Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Assessment Literacy, SLOs and New Standards

Assessment is one of the main components of the educational shifts that are occurring in our district, our state and across the country -assessment of learning, formative assessment "for learning", growth measures, assessment of teacher effectiveness, Student Learning Objectives (SLOs), assessment of College and Career Readiness, and alignment of assessments to the rigor of the new standards.  Teachers, administrators, parents, students and community members need to become "Assessment Literate". 

 Let's start with what Assessment Literacy IS.  

I did some searching and came up with three definitions for Assessment Literacy.  A good starting point for discussions with your own staff might be "Define Assessment Literacy" and see what they think!

W.James Popham, in his 2009 blog post "Is Assessment Literacy the Magic Bullet" defines it as follows, "Assessment literacy is present when a person possesses the assessment-related knowledge and skills needed for the competent performance of that person’s responsibilities. 

Rick Stiggins, in his 2001 book Student Involved Classroom Assessment, states that
 " those who know the meaning of assessment quality with all of its nuances and know that one is never justified in settling for unsound assessments are assessment literate. "

The Standards for Teacher Competence In The Educational Assessments of Studentsdeveloped by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Assoc.,and the National Council on Measurement in Education in 1990, defines 7 areas where teachers should be able to demonstrate competency to be considered assessment literate.
  • Teachers should be skilled in choosing assessment methods appropriate for instructional decisions.
  • Teachers should be skilled in developing assessment methods appropriate for instructional decisions.  
  • The teacher should be skilled in administering, scoring and interpreting the results of both externally-produced and teacher-produced assessment methods.  
  • Teachers should be skilled in using assessment results when making decisions about individual students, planning teaching, developing curriculum, and school improvement.
  • Teachers should be skilled in developing valid pupil grading procedures which use pupil assessments.  
  • Teachers should be skilled in communicating assessment results to students, parents, other lay audiences, and other educators.  
  • Teachers should be skilled in recognizing unethical, illegal, and otherwise inappropriate assessment methods and uses of assessment information.
What does Assessment Literacy Look Like?
Teachers - Reference prior student knowledge when planning lessons. Tier lesson expectations to stretch all kids based on regularly collected formative assessment data. Develop summative assessments that accurately measure what the standards are asking the students to DO. Regularly use assessment data to help with the design of instructional units. Can explain to parents the steps necessary for their student to move forward on the learning path, using data they have gathered on the student. Can explain to administrators how data is used to guide student learning. Reads assessment data reports and can understand student growth and achievement on state or standardized assessments. Use technology as a part of their assessment plan.  Use effective feedback strategies to help students monitor their own learning.  Have a variety of assessment strategies to choose from that are appropriate to the skill or task to be assessed.

Students - Can explain where they are in their learning - and what they need to do to move forward. Know what their strengths and weaknesses are as learners and can use appropriate strategies to support their own learning. Have a set of strategies to use when asked to do a performance task, answer Evidence Based Selected Response Questions, or write an argument, synthesis or analysis. Can use assessment results to decide what they may still need to spend time mastering vs. items they may have missed because of a careless mistake.  Can utilize a variety of study strategies (metacognition) to help them "internalize" information and build knowledge.

Parents - Can explain where their children are in their learning and what can be done at school and at home to help move learning forward. Can talk with teachers about their student's strengths and weaknesses as a learner and what learning approaches may work best for their students. Can look at assessment results and understand what is being measured and how this measurement reflects their student's learning.

Community Members - Can look at assessment data reported in district newsletters or local new articles and understand how this reflects the learning environment being provided in their local schools. Can look at the "District Report Card" information shared by the ODE and understand the factors that go into assessing the district - and what influences each of those factors.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Common Core State Standards for ALL Students

The COMMON in Common Core State Standards is not just referring to the fact that the majority of states in the US have adopted these standards for Math and English Language Arts.  Here in Ohio, where Ohio's New Learning Standards include not just the CCSS but also new standards in Science, Social Studies, Fine Arts, Business, Physical Education, Foreign Language and more, the expectation is that COMMON means for all students in all districts.   That's right, ALL students, no matter what their ability level, grade level, economic background, ethnic background or primary language.   The challenge for teachers is not only how to implement the new standards effectively ,focusing on text complexity, depth of learning, mastery of content, vocabulary development, fluency etc. but also making sure that all students are "stretched" as learners and show growth over a year. Wow.  In order to differentiate learning within a classroom to meet the needs of all students, teachers will need to focus on three things - Complexity of Content, Delivery of Content, and Assessment of Learning. 

In any classroom, there will always be some students who could "take the test" on the first day of a unit, and pass it. Those students are showing mastery of grade level standards and need to be given opportunities to build deeper learning of the material.  As you design your lessons, consider how you can build "stretch" moments into the group discussions, small group activities and individual work.  Building deeper learning doesn't necessarily mean moving them forward along the continuum of learning for that particular standard - in other words, don't just give them work from the next grade level or your future units.  Instead, provide them with tasks that encourage them to learn and apply different strategies to solve a problem,  real world scenarios that require them to think about their knowledge differently or the chance to support peers.

On the other end of the learner spectrum are the students who are not able to begin working on the grade level mastery standard because they need additional supports, may be missing key pieces of knowledge, may be ELL or developmentally may not be ready to hit that " mastery" target.  Formative assessments are key to understanding where these students are in their learning.  As you design your lessons, consider how you can include "scaffolding" moments into the group discussions, small group activities and individual work.  Once you identify the starting point for learning for these students - you need to map out a path that will help them move toward success on the grade level standard.  They may need modified materials, extra "scoops" of instruction, different kinds of practice activities and the chance to learn from "think out -louds", peer modeling and model materials/manipulatives.

For that big group in the middle, you also need to map out their path to mastery of your grade level standards. Evidence Centered Design is a great starting point for thinking about lesson design. Start with the learning targets and identify what it is that students need to DO. Decide what you would be able to circle, highlight, point to or observe in their work that will show you  that they can DO it.  Now, focus on building a lesson or series of lessons that will get them to the point that they can DO it.  Consider  lesson pacing, how to include a variety of activities, how to provide effective modeling, when and how to insert feedback that helps them to move their learning forward, scaffolding, and how to build in chances to make connections to real world scenarios. Look for materials that offer grade appropriate text complexity and will help them to build understanding of key content vocabulary.

How do students build knowledge in your classroom?  During lessons that are teacher driven, are you providing written and oral directions?  Are your directions clear and easy to follow? Do you have consistent procedures in place in your classroom that help students transition from one activity to the next within the lesson.  Lessons that are student driven also need structure. What kind of lesson framework do you have in place that would allow students to anticipate what will happen during a lesson?  Are the resources that you are providing to the students appropriate for the rigor of the standard? Is there more than one way for them to access the material (think eBooks, audio books, hands-on materials, visual prompts) What are you doing to achieve a balance between teacher centered delivery of materials and student centered acquisition of knowledge (independent reading, computer research, group work, peer sharing)

"One size fits all" strategies for assessing progress towards mastering a standard won't work in our diverse classrooms.  Evidence Centered Design is a useful way to look at designing assessments. Take a look at the learning targets or objectives for your unit. Once you know WHAT a student needs to DO and have identified what this DOING looks like, you can build authentic assessments.  Think about what EVIDENCE you can collect to point back to the "DOING". Formative assessments might include simple "thumbs up or thumbs down" quick checks, entry and exit cards or keeping a checklist during group discussions or small group observations. Summative assessments may be computer based, may be portfolio or project based or may be adapted to offer students some choice in how they will be assessed.  Be flexible.  Some students may not be able share "what they know" in the same ways as the larger group.  Think about how these students CAN communicate, rather than focusing on the can't.  Utilize clickers, picture cues, computer aided communication, modeling and drawing instead of writing or offering a scribe as ways to help these students share their learning with you and their peers.   For some students with Severe Cognitive Disabilities, you may be assessing them along a grade band of standards or by using the "essence" of the standard. ( See - Ohio Academic Content Standards - extended)

As our state shifts to using the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) teachers must become more attuned to making sure all students are showing growth.  By planning  how we are differentiating by complexity, delivery and assessment, we can make sure to meet the needs of all our students.
Evidence Centered Design
This is the process that PARCC is using to design the Next Generation Assessments for Math and ELA.  It starts with "CLAIMS" - very broad statements about what learners should be able to do.  From the claims - Teachers can identify "what can be circled, highlighted, pointed to, listened for, demonstrated" that show that the student is doing what the claim states. Then, teachers decide what EVIDENCE will be collected to prove this. Lesson plans can be developed that will make sure the students have the necessary learning opportunities to ultimately DO what the claim states.  In a classroom setting - the claims can be Learning Targets or Unit Objectives...or SLOs!


Ohio's Academic Content Standards - extended 
These were initially designed to be a guide for students who would be using the state Alternative Assessment, but the grade band vertical alignment, the essence of the standard (think enduring understandings) and the "continuum of complexity" also makes a great starting point for thinking about how to differentiate by complexity in a diverse classroom.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Education Worth Fighting For - Keeping CCSS In Perspective

We are so fortunate to live in a country where a free, public, standards based education is available to anyone who wants it.  Common Core Standards are important. They will ensure that all students have access to an education that will prepare them for college or a career - no matter what district or state they live in. How awesome is it that the majority of states in our country are working together on the new standards- sharing resources and ideas. Sometimes I think we lose sight of that as we struggle with how to make the transition to the new standards, plan for how to prepare students for college and careers, debate teacher accountability, and argue over school funding. I know that sometimes I have felt overwhelmed with all of the changes, so I spent this evening putting things in perspective.

 I spent some time  looking at education articles on Google News - and found the story of Malala Yousafzi, a 14 year old Pakistani student who has advocated for the continued education of girls in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, in opposition to the Taliban policies being implemented there. She was shot today while on the school bus.  Last year, the New York Times did a documentary on her family while they were temporary refugees from their home during fighting between the Taliban and the Pakistan Army in their community. Her main concern, that her father's school for girls and her books would be destroyed.  In the video she shares her dream to become a politician, so she can impact change in her country. She is in serious condition.

Just this past week I worked with one of our 5th grade ELA teachers on ideas for teaching the book, The Breadwinner to as student who is ELL and speaks Spanish. The book tells the story of Parvana, a young girl who live in Kabul and must deal with bombings, the loss of family members and the need to work around Taliban restrictions to earn money for her family. Parvana has also lost her access to education.  Parvana reminds me of my former student, Mina, a refugee from Iraq who could not attend school while a refugee in Jordan because her academic records were lost in Iraq.  As a HS senior here, she struggled with learning English while maintaining a full course load and taking the OGT. Sometimes she worked on homework until 3:00am.  She is now a student at TriC.  Her main focus, the need to finish her education so that she can become a pharmaceutical engineer.

A few weeks ago, I attended a lecture by William Kamkwamba, the author of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. As a child in Malawi, he was forced to drop out of his school because ongoing drought and crop failure prevented his family from paying his $80 a year tuition for his school.  Forced to continue his education on his own, he finds an English book on electricity at the small library in his village.  Using the book, he teaches himself how to build a windmill to generate electricity for his small home. He builds the windmill from discarded materials. He makes enough electricity to run a light bulb and charge a cell phone.  Reporters visiting his village discover his windmill, and from that exposure he now has access to a university education here in the US.

As teachers, we need to remember that in our school, in our community, in our state, in our country and across the world, students struggle everyday just to attend school. They are overcoming hunger, lack of supplies, lack of access to books, financial hardship, homelessness, inadequate buildings and social restrictions to pursue an education.  What are we doing in our classrooms to ensure that all of our students have access to the same quality education? How can we work through our own discomfort with change to make sure that we are ready to implement Ohio's New Learning Standards by 2014-2015?

My next blog will focus on Ohio's Academic Content Standards - Extended -- How we can identify appropriate access points to Ohio's New Learning Standards for all of our students.

New York Times Documentary on Malala Yousafzi - (warning -some graphic images)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind - William Kamkwamba
The Breadwinner - Deborah Ellis
CIA World Factbook - School Life Expectancy Data (how long a student can expect to be in school)
Unicef - Gender Equity In Education
World Bank - Access to Secondary Education Worldwide

Monday, September 17, 2012

The End of "Pick C" Meet the Next Generation Assessments

Does the label "Next Generation Assessments" bring to mind a new Star Trek movie, where educators on board the USS PARCC  boldly go where no teacher has gone before?  It certainly seems as if there are as many acronyms tied to the Next Generation Assessments as there are in the NASA space program...EBSRs, TECRs, PCRs....it can be overwhelming to begin to think about it all.

We ARE boldly going forward.  As you begin to really look deeply at the prototype assessments in ELA and Math, you begin to see just how exciting the changes really are....and how the use of Evidence Centered Design (think Universal Design) is being used to create assessments that are authentic, engaging and really connected to what it is the kids are supposed to "know" and "do" in each grade level.  Wow, think about it, a state test that measures mastery on all the standards - not having to guess at which standards might be "tested".  A state test that offers students the chance to explain or justify an answer. A state test that may have more than one right answer.  A state test that allows students to show how well they can apply what they learned in authentic contexts. A state test that you don't have to set aside weeks to "practice and prepare for" because it is aligned so well to the standards you are teaching - and the kinds of activities you are doing in class - that by the time the kids take the test - they should already have a pretty good idea of how they will do. Even if you are NOT an ELA or Math teacher - everyone can benefit from looking at these prototypes....because they are a good way to begin discussions on how to rethink assessments to fit into the new "growth model" focus of the new Ohio Teacher Eval System. They are good examples of why we all need to be teachers of the LANGUAGE of our content area - building vocabulary by teaching it in context, building knowledge through opportunities to read  and write about challenging, authentic materials.

So let's start with speaking the language of the Next Generation Assessments

Evidence Centered Design - starting with claims (overarching statements about what students should be expected to do) assessment planners work backwards to identify

  • What student products will allow teachers to say with assurance that the student has mastered the content standard...what do the products look like?

  • What are the classroom activities necessary to get to this assessment?

  • What evidence can we point to, highlight or underline in a student response that we will be looking for?

  • Have we designed tasks to elicit specific evidence from students to support our claims?

  • From all of this...begin to build task models that can be used to develop items...think of these like "patterns" that can be followed.

Think about how you could use this same process, right now, to look at the assessments - both formative and summative - that you currently are using in your classroom. Use "essential questions" or "learning targets" to form your "claims"

EBSR - Evidence Based Selected Response Questions - these are replacing the old style "multiple choice" question. EBSRs will actually be a pair of questions - the first will be a standard selected response (multiple choice) question... the second will give the student a chance to indicate words or passages from the question or text they have read that helped them to answer the question. There might be multiple answers they can select, not just one. These questions will be used as a type of scaffolding for performance task items by helping students focus on important information or build knowledge.

Think about how you could begin to use EBSR questions in your classroom as a formative assessment tool - giving you insight into student thinking or as a way to help with metacognition and close reading strategies. Think about how you can begin to teach the vocabulary of your content area - in context.

TECR - Technology Enhanced Constructed Response Questions - these are called constructed response because students need to demonstrate an understanding of the content being tested beyond just selected a correct response. Technology allows students to click on key sentences in a text passage, drag answers onto a diagram or number line, run simulations to gather data, or manipulate objects to build a model.

Think about how you can use often free, online or software resources to engage students in their learning. One of the key reasons for including TECRs was to promote the continuous integration of technology into classrooms on a regular basis. There are lots of ways to work around limited tech availability...don't let limited hardware or internet bandwidth prevent you from trying new ways to integrate tech.

PCR - Prose Constructed Response Questions - items formally known as "extended response" or "essay questions" They will be used in Performance Tasks - in Math and ELA. By far the biggest shift in thinking about assessments, PCRs will expect students to not just write about a prompt, but instead to analyze, synthesize, or support an argument using authentic text material - or multiple authentic texts. The most important expectation... students must be able to go "back into" the text to pull information to support their ideas. EBSRs will help students build knowledge or focus their thinking as a prelude to the Prose Constructed Response questions.

Think about how you can give your students the opportunity to read a variety of literature and informational texts. Narrative writing experiences aren't just story telling - think about how narrative can be used as informational writing - in science, social studies and math. Review writing prompts you use in your classroom. Are they text based? Here is an example of a traditional prompt - We have been learning about Benjamin Franklin - Write about a time when you acted like an inventor. Here is how to make it text based - You have read three different articles/essays/books about Benjamin Franklin. All of the authors seemed to feel like he was a true inventor. Using evidence from at least 2 of the readings, support your argument that he is or is not a true inventor.


Ohio Resource Center - resources for Ohio's New Learning Standards

Math Interactive Websites/Tools
Interactive Boards Lessons
  1. http://www1.center.k12.mo.us/edtech/sb/templates.htm
  2. Everyday Math and the Smartboard (Interactive Board)- lesson templates
  3. Scholastic.com Math and Science Smartboard Lessons
  4. Interactive Activities for Smartboards - eMints Themes
Online Manipulatives
  1. Houghton Mifflin Math For Kids  Grades 1-6 homepage
  1. Kindergarten
  2. First Grade
  3. Second Grade
  4. Second Grade eManipulatives
Doing Math Online
  1. Using Google As A Graphing Calculator
  2. Wolfram Demonstrations    math interactive manipulatives - requires a download
  3. SAS Curriculum Pathways - math (requires FREE district registration)
  4. Illuminations Website - NCTM Interactive Lesson Activities

Interactive Activities for ELA
  • ReadWriteThink ( National Council of Teachers of English) Interactive Tools
  • PBS.org Interactive ELA Resources
  • Scholastic Schools - Interactive Resources (good for interactive boards)
  • SAS Curriculum Pathways ( Middle School and High School) Requires a FREE district account to be created - students can access from home or school.  Best tool - the Writing Reviser that allows them to write an essay - then it analyzes the essay for them - mechanics, structure, voice and gives them hints for organization and audience.
  • BBC Learning Resources - for all grades
  • Thinkfinity.org Content partners include Smithsonian, NatGeo, ReadWriteThink, Wonderopolis and Kennedy Center for Performing Arts

Monday, September 3, 2012

Metacognition, Formative Instruction, Next Generations Assessments and New Learning Standards

Think about the last time you had to study for a test or read a text passage that was difficult for you to comprehend.  What strategies worked for you?  Maybe you are a highlighter...and created pages of yellow and pink highlighted passages or notes.  Or, perhaps you are a flashcard creator - going through piles of 3x5 cards as you memorize vocabulary or important dates.  As your read the passage, did you find yourself going back and re-reading?  Most successful students have a toolbox of strategies to choose from when they are faced with a new learning challenge or an impending assessment. AND...they know which strategies to use when. Metacognition is the ability to recognize how you think and come up with a plan for your learning.  As we shift to Next Generation Assessments and New Learning Standards, it is important to also plan how to shift our students thinking about their thinking!  

Metacognition and Formative Instruction
Formative Instructional Practices (FIP) allow for time in a class to assess FOR learning.  One of the key activities in any FIP centered classroom is self reflection and the chance to review instructive feedback.  This time for reflection might be centered around a think-pair-share activity, which gives students the chance to reflect on their own understanding, compare it to a partner then build on it within the broader group.  Keeping a reflection journal is also a helpful tool to build metacognition. Time needs to be set aside at the end of class or a lesson to allow for this reflection.  In order to really build metacognition, it needs to focus not just on a "What we did in class today" prompt but more on "What I learned in class today...what didn't I learn, What do I need to learn more about and What helped me to learn today" prompt.  Students in a FIP classroom should also have the chance to plan their learning. Starting with a clear learning target, students and teachers can work together to decide how to best work toward achieving the target. Entrance cards and pretests give students information on where their existing strengths and weaknesses are. Students with good metacognition are better at predicting their success on assignments because they have a realistic view of their own knowledge level.  Activities that help students to connect new learning to prior knowledge also help students to reflect on how they are learning.

Metacognition and Next Generation Assessments
It is test day and a few of your students can’t wait to take the test because they KNOW that they are going to “ace” the test. And then when the test is returned with a low grade they are stunned, blame you for writing a terrible test and toss the test paper in the trash. These are students who have low metacognition. Spending time helping student to understand the types of questions on the test, talking through strategies for preparing for those types of problems and having students reflect on how they have prepared for tests in the past will help to build metacognition. The Next Generation Assessments pose a unique new problem. In the past, students taking state tests had a significant delay between when the test was administered and when the results were returned. There was a real disconnect between their taking of the test and how the results related to their actual learning.  The new assessments will be administered online. Students will receive almost immediate results. The new assessments will have built in tools that will help students who have an awareness of what testing strategies work best for them. Highlighters, scratchpads, and drag and drop fields will be available for all students to use. This means that students need practice in how to highlight key and supporting information, write out possible solutions to problems and organize information in a way that makes sense.

Metacognition and Ohio’s New Learning Standards
There are a lot of words that have been used to describe the new learning standards - rigorous, deeper, demanding, mastery.  If we really want students to have a deeper, more complex understanding of the standards, we need to also work at teaching them how to learn differently.  Just memorizing lists of vocabulary words or math formulas in order to take the test on Friday, then forget it and move on isn’t going to work anymore. In order to really read along a continuum of text complexity, students need to recognize when they aren’t comprehending a passage and draw from a variety of reading strategies to help them to build that comprehension. This is metacognition. Where to start? Giving students permission to “write in the books” - either in pencil or on post-its - allows for a “conversation” with the author by asking questions as they read, highlighting challenging words or key concepts, reading different types of text beyond the textbook all help them to acquire knowledge.   Helping students take effective notes - from “tagging” key ideas to using column style (or Cornell style) notes helps to build understanding and gives them a tool to use to study for summative assessments.  Graphic organizers, Frayer model notecards, responding to blogs and online discussions all help students frame their thinking.  Talk with students about how YOU learned the material.  Do “Think-out-louds” when you are solving problems in front of the class.  Use short term (one activity or period) collaborative groups with clearly defined roles and tasks to give students the opportunity to compare their learning to the learning of their peers. Try to pick tasks for the group that they could not accomplish on their own.  

As we move ahead this year with conversations about changing the way we think about teaching, let’s make sure we are bringing our students along with us!  


Friday, August 17, 2012

School Supply Shopping for the Common Core

I am back from a great vacation in Isle of Palms, South Carolina.  The weekend I arrived in SC was the statewide "tax free" weekend for school shopping. Wow...we don't have THAT in Ohio!  The first thing my daughter wanted to do when we arrived home was to go out and buy her school supplies.  I remember how exciting it was to buy new crayons and pick out cool pocket folders. Now that I am a curriculum director, I still get excited about the start of school - but I have a different list of "supplies" that I think teachers need for this coming school year.

Mrs. Shryock's Common Core Supply List 2012-2013

Language Arts

  • Assignments focusing on helping students to acquire vocabulary...in context.
  • Variety of fiction and non-fiction materials that create a continuum of complex texts for student reading.
  • Graphic Organizers and strategies to help students build and organize knowledge 
  • Engaging writing prompts that allow students to write persuasively or support an argument
  • Opportunities to go back into the reading materials to find information to support a discussion
  • Opportunities to work with a group to build reading comprehension by listening to and commenting on the arguments and reflections of others.
  • Activities that help students build fluency with basic math facts, formulas and applications
  • Opportunities to apply math concepts in real world settings
  • Assignments that allow students to persevere in solving a problem and explain the process they followed
  • Manipulatives and Simulations that will allow students to model mathematics
  • Opportunities to work with a group to build math knowledge by listening to and commenting on the arguments and problem solving strategies of others.
  • Assignments focusing on helping students to acquire vocabulary...in context.
  • Lab activities that fall on a continuum of inquiry from teacher led and controlled to student driven.
  • Assignments that allow them to research science topics to build arguments.
  • Assignments that teach strategies for reading technical papers or science journal
  • Opportunities to read non-fiction materials related to class topics
  • Assignments focusing on helping students to acquire vocabulary...in context.
  • Opportunities to do real world tasks that involve being presented with a problem that needs to be solved.
  • Opportunities to design their own experiments based on their observations and research.
  • Opportunities to use technology tools to gather design data, present data and simulate experiments
Social Studies
  • Opportunities to read primary source materials related to events being studied.
  • Assignments focusing on helping students to acquire vocabulary...in context.
  • Opportunities to read non-fiction materials related to class topics
  • Opportunities to go back into the reading materials to find information to support a discussion or debate.
  • Time-line activities that help students organize and make comparisons using historical information
  • Real world lessons that help them develop financial literacy skills
  • Assignments that allow students to write an argument or persuasive paper based on research.
  • Opportunities to use technology tools to gather data, present information and collaborate on ideas.
Fine Arts
  • Opportunities to read non-fiction materials related to class topics
  • Assignments focusing on helping students to acquire vocabulary...in context.
  • Assignments that integrate the fine arts into topics being covered in other content areas.
  • Opportunities to see how technology can be used within the arts as a way to create, collaborate or share art and music.
Physical Education
  • Opportunities to read non-fiction materials related to class topics
  • Assignments focusing on helping students to acquire vocabulary...in context.
  • Assignments that continue to build life-long fitness

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

PARCC Education Leader Cadre -Chicago - Part 3

I am home from Chicago and have had a chance to reflect on all of the information that was shared at the PARCC ELC Chicago Conference - At the end of the conference, we were asked to think of three take-aways.  As I prepare for the 2012-2013 school year, I will spend more time thinking about not just changes in the standards but how to best work with my colleagues to shift the way we think about teaching students.

Take-away 1
The goal of making the next generations of assessments computer based is to get more instructional technology into classrooms- not just to be used for assessment, but to enrich the learning experience of all students.
What we can do now to maximize the technology we have in our districts?
  • Expose students to simulations, interactive tools and manipulatives. Take advantage of the many free resources that are available on the internet. You can use these as whole class lessons, center activities, computer lab lessons or homework activities.
  • Provide ongoing professional development and support for your teachers and students so they are comfortable and confident using the technology that is available to them.  Have discussions with district teams based on the CCSS. Identify WHAT students are going to be expected to do as they work toward College and Career Readiness.  Then do an assessment of your existing technology.  What do you currently have that will help the students to do research, collaborate, communicate, build knowledge, access complex reading materials, and build vocabulary and math fluency? How can you maximize the use of this technology?  

Take-away 2
Understanding by Design is being used to build the assessments and can be used by classroom teachers to design their own lessons and assessments to support the CCSS.

Guiding Questions for Developing Assessments and Lessons

  • What claims will we use to begin to build our assessments?
  • What student products will allow teachers to say with assurance that the student has mastered the content standard? What do the products look like? What samples of student work can be used to come to a common understanding of what mastery, developing and beginning work looks like?
  • What are the classroom activities necessary to get to this assessment?
  • What evidence can we point to,highlight or underline in a student response that will show that the student has mastered the standard?
  • How can we design tasks that are designed to elicit specific evidence from students to support claims

Take-away 3
Build a culture of literacy. All teachers need to be teachers of language.

We are not all teachers of reading. We need to all be teachers of the language of our content areas. The sooner teachers can acknowledge that they need to give students the language tools they need to access content in math, science, history, art, music, physical education, technology and business, the sooner we can start to build a culture of literacy in our communities. Think about helping your students to build a tool box that they can use to master your content area.
Things to include in the student literacy toolbox
  • Specific vocabulary for your content area (Tier 3 vocabulary) Words should be taught in context rather than as a list to be memorized. ( Tips for Teaching Vocabulary)
  • Specific writing conventions to communicate ideas in your content area ( how to write a hypothesis, a proof, a research question)
  • Lots of challenging reading materials related to your content area- this builds content vocabulary. Ask them questions that require them to go back into the reading to support their answers. (Finding A Balance Between Fiction and Non-Fiction) (Text Complexity)(Text Based Questions)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

PARCC Education Leader Cadre-CHICAGO PART 2

This morning....freezing in the hotel ballroom. We started off the day with a whole group meeting. Ten states are represented- Ohio ,Oklahoma ,New Jersey ,Rhode Island ,New York, Mass., Arizona, Maryland, New Mexico Ohio's model curriculum is being used as an example by some of the other states...yay OHIO! We had the opportunity to hear more about how the new assessments are being built...using a process very similar to Understanding by Design. The writers are beginning with the Language of Claim....evidence centered design in the classroom. Then identifying what student products will allow teachers to say with assurance that the student has mastered the content standard. The next step is figuring out what do the products look like and then finally deciding what are the classroom activities necessary to get to this product. The assessment items can then be developed using these claims by identifying what evidence can teachers point to,highlight or underline in a student response that they will be looking for. The tasks or items are designed to elicit specific evidence from students to support the claims. Finally, writers can build task models that can be used to develop lots of items. More specifics on this to follow when I get back from the conference. Today was really about big picture. I had the opportunity to go to the 96 floor of the Hancock Building tonight and look out across the city of Chicago. Road plans, city design and building detail were immediately visible. Sometimes it is difficult for classroom teachers to get this same big picture view of curriculum. I think that by first focusing on big ideas...like College and Career Readiness, Building A Culture of Literacy, Embedding Research Skills Across the Curriculum, Building Math Fluency...then focusing on what it is we want the students to be able to ultimately do or produce at each grade level, teachers will be better able to see how individual units and lessons will fit into the scheme of the Common Core Curriculum. It is part of the job of the ELC members to help communicate these big ideas.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

PARCC Education Leader Cadre-Chicago Part 1

Ok...still hot, but at least I am now in Chicago. Spent a wonderful afternoon and evening exploring Chicago with some of the other Ohio ELCs...what a great way to get to know each other better. Some things I learned today: How to use technology to work collaboratively and accomplish a performance task: The task- get a group of 7 people, who have never met each other face to face, to downtown Chicago. See something interesting and have a meal. How we accomplished this using technology: Text messaged everyone to meet in the hotel lobby. Text messaged a bread crumb trail of directions to two people who did not meet us in the lobby so they could find us as we traveled by L into Chicago. Took pictures of our location to send to one person who still couldn't find us while at Navy Pier. Used Google Maps app walking directions to get all 7 of us from Navy Pier to the restaurant for dinner. Did a search for the address of the cupcake place on one smartphone while another member found the walking directions. We found yummy cupcakes...and the Hershey store too. The importance of clear, fixed, targets We rode the L from the airport into Chicago. To get to Navy Pier, we had to transfer from the Blue line to the Red line. The large, colorful maps that were displayed everywhere made it very easy to see our final destination and what stops would be made along the way. We were able to get to our destination without constantly asking someone for directions or if we were on the right track. Tomorrow the conference begins with a whole group intro meeting. I know Mass. Teachers are here...curious to see what other states are represented.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

PARCC Education Leader Cadre Meets in Chicago

What a HOT evening!  I am glad that there is air conditioning in my bedroom as I pack for my trip to Chicago and the PARCC Education Leader Cadre meeting.  I am really looking forward to meeting the other members of the Leader Cadre from Ohio - we have only spoken briefly by phone.  I am especially eager to meet educators from other PARCC states.  This is such a good opportunity to share ideas, learn more about the Common Core and focus on the shifts that need to occur in education across our state.  I will be posting regular updates over the next three days.  A good starting point for all of you who are following along on this PARCC journey with me would be to go over the PARCC frameworks for Math and ELA and  Appendix A of the ELA Common Core.  During our sessions this week - we will be spending time focusing on these documents.

Here are the links for you:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Walk In the PARCC Ohio Style

This past Friday I left the beach for a few hours to participate in my first Ohio PARCC Education Leader Cadre (ELC) meeting - via conference call.  Over the next 3 years, I will be working with a select group of educators from Ohio, and the other PARCC states to help make the transition to the Next Generation Assessments, the Common Core Curriculum and the New Ohio Enhanced Academic Standards a smooth one.

What is PARCC - Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers - 24 states
Focus is on ensuring that students who graduate from HS: 

  • Have deep content knowledge
  • Have well developed critical thinking, problem solving and analytical thinking skills
  • Have developed the ability to persevere when working on a task, demonstrate resourcefulness,  understand the need for committing to a task and can set short and long term goals 
  • Have the social and academic skills necessary to navigate through the work world or the world of higher education.

The role of the  ELCs includes:

  • Communicating information to parents, community members, teachers and administrators
  • Providing professional development and training locally and statewide
  • Reviewing and providing feedback on the preK-12 and Higher Education alignment of content and college/career readiness standards along with assessments
  • Providing feedback and suggestions for resources and technology integration 

The ELC is made up of  24 people

  • Teachers
  • Administrators
  • Curriculum Directors
  • Gifted and Talented specialists
  • ELL instructors
  • Special Educators
  • Higher Ed staff
  • Representatives from professional organizations like SECO, OCTM, OEA, OFT, OASSA,OCTELA, ORC
  • ESC staff
  • Parents - to be added
  • Community Members - to be added

Key Information From My First Meeting:

  • ODE has a P-16 Continuum - to make sure that Ohio's children start ready for k-12 education and end ready for a college or career path.  The focus beyond academic content is on developing social and cognitive skills to help students be successful.
  • The national Common Core Standards in ELA and Math have been adopted in Ohio
  • The ODE developed Enhanced Academic Content Standards (OEACS) in Science, Social Studies, Fine Arts, World Language, Financial Literacy, Entrepreneurship, Business Education.
  • The goal of the OEACS is to provide guidance to educators for identifying points of access to the curriculum for all students in Ohio.
  • Next Generation Assessments are being designed to give students multiple ways to show what they know
  • PARCC is developing assessments for gr 3-8 and HS in ELA and Math for 2014-2015
  • ODE is developing assessments for Science - one for elementary, one for MS and end of course exams in Biology and Physical Science for 2014-2015
  • ODE is developing assessments for Social Studies - one for elementary, one for MS and end of course exams for American History and Govt. for 2014-2015
  • ODE has developed Alternative Assessments for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities beginning in 2013.  Designed to be adaptive, on demand and performance based, student RESULTS will be submitted on line.  Training will be provided beginning this fall using online modules.
  • ODE is working on making sure that by 2014-2015 the assessment items will be aligned to both the current and the new standards.
  • There will be a transition plan in place to help students who are going to be "in the middle" of the current OAA and OGT assessment plan and the new Next Generation Assessments.
  • New standards for ELP/ELL instruction are being developed.
  • Early Learning Support and assessment updates, including KRAL are currently being done for birth to age 3.
  • ODE is adding Differentiated Instruction Staff

PARCC Assessment Design Map
Things to note :

  • The OGT is being replaced by  End of Year Exams in ELA grades 9, 10 and 11 AND 3 End of Course Exams (for traditional or integrated math models) AND End of Course Exams in Biology, Physical Science, American History and Govt.
  • The Diagonistic and Mid Year Assessment are optional - and formative
  • The Performance Based Assessment and End of Year Assessments are REQUIRED - and summative

Follow my blog for ongoing updates, keep track of the Common Core in Ohio by looking at the info under my "Common Core Tab" at the top of this blog or follow me on TWITTER - edtechgirl - look for the hashtag #OHPARCC

Monday, June 25, 2012

Digging Up New Curriculum Ideas

Summer...finally.  I am spending some time sitting in my office surrounded by piles of papers, books and projects.  Buried in each pile are a lot of good ideas for teaching to more rigorous standards, using inquiry in science, integrating technology, helping students understand math...and many more.  I am sure all of you have similar piles - be they on your desk, in a book bag, on the dining room table or electronically as files on your computer.   During the school year it is easy for all these good ideas to get covered over by the daily info like student worksheets, attendance bulletins and faculty updates or the seemingly endless supply of vendor proposals and sales brochures.   Summer is the time to do some workplace archaeology.

I spend my time off in the summer as a field supervisor for the Archaeology Field School of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  What I have learned over the past 8 seasons is that first, you have to scrape off the "disturbed dirt" in the plow zone to get to the interesting stuff - much like clearing off your desk and getting rid of all the miscellaneous papers and forms that might be covering up information your really can use.    Once you get to the interface - that area where all the interesting stuff actually is - you need to take time to examine what you see, troweling down through important features carefully looking for key artifacts.  So, as teachers or administrators, pick out the information and ideas that you think will be most useful to you as you plan new or revised assessments, new lessons and new activities for the coming year - and get recycle all of the rest.   I have two files that I am working on for the summer. The first file contains vital information that I need to reference in order to make decisions about ordering supplies, planning  etc. The second contains articles, hand written notes, and lists of resources that I want to spend more time thinking about before the next school year starts - my key artifacts that will help me to put together a clear picture of what I can do to continue to make the transition to the new Common Core, teacher evaluations and assessments.

If you'd like to learn more about what I do in the field, you can follow the CMNH archaeology blog written by Dr. Brian Redmond  http://brianredmondarchaeology.blogspot.com/2012/06/bailing-bone-beads-and-bioturbation.html ( I am in the picture on this week's post - at the right with the blue bucket)  I am working on developing unit materials that tie Common Core Standards and Ohio Model Curriculum to the archaeology work being done at the museum - we are focusing on pre-European contact populations in NE and NW Ohio.  There are many math, science, language arts and social studies standards that can be addressed using the real world data being generated by the museum team.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Shifting to Common Core - Building the Plane While We Are Flying It

With all the change that needs to occur in the educational culture of Ohio between now and 2014-2015, we, as educators,  can not afford to wait until the last minute to shift our professional thinking, our evaluation plans, our assessment methods, our grading practices or our course content.  This reality has left teachers and administrators throughout the state trying to figure out different ways to "build the plane while they are flying it".  As I take time to reflect back on all of the discussions, workshops, articles, conferences and parking lot conversations I have participated in over the past year, I have begun to identify the plane parts that really need to be in place going into the 2012-2013 school year.

The Fuselage - every plane needs a solid body to attach the parts to.   In our district the "fuselage" is made up of the administration team, the k-12 curriculum teams, the grade level teams, course departments, tutors, and support staff.   As we move into next year, we need to make sure that these groups communicate effectively, have the right data or information they need to make decisions and have adequate time to collaborate.

An Engine - In order to keep moving forward, a plane needs an engine to provide the energy to keep it up in the air.  Energy in education comes from innovation and the sharing of ideas. I think there is a misconception that new ideas come from only new teachers.  It has been my experience that sometimes it is the more veteran teachers, who have a solid understanding of classroom management and their curriculum, who are more willing to try new grading ideas, new assessment ideas, and new approaches to teaching.  We have a lot to learn from each other as content shifts grade levels, we adjust to teaching content to a greater depth or with more rigor, and we all shift the way we think about how to assess and support student learning.  The more reading we do, the more conferences we attend, the more websites we use for resources, the more we collaborate...the more energy we generate for our district.

A Tail - Some of you might argue that wings are more necessary than a tail - but remember, we are building the plane as we fly it.  The tail provides stability and direction for the plane.   There are two pieces to our district "tail".  First, we need to take a good hard look at the data that we have available to us to make decisions that impact student learning and growth.  Then, we need to decide what additional data we might need and how to collect it.  Secondly, we need to work together to build a revised set of district level SMART goals, that can be used to drive building level SMART goals that can be used to create classroom level SMART goals.  These goals will help to keep us on course as we move toward 2014-2015.

As we  all pack up our classrooms and look forward to summer break, we need to pick one of these parts that we are willing to spend some time thinking about over the summer and come back with new ideas to share with each other.

Have a WONDERFUL summer break!  It has been my pleasure being part of the Bay Village team.
Check on my blog over the summer, I will continue to share ideas and resources.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Yours, Mine or Ours-Teaching All Children Through the Common Core.

One of the advantages of my job as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction is that I get to go out and about to classrooms across content and grade levels to watch teachers and students in action. I don't know which students have been labeled what, I just get to see them all participating in their classrooms or activities.  This year I have seen an Amelia Bedelia fashion show, heard a gym full of starting string players make great music together, tapped words with Kindergarteners,  listened to second graders share military stories from their families, played in an orchestra with HS musicians, and shared the enthusiasm of MS Lego builders.  I have also led many discussions on what the Common Core and the Ohio Model Curriculum will look like in our classrooms.  In order for the Common Core Curriculum to REALLY be common to all of our students, we need to start with the understanding that all of the students are OUR students.

There  is a much used African proverb, "It takes a whole village to raise a child". What it means is that the village must take responsibility for that child.  A school is like a village. A classroom is also like a village.  As the new Common Core Standards are implemented, with their increased demands for rigor and depth of knowledge, a lot of teachers and administrators are wondering what this will mean for students who have been identified as "special ed".  It is the intent of the Common Core to raise expectations for ALL students and to make this education available to as many students as possible in a regular education setting.  This is a shift in how we think about "special education".  As educators, we need to move away from the thinking that if a student doesn't fall in the "norm" it is someone else's responsibility to educate this child. We need to stop thinking of Special Education, as a place and think of it more as a partnership.  It is all of our responsibility to have high expectations for our students and to differentiate our instruction to allow them to grow as learners.  We need to start acting more like a village and less like remote islands.

It starts at the top with district leaders.

  • What professional development do teachers need to help them plan lessons that will challenge all students in their classrooms?
  • How can co-teaching partnerships be supported and developed?  
  • What data can be collected to help teachers and building principals make informed decisions about educational supports and interventions? 
  • How can we continue to educate parents about their role in their child's education?
  • How do we identify resources that teachers can use to make the Common Core accessible for all students? 
  • How will we develop grading policies that accurately reflect the progress of all students on mastering grade level content standards and college/career skills like communication, collaboration and research?
  • How can we contribute to the state-wide discussions on graduation requirements and college/ career readiness to make sure that all of our students will have what they need to access education and training after their k-12 education?

Teachers also need to reflect on their own classroom practices:

  • How do you collaborate with peers and support staff to take "shared ownership" of all the students in your classroom?
  • What resources might you access to help you differentiate lesson materials to challenge all learners?
  • How are you using formative instructional practices (formative assessment) to help you plan lessons, help your students monitor their learning and help you assess progress?
  • How familiar are you with IEPs, 504s, and WEPs?  
    • What information you can gather from them? 
    • How can you provide feedback to monitor progress? 
    • How can you participate in  developing standards based goals that would help students access the Common Core?
    • How can you participate in designing appropriate modifications or accommodations to help students access the Common Core?
    • How can you help students to work on mastering goals?

Resources to Learn More About Special Education and the Common Core