children's museum recently and I was amazed at their curiosity.  I sat and wondered what if school was like this?  Both are preschool aged, and my hope is that they never lose their curiosity for learning.   Students need to be able to innovate and be creative now and in the future.  Focusing mainly on facts, memorization and basic skills is not enough.

What is your school doing to prevent educating the creativity out of students?