Tuesday, September 29, 2015

15 important things to know about formative assessment.

We had Chris Jakicic co-author of Common Formative Assessment visit recently. She provided some excellent insight on Common Formative Assessment (CFA) practices. Below is a list of important things to know regarding formative assessment according to Jakicic. 

1.   Formative assessment is one of the top things teachers can do to improve student learning. The more we formatively assess kids and respond the better it is for their learning. 

2.   You can include multiple learning targets (I can statements) within one CFA.

3.   According to Jakicic, we should target the following when deciding which standards to CFA: 
·        Targets that are difficult or lead to misconceptions.
·        Targets that are prerequisite. 
·        Targets that are most necessary to know.

4.   If it's an essential standard (I can statement) you must reassess. We need to know if the corrective instruction worked or not. When you reassess within standards-based learning, substitute the old grade w/ most recent grade. 

5.   Within a four point standards-based scale kids that fall in the "advanced" category can be given work that they can do without teacher assistance for enrichment.

6.   It is recommended that we use a CFA every three weeks and it is important that we focus on a response to the assessment. Otherwise why use a CFA if you we aren't going to address the data from the assessment and make changes?

7.   We should focus on 1/3rd of the total amount of standards. 

8.   In terms of singleton teachers - vertical teaming may be most appropriate. We don't need to group all four English teachers together and expect them to generate common formative assessments that address grades 7-12. We have very different expectations for grade 7 when compared to grade 12. It might work better to group teachers into smaller groups to develop CFAs. For example: combine the 7-8 English teacher with the 9-10 English teacher. Groups may need to be more fluid. It might be helpful to have teachers "own" certain standards. This would prevent a lot of overlap/review that may occur. 

9.   Formative assessment is when the cook tastes the soup in the kitchen prior to sending out and making adjustments. Summative assessment is when the soup is sent out to the customer for the final taste test. 

10. Students that receive special education or Title I services should be given the assessment at grade level with the proper accommodations. We can't determine whether or not the child is proficient if they are receiving a version that is below grade level. Do all special education/Title I teachers have copies of the learning targets (I can statements)? How well do our tier 3 interventions align with these learning targets? 

11. Write questions at the lowest reading level possible and provide clear concise directions without giving the answer away. Point the way.

12. Assess kids when they are ripe for the assessment and then respond as a team. 

13. When we begin to write our proficiency scales always start with writing the proficiency level first. It is important to realize that you may not always have an advanced level. Sometimes proficiency is as high as the student can achieve. 

14. If using multiple choice for a CFA consider the following: don't use negatives, don't give away the answer, don't use C for the answer all the time, and avoid all of the above and none of the above. 

15. Constructed response may be most appropriate when seeking what the student really knows. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

1:1 Chromebook Initiative

On Monday, October 19th the Rugby Public School District will roll out the 1:1 Chromebook program beginning with students in grades 6-8. Each student in these grade levels will be provided a Chromebook to be used in the classroom.  Teachers will be using computer technology for instruction, assignments, projects, research, and assessment. 

This is an exciting time for the students, our families, and our district. We believe these devices will help develop 21st Century Skills like creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. We are exploring additional devices in grades 5-12 in subsequent school years. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Where do we fit 21st Century Skills?

Where do 21st Century Skills fit into our overflowing bucket?

As a district we have placed an overwhelming amount of time into professional learning communities. We are proud of our work in this area, but where do we fit 21st Century Skills into the equation? The Common Core Standards will certainly help with this process, but they alone will not provide the skills that our students will need. 

Ken Kay, a leader in 21st Century Education offers some perspectives on 21st Century Life. 

#1 The Workforce: 

As I read this perspective I thought to myself, how much should schools listen to businesses? Ultimately we do prepare our students for future jobs, but how much should business dictate what we instill into kids? We know jobs are changing drastically and schools should be in-tune with the workforce and business. 
"Fifty years ago, our K-12 system focused on the routine. Memorization and "following instructions" were the order of the day, and they fit nicely into jobs that were routine manufacturing jobs in hierarchical organizations." (Ken Kay, 2013)
21st Century jobs will most certainly continue to require non-routine tasks. The ability to critically think, problem solve, create, communicate, and collaborate will be very important.

#2 The Flat World

Kay references Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat. Technology and information has essentially flattened our world. According to Kay the flat world requires individuals who are self directed. 
"A corporate executive at Apple told us in today's environment, if a person needs to be managed they are no longer employable." -Ken Kay
How are we intentionally preparing students to be more self directed? How long on average do your students sit passively and listen to the content taught to them? Are there opportunities for them to guide their own learning or is it solely teacher directed?

#3 The Service Economy

According to Kay 80% of jobs are now considered service orientated. Service jobs include: doctors, lawyers, educators, health care providers, accountants, bankers, and etc. How do we embed some of the soft skills that may now be over looked due to other curricular requirements or needs?

#4 Citizenship

Kay explains that the demands of citizenship are much more today than at any point in our history. The challenges we face today require more complex thinking, more empathy, more civility, and more interactivity. How intentional are we in addressing the complex social issues and concerns within our community, nation, and world?

#5 Pace of Change

How are we preparing students for a life time of change? The average number of different jobs an average person has in their life is 10.4. As mentioned by Kay, our grandparents prepared themselves for a single career. Change was not part of their work life.
"The only thing that is constant is change." -Heraclitus
#6 Design and Innovation

I like the comparison Kay provides between traditional and innovative educational environments.
The most successful schools will be called upon to create innovators who will be the drivers of the new economy. It becomes more about creating and applying the knowledge gained rather than absorbing it.

#7 Information

The rate of information change has increased dramatically. Teachers are no longer the holders of all knowledge. Knowledge can be accessed easily which makes content less important. How do we transform our classrooms and schools from content mastery to content and skill mastery?

#8 Technology

We have to be careful with technology. We think the device it self will be the silver bullet to boost achievement and increase student engagement. Technology can certainly leverage our ability to instill 21st Century Skills, but a paper and a pencil can be equally effective.

"Technology is not, nor should it ever be, the sole focus or the end goal."

What role do 21st Century Skills play in schools? What will our students need to know and be able to do in the year 2025?

You might check out the trailer to Most Likely to Succeed, a promising documentary on the current factory model that exists in most schools. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

2015-2016 Parent Advisory Committee

Dear Parents,

Parental involvement is one of the most important pillars of a great school.  Two years ago we started a Parent Advisory Committee (PAC). We have had several parents take part in various meetings over the last few years. We typically organize four meetings each school year and try to target dates that do not conflict with other activities.

These meetings have opened communication between our school district and parents.  The topics you can expect at these meetings are insight on current initiatives, feedback from you on our school programs, and a book discussion.

We will tentatively schedule our first meeting for this school year at the Rugby High School Board Room on November 23rd at 7:00PM.  Please go to the link below if you are interested in taking part in this opportunity. 

Parent Advisory Membership Link: http://tinyurl.com/qhsf5vn

We will discuss 12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid: Leading Your Kids to Succeed in Life by Tim Elmore.

Parents play a key role in their child’s success in school.  I am looking forward to hearing feedback from you and building better relationships within our school community.      

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The mental health debate - less talk and more action

As someone who has lost a father to mental illness I can relate to the struggles that many of our students are going through as they enter our schools. It seems we only talk about mental health when there is a tragedy. Once the tragedy occurs we say, "yeah, why aren't we addressing this issue in North Dakota or in America?" We talk about it and then the discussion fizzles. It's like a vicious cycle. We realize there is an issue, but we're never really interested in fixing the problem.

Schools are not properly equipped to provide the services in this area. Most schools have only a counselor, (which they are often overwhelmed with testing and college and career readiness) and a principal (and we know how many different hats they already wear). Every school district regardless of size struggles to provide adequate mental health services.

I think there are a few areas that really hinder our efforts in providing adequate mental health services in schools.

  • These services require additional funding and many of our school districts are already struggling to provide a competitive teacher salary.  
  • There is a shortage of mental health providers across our state and nation. Many facilities have long waiting lists and we often wait weeks to get a student into a facility. This is difficult when the student needs immediate help from trained professionals. 
  • Lack of communication between agencies and schools. We operate as separate silos and it becomes very difficult to find the services needed. The school is often left in the dark on potential strategies for the student due to patient confidentiality and lack of communication. We need strategies and advice from trained professionals. 

There are many states with school-based mental health services that require partnerships within the local community. Rather than mandating six hours of mental health training for all staff we should be researching partnerships within the community to support our school's efforts. Mental health awareness is important for our teachers, but we need specialized individuals to provide strategies and consultation services.

As we welcome our students back from summer vacation we need to stop talking and start taking action.

An example of a bill regarding school-based mental health services from Oklahoma.