Wednesday, November 20, 2013

CCSS Storytime - Using Stories To Explain Why CCSS Are Already Working

"Teacher's voices are a superpower", according to Sandra Alberti, a leader in developing strategies and tools to help teachers make the shift to the CCSS.   There is a lot of truth to this.  I know as a classroom teacher, my students and their parents put a lot of value in what I said - both about my content and about being successful as a middle school student.  Our teacher voice also has a lot of power when it comes to helping our peers and our community understand the shifts in teaching that are taking place in our classrooms. Sometimes the best way to help people understand what it is you are trying to say is to tell a story that helps them to create a mental "visual" of what you want them to know.  I took time to think through three of my own CCSS stories.

The first story focuses on the power of collaboration when it comes to really understanding what students are supposed to be able to know and do - and what instructional tools will be needed to get them to that level of understanding. Notice that I included a specific standard within the story.

One of my first teams to really start to work with shifting to the CCSS was my Kindergarten staff. We all met on a hot afternoon in August to dive into the standards for math. Our goal for the day was to make a map of learning for the first few months of the school year based on our New Learning Standards. We spent time deciding how to best  teach to the standard that expects students to be able to break apart numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way. We looked over all of our materials and decided we needed a different way to help students really understand what a number was before they could break it apart. So we made dot number flashcards out of paper plates and sticky dots similar to the face of die or a domino to help them see that a number is made up of parts. After using the number cards in class, one of the teachers shared this with me, “It is neat to see how their little brains work. When I hold up a dot number card for 5, every kid sees it in a different way. One says, ‘ I see two on top and two on the bottom and I know two and two is four and one more is five’. Another says, ‘ I see three, like on the three card and two more dots is five.’They are using addition skills and building a foundation of what a number is. They are just not memorizing a number.”

The second story emphasizes the power of vertical teams working on the alignment of the standards by focusing on one of the 6 instructional shifts we are implementing with the CCSS. In this story, I also pull in some of my own teaching experience. By sharing your own experience in your own classroom, you add a lot of credibility to your story.

Teachers are working across grade levels since the new standards support collaboration vertically by helping teachers see how what they teach builds on past learning and supports future learning.  My Grade K-12 English team is working together to help their colleagues in all subject areas help students to build vocabulary by reading and writing about all types of challenging materials, both literary and informational, and by making connections between a word and its context.  This is one of the key shifts in the CCSS for English/ Literacy. In the world beyond k-12 education, adults continue to add to their vocabulary by experiencing words through the reading and writing they do on the job and for pleasure. Studies have shown that a child’s vocabulary abilities at grade 1 are a predictor of reading comprehension in grade 11.   As a science teacher, I helped students learn the parts of a cell not by using coloring pages with lists of terms and arrows pointing to parts, but through reading articles about cells. Based on evidence from what we read, we made an analogy that cells are like cities.  In our analogy, the city hall would be like the nucleus, the cell structure that houses the instructions for how to do all of the functions of the cell.  Students really understood the idea of “nucleus” and could understand it in context, and write scientifically using the term correctly.

My third story is meant to show the power of aligning assessments to the standards by looking closely at what the purpose of an assessment is, and what evidence of learning it will provide to the student or the teacher. In this story I use my parent perspective to look at tests through the eyes of my own daughter. Personalizing stories help to make connections to people who are listening to your story.

There are two types of tests that can be used along side the CCSS.   One type helps to guide further instruction. The second type can be used to show mastery of the standards. Both are tests that will help the teachers and the students show evidence that the students really know or can do what we expect.   These are tests worth giving, much like, on a larger scale, our state plan for our Next Generation Assessments.  Students who are 9th and 10th graders need to know how to identify a theme in what they are reading, analyze its development through the text,  include how it is shaped by specific details, and provide a summary of the text. It would be difficult to gather evidence that a student could do this by using a test with just multiple choice questions or short answers.  My daughter’s test over her summer reading material helped her show evidence of where she was in her understanding of how to do the skills defined in the standard. She wrote an essay summarizing the novel in addition to citing specific evidence to support what she felt the theme of the story was and how it developed. This was work worth doing and an assessment worth giving.  It helped her teacher understand her skills and her knowledge. It helped Sarah really focus on where she needed to grow as a learner. The work teachers are doing to help guide the development of the CCSS aligned tests through the  PARCC or Smarter Balanced Consortium is leading to new English and math tests will result in a test that is worth giving and not a distraction from learning.

Teachers are great story tellers. Find ways to begin to share your CCSS stories with your colleagues, your administrators and your parents. I know there are some great things happening in our classrooms! Tell your story!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Postcard From PARCC Consortium Meeting in Chicago

It is a beautiful, sunny October day, far better than the last time all the PARCC Education Leaders got together here in the February snowstorm!

Here is what I took away from Day 1 of our meeting:
The Math and ELA assessment development is on track and they will be ready to go for the Spring Field Tests and for implementation in 2014-2015.

Teachers who have served as item reviewers, content experts who have helped to develop evidence tables and performance level descriptors,  item developers, and members of the PARCC working groups focusing on technology and accommodations have all done their part to create a new kind of assessment unlike any prior assessment designed to align to state standards. It is now time to do our part as PARCC ELCs to ramp up our communication across our states about the importance of our new state standards and new assessments.  There are 3 key messages to share.

Key Message 1 : PARCC is a consortium of education leaders leveraging the collective knowledge from multiple partner states to help develop assessments that align to the rigor and high quality coursework detailed in our new standards for English and math.   In Ohio, these assessments will be part of our Next Generation Assessments, which will also include assessments in Science and Social Studies.

Key Message 2: We support tests worth giving that reward quality instruction aligned to the new standards in ELA and Math and serve as a useful tool to guide instruction and chart student learning growth rather than serving as a distraction from focused instruction.

Key Message 3: Technology is allowing us to develop interactive, engaging assessments that will allow all students access to the test by building in multiple layers of accommodations. Just as many teachers know that "we teach what is assessed", we also then must acknowledge that students must regularly have access to a variety of technology tools to build knowledge, collaborate with others and assess what they know.  Here is a page of places to go to find free, web based tools to begin to embed more technology into daily lessons.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How To Use Informational Text In Your Classroom

Whether you are reading this at the beginning or end of your work day, take a moment and do a mental "reading list" inventory.  What works of fiction are you currently reading?  During the day, how many news articles, websites, journal articles, non-fiction books, emails, documents, directions, graphs, charts, maps and diagrams will you be looking at to gather information?  What kind of writing and talking will you do? Will any of it require you to go back into the "informational text" materials to find information to support what you are writing or talking about?  I suspect that many of you spend a great deal of your professional and personal time focusing more on the "informational" side of text then the "literary" side of text - maybe by choice, maybe by necessity.  I know I carry my Kindle around just to grab a few minutes of "story time" for myself during the day.   Students in grades k-12 also need to experience a blend of literary and informational text, in many forms and across all subject areas, to help them access knowledge and ideas they will need to be successful in life.

Ohio's New Learning Standards for ELA/Literacy, drawing from the Common Core ELA Standards for Literacy, include the use of informational text in all grades and content areas as a way for students to gather and build knowledge.  Another way of looking at this it to consider yourself a teacher of the language of your content area.  What skills do students need to be able to read and write like a scientist, a historian or an artist? What strategies might you help them learn to access features of informational text - like charts, infographics, maps, diagrams, tags, interactive data tables?  One of our Bay Village Schools District-Wide Goals focuses on the use of Informational Text across our district. To help you with your understanding of this goal, and to begin to share instructional strategies that will help your students access the "language" of your content area, I have compiled some resources for you.

Define  Informational Text:
What informational text will students be able to use to build knowledge in your classroom?  How will you provide access to a variety of informational text?  What strategies might you help your students learn?

  • Using Close Reading skills 
  • Understanding content vocabulary in context
  • Using a variety of rich, complex text

What might this look like in a classroom?
Mr. Hossak's 5th grade Classroom (EngageNY)
Exemplar Lesson Plans - scroll down to see Informational Text (

Guiding Questions For Instruction Using Informational Text.  (based on - Instructional Practice Guides)

  • How does the unit allow students to persist in efforts to seek evidence for their responses by returning to the info text when discussing or collaborating?
  • What opportunities are provided for students to build on each other's observations or insights around a piece of informational text - including charts, maps, primary docs etc.?
  • What tools/strategies will students be able to use to help them gain content knowledge from informational text?
  • How are questions and tasks designed to help students build academic vocabulary (content or domain specific vocabulary and syntax)?
  • How are questions and tasks designed to require students to use details from the text to demonstrate understanding and support their ideas about the text?
  • What factors have been considered to make sure the text used is at or above the complexity expected for the grade level?





Thursday, August 15, 2013

Seeing The Forest Through The Trees - My Vision for 2013-2014

There is a small section of woods behind my office.  From a distance, it seems like a healthy woods. If you stop and listen for a moment, you can hear a red-shouldered hawk screaming, angry crows and the wind blowing through the leaves.  Once you start to walk the trail that winds through this woods, you begin to notice oak trees that are dying, invasive plants, muddy areas that seem impassable.  You lose sight of the beauty of the woods as a whole. It is easy to believe that the woods may not survive much longer.  But now look again, through a different lens, and you begin to notice a few carefully protected seedlings, fox tracks, and native plants growing in a newly cleared patch of floor.

Now lets take this lesson and apply it to education in Ohio right now.  So many educators, legislators and concerned citizens have stopped seeing the big picture or the positive changes that are beginning to impact the learning opportunities we are giving our children.  Misinformation, misunderstandings and misinterpretation have spread through teachers lounges, board rooms and community centers casting doubt on the validity of the changes that need to occur in education. The path forward to 2014-2015 is no longer clearly defined.

I believe that the vision of a more rigorous education for all students, with equitable access to resources, quality teachers, and opportunities for learning both within and beyond a traditional classroom is still there, if we would only look for it.  I see it in teams of teachers collaborating on engaging units that align to the new standards. I see it in districts who are making difficult decisions and taking small steps toward improving the technology access for their students.I see it in school board members who take an active role in the work of the district.  I see it in PTA meetings that focus on planning support activities for a school. I see it in the work being done to build assessments locally and at the state level that will give students new opportunities to show what they know. I see it in students who are excited about meeting their new teacher or going to a new building. I see it in teams of teachers planning accommodations to help diverse learners be successful.  I see it in teachers who are already back in their classrooms making sure that they are ready for students in the first weeks of school. I see it in the faces of parent volunteers working in our schools.

Here is my vision for 2013-2014
To support a collaborative learning environment where teachers, administrators, parents and community members work together toward the common goal of helping all of our students grow as learners.

I will support this through communication - sharing information with all stakeholders, sharing updates on policy changes, strengthening connections within our district, helping teachers make connections to all of the initiatives going on simultaneously right now - formative assessment, OTES, the new standards, new assessments...

I will support this through resources - providing time for collaboration, collecting and sharing relevant materials, providing training in the use of technology tools, supporting research based instructional strategies that positively impact student learning,  supporting  building and teacher teams in their work around the new standards, providing support and access to a wide range of assessment tools.

I will support this through the collection of evidence - data to help make decisions about learning opportunities, data to help evaluate past learning and to guide future instruction, data to demonstrate growth in our student and our teachers.

2013-2014 is an important school year.  It is a crossroads year for education in our state and in our district. A year that, if we all can commit to working together, will result in our district "growing" as a supportive, successful learning environment.

This year marks my 25th year in education - and I am excited to be spending it with the staff and students of the Bay Village City Schools.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Reflections On A Year Of Educational Shifts

Over the past school year, I have had the opportunity to work with educators locally, statewide and nationally who are all in the process of shifting their teaching to meet the requirements of new learning standards, new professional standards and new assessment designs.   I wish that all teachers had the opportunity to experience this kind of collaborative work at so many different levels.  I have done a lot of reflection on what I have learned and would like to share the top 5 ideas with all of you!

1. Evidence is a key word across all areas of educational shift.   I have jokingly said that I wish I had a sweatshirt that said "Show Me the Evidence".   

  • Evidence Centered Design - the process PARCC is using to develop assessment items that align to the standards.  Teachers can use this same process when writing their own formative or summative assessments, developing Student Growth Measures (SGMs) or creating new lesson materials.   Start with a "claim" - what is it that students are supposed to be able to know or do based on the standard. Decide what "evidence" you would want to be able to point to, underline, listen for, observe to show you that the students can do what you claim they should be able to do.  Plan assessment tools that will allow you to gather the evidence you have identified. Plan lessons and units that will provide the scaffolding students need in order to get to the point where they can demonstrate the evidence of learning mastery that you are looking for.  [Related Twitter Hashtags  #OTES, #Formative, #Assessment, #PARCC, #PBL]
  • Evidence of Teacher Professional Performance - The Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) has been designed, in part, to allow principals and teachers to have collaborative discussions about professional growth based on 10 categories - from lesson design to use of assessment data or classroom resources.  Teachers and Principals are encouraged to collect evidence to support their claims within each of the 10 categories.  Evidence can take the form of a video, student work, observation notes, lesson plans, minutes from team meetings, data charts and more.  Teachers are starting to think through how they will gather and organize evidence of their own performance to bring with them to pre and post observation meetings. [Related Twitter Hashtags #OTES] [Related Resources - ODE OTES Homepage]
  • Evidence of Student Growth As Learners - This is probably the most talked about piece of evidence, and is also causing the most angst among the teachers I have worked with.   How we define "acceptable growth" varies depending on who is doing the measuring - the state, a national assessment, the local district.  The OTES model requires 50% of the teacher's evaluation to be based on a Student Growth Measure (SGM).  Great if the teacher has state data, not too bad if there is a vendor assessment that can be used, but much more difficult for teachers who will need to use Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) and locally developed SGMs.   The best discussions I have participated in focused on first identifying what evidence of mastery of a set of standards teacher teams would look for.  Then, developing the "post test" end of year assessment tool that would gather that evidence.  After that,  a "pre-test" tool, to be given at the beginning of the year to see exactly where students are in their initial ability to demonstrate the standards can be developed.  The hardest piece is deciding what the growth targets should be - and this can't really be done until at least some initial data is collected.  Some of the best discussions I heard focused on helping kids and parents understand what a growth assessment is, and setting high expectations for students of varying ability levels. [Related Twitter Hashtags: #Assessment, #PBL, #OTES]
2. Focusing on Formative Instructional Practice (FIP) will get you a lot of bang for your buck as an educator.

  • 7 out of the 10 categories for Teacher Performance on the OTES Rubric can be directly related to good Formative Instructional Practices - aka formative assessment, assessment for learning  [Free Resources - FIP Your School ]
  • The best way to ensure that students are growing as learners - so they meet their SGM targets - is to do constant "quick checks" of their learning to make sure they are on track - these can be quick questions, thumbs up/down, entrance and exit cards, project based learning activities, discussion times, blog posts, twitter conversations, reflection journals, elbow talks.... and so many more good ideas- for keeping track of where students are and need to go in their learning journeys. [Experts in the field - Jan Chappuis, Rick Stiggins]
  • Giving students effective feedback and getting them involved in their own learning maximizes the use of your in- class and out -of -class time and will help to minimize discipline issues. 
  • Communicating expectations of student learning - clear learning targets - to students and parents helps everyone to understand why students are doing specific work/assignments in a class - and makes it easier to shift to the new standards. [Related Twitter Hashtag: #learningtargets ]
3.  Everyone needs to be a teacher of the language of their content - no matter what grade or subject area.

  • Ohio's New Learning Standards stress the importance of reading informational text across all content areas. [Resource: CCSS ELA appendix A
  • Students need to be able to read and write like artists, musicians, scientists, mathematicians, historians, economists, world culture observers.
  • The best way to learn new vocabulary is to learn it in context - by reading and talking about materials related to the content area. ,
  • [Free Resources: Reading Rockets - info text,  Reading Rockets-vocab InfOhioReadWorks,]
4. Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) Are Very Helpful. With so many changes happening all at one time, we need to be able to have a pretty solid support network that extends out from our classroom to our team, our building, our district, our region and across state boundaries.  It is so helpful to hear or read insights into shifting standards, formative assessment, problem based learning, grading, assessments, and evaluations from a wide range of points of view and experiences.  I think it helps to keep things in context and calm fears that pop-up over a proposed change.
  • Twitter - both as a way to participate in a virtual PLN (#ohedchat, #ohsatchat, #edtechchat, #edchat) and as a way to share ideas and keep up with current info in education. [People you might want to start following: @oheducation , @edtechgirl, @OCSSNetwork, @ocess, @secoonline, @kathyschrock, @infohio, @darkecountyESC,@vocabgirl, @ohiorc_science, @hairynomas, @ohiorc_socst @ohiorc_ela, @ohiorc_math,  @m_bloom, @moiraerwine, @robertjmarzano, @educationgadfly, @ilearnOhio, @octm, @PARCCPlace]
  • Technology Tools - like Google Docs, Edmodo, Blogs help us to share ideas in real time with teachers from across the hall to across the state.
  • Professional Organizations - even if you can't attend the meetings, reading the journals, newsletters and emails helps you to stay connected to current info in your content area.
  • Teacher, Building and District Leadership Teams - help build communication bridges across grade levels, content areas and buildings so you can see how what you are doing in your classroom ties into the bigger picture.
5. The man who moved a mountain started with a single stone.  I use this reference to a Chinese Proverb at the close of most of my presentations.  We are facing a mountain's worth of change right now.  We can choose to stand at the base of the mountain and stare at it, worrying about how large it is, how intimidating it is or how we will have to change in order to move it.   If we do this, we face the risk of being buried alive by falling rocks jarred loose by those who have started to move pieces of the mountain without us.   I say that we must choose a stone to move, pick it up and move it - celebrate the fact that we moved it - and go back to get another stone.  If we all work on moving this mountain together, one stone at a time, we will accomplish great things. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Communication is Key To Success of Common Core State Standards

Do you believe that the Common Core State Standards / Ohio's New Learning Standards are good for kids?  I do.  I am not the only one. My support of these standards is based on Evidence.  For those of you who know me, you will recognize that Evidence is my favorite word when talking about the new standards and the new assessments...and a lot of other changes going on in education.
How we go about communicating this Evidence is key to the success of our new standards. There are 6 major areas of focus:
  • Key shifts in teaching, assessment 
  • Alignment and Rigor - Implementing Ohio's New Learning Standards
  • College and Career Readiness - partnership with Ohio Board of Regents
  • Costs and Budget
  • Technology Integration and Implementation
  • Timelines and Legislation

We need to consider not only how we communicate information around these 6 focus areas, but also who our audience is going to be and what is the best medium to use to communicate with them.  There are 6 key groups of stakeholders:
  • Students - most interested in how changes will effect graduation requirements, how they will be assessed, how they will be able to access/use technology in their learning, how their assignments will change, how they will be graded.
    • `Communication about CCSS 
      • teacher directed, informal through classroom discussions
      • parent directed, informal
      • school directed - for MS and HS students through scheduling/course description changes.
  • Teachers - most interested in how changes will effect their unit/lesson development, how will they keep the creativity in their teaching, what teaching materials/texts will be available for them, what they need to do to make the needed shifts to meet expected rigor of the new standards, what professional development will be available,what is the timeline for implementation, what tech skills they and their students will need, how to make sure students are prepared for the new assessments, how assessment results will impact their teacher evaluation, how to communicate shifts to parents.
    • Communication about CCSS -
      • self directed - through social media, professional organizations, conference sessions, web research/resource materials
      • peer directed - through teacher teams, informal collaboration
      • administrator directed - through staff meetings, building level team meetings, scheduled collaborative time, building newsletters and websites, social media
      • district directed - through newsletters, district website, social media, emails, PD offerings, district level team meetings 
  • Administrators - most interested in planning for technology required to meet expectations for new standards and assessments, how to schedule time for teacher teams to work together on shifting to new standards and assessments, what to "look for" to ensure teachers are making the shifts in their classrooms, how to select/design curriculum that is aligned to the standards, how to tie together work being done around the new standards with the new teacher eval system, student growth measures and formative instruction, how to communicate shifts to parents.
    • Communication about CCSS-
      • self directed - through social media, professional organizations, web research, ESC training, regional and state conference attendance.
      • peer directed - social media, district and building website, newsletters, informal collaboration, continuing ed coursework
      • district directed - through admin team/cabinet meetings, district website, email, District Leadership Team, social media, newsletters, allowing attendance at conferences.
  • Parents - most interested in assurance that their students are learning what they need to know to be successful in college or careers as they grow into adulthood, how much it will cost them in increased student fees or tech costs, how students will be assessed, how teachers will communicate learning progress, what they can do at home to support students, how will classroom technology be used safely and equitably.
    • Communication about CCSS
      • self directed - through websites, local and national news
      • peer directed - through PTA meetings and newsletters, community organizations
      • district directed - through district website, emails, newsletters, BOE meetings
  • Community members - most interested in cost to the community, maintaining local control over curriculum decisions, supporting a quality educational system to keep home values up, schools preparing students to be active members of the community.
    • Communicating about CCSS
      • self directed - through websites, local and national news
      • peer directed - through social and political affiliation meetings and publications, social media
      • district directed - through social media, community newsletters, community forums, district newsletters, local media
  • Public officials- BOE members, legislators - costs to the district and state, how to budget for teacher training, curriculum changes and technology upgrades, how to balance/respond to  opposing viewpoints around adopting the standards,  setting aggressive but achievable timelines for implementation, how to increase accountability for student learning - teachers and admins
    • Communicating about CCSS
      • self directed -through websites, local and national news
      • peer directed - OSBA news and conference, ODE updates
      • district/state directed - Reports from stakeholders at BOE meetings, district website, newsletters, policy updates, legislative updates,  technology planning tools, updates from educational leaders, local media

So where do you find the Evidence that you need to communicate about CCSS and Aligned Assessments?  That depends on who you are communicating to and what you want to accomplish by communicating to them!  Here are some resources to help you get started. 

Resources for Questions/Comments on Common Core State Standards

Main CCCSS and PARCC Websites

ODE Websites Related to Standards and Assessments

Ohio Revised Code

Articles about History of Ohio’s New Learning Standards - Including CCSS and PARCC

Sampling of  Articles Supporting CCSS
Sites That Are Critical of CCSS in Ohio

Other Resource Sites for Info on CCSS or PARCC

Friday, March 15, 2013

PARCC Is Leading To Climate Change

I write this blog from my office near the shoreline of Lake Erie.  On any given day in March, I may look out my window and see snow, rain, sleet, sunshine, gusting wind, or total calm - all within an 8 hour work day.  In Cleveland, we have a saying that if you don't like the weather, just wait 10 minutes and it will change.

I have heard this saying used when talking about the shift to Ohio's New Learning Standards/CCSS and  our Next Generation Assessments/ PARCC  Assessments.  Some people believe that if we just hang tight, that the education "weather" will change and we won't have to make any of these shifts.  I was a science teacher for a good chunk of my classroom career.  Weather is defined as the daily state of the local atmosphere - as measured by temperature, barometric pressure and precipitation.  Weather is variable and can change quickly.  The Cleveland weather analogy doesn't fit with what is happening in Ohio or in education across the US.  Global Climate Change would be a better match.  Climate changes slowly.  It is the average condition of temperature, precipitation and wind patterns in a large region over an extended period of time, beyond even a year.  Human behavior is impacting global climate change. Climate change is happening and we need to adjust accordingly to what the new "normal" is going to be.   

I think that PARCC and the CCSS are helping to shape Educational Climate Change.   Let's look at the components of Educational Climate - student knowledge, assessment of learning, and educational infrastructure and how we can begin to define the new "normal" in education.

 Student Knowledge
  • CCSS/Ohio's New Learning Standards are designed to allow students to work on mastering a more focused set of grade level standards.   By vertically aligning these standards preK -12 and into college/career training, teachers will not have to re-teach material from prior years - but instead will be able to build on prior learning. 
    •  Educational Climate Change 
      • The first few weeks of a course or grade level will be focusing on new material, not review of the prior year.
      • Lessons will be designed to allow students more time to practice and explore new knowledge/skills.  
      • Students will have opportunities to apply their knowledge to real world problems.
      • Lessons will focus on being able to read more complex materials -both fiction and informational.
      • Assignments will focus on writing argumentatively using text based evidence to support ideas across all content areas.
      • Reading will also center around  building vocabulary in context.
      • There will be a balance of learning content and learning thinking skills like problem solving, modeling, analyzing, and questioning skills
      • The use of technology to acquire knowledge, collaborate to build knowledge and to share knowledge. 
Assessment of Learning
  • PARCC is the consortium of 22 states working together to build assessments around the new standards. Through the process of Evidence Centered Design - assessments will be based on "claims" of what a student should be able to do - these claims come from the standards.  Assessment designers and classroom teachers can look at the "Claims" and come to consensus on what "Evidence" they will look for to show that a student can do what the standards claim they should be able to do/know.  Assessments will be designed to be a tool to "Gather the Evidence" that everyone agrees shows what a student knows/or can do.
    • Educational Climate Change
      • Increased use of Formative Assessments (assessment FOR learning)  to help teachers and student monitor progress towards meeting the "Claims". Done on a regular basis, not just at the end of a unit (Summative Assessment).
      • More use of "Growth Measures" to gather evidence of where a student starts in their learning - and where they finish over a given period of time.
      • Technology based assessment tools - that allow for interactive questions, the use of simulations and modeling, built in testing accommodations and engaging questions.
      • Assessment results that are more timely and more detailed.
      • A balance of End of Course tests that measure content knowledge and Performance Tasks that measure mathematical and English "practices" as well as how well a student can apply knowledge to real world scenarios or problems.
      • Shift away from "Teaching the the Test" and toward "Testing to the Teaching"  Assessments that are truly aligned to the standards - so that a teacher who is teaching and assessing in a classroom aligned to the standards should not have to take "time out" to practice for the new assessments.
Educational Infrastructure
  • As the Educational Climate changes, we need to also change the way we think about what "school" is and what tools students and teachers need to be effective learners together.  Ohio's Next Generation Assessments/PARCC and  CCSS/Ohio's New Learning Standards both are helping to define these new infrastructures.
    • Educational Climate Change
      • Blended Learning classrooms where students and teachers use a mix of face to face and web based learning.  This can be done on a small scale, within the context of an instructional unit or on a large scale  within the context of a course by using Learning Management Systems (LMS) to organize student assignment folders, threaded discussion boards, resources and collaborative work.
      • Traditional worksheets, practice workbooks and textbooks are now mixed with eBooks, student developed texts and supplemental materials pulled from a wide range of sources.
      • Teachers who now have a common set of standards not only within a state, but across state boundaries working within collaborative teams - in district and beyond their district using technology as a communication tool.
      • A progression of learning that spans not only the traditional k-12 environment but the preK- College/Career environment.
      • Learning opportunities for ALL students, no matter where they are on the learning continuum. 
      • More technology integrated into the daily learning process.  To quote Marc Prensky - "Assigning the tasks and not the tools." 
      • Data driven decision making with the ability for district and building teams to work together to decide what data is important, how to gather it, where to keep it and how to use it to impact student learning.
As the "winds of change" blow across our state, we can choose to run down into the storm cellar, close the shutters and hope that once the wind stops, we will emerge to find everything just the way it was before OR we can acknowledge that the winds are part of a larger climate change and begin to plan for how to continue to help students grow as learners in our new climate zone.   

Friday, March 1, 2013

Another PARCC Postcard from Chicago

I want to thank the weather and the airlines for allowing me extra time to sit and process all of the new ideas and information I learned Wednesday at the PARCC ELC conference.  Actually, 4 hours of processing time.  Here are my take-aways from our second day of meetings:

Supporting GT and High Potential Learners In CCSS - Joyce Van Tassell-Baska
First, how exciting to be able to learn more about GT and CCSS from such a respected and knowledgeable presenter.
1. Do not mistake differentiation for individualization.  Differentiation is specific to students who are functioning above or below grade level. Individualization is the idea that education should be tailored to meet the needs of every single child. This is a great concept, but few teachers can do it well. Differentiate by complexity, acceleration, depth and creativity.
2.  The ELA emphasis on analyze different genres of complex text and developing both written and oral arguments is a good fit for providing "stretch" for GT students.
3. We should consider talent trajectories, starting with the career path students might follow and working backwards to ensure they are developing the right skills/knowledge.

Resource - Books for the Gifted Child (Baskin and Harris) - out of print, but lots of used copies available on

ELA and The PARCC Evidence Tables  Michelle StieBuckles (NMSI)
What a fun way to end the conference - having the chance to brainstorm ways to "remodel" units of instruction using the new Evidence Tables. These Evidence Tables will be available to the public soon! Watch for more info on these in the future.
1. Use the Evidence Tables to help choose texts, plan units, write assessment aligned to standards. Do not go into the standards above or below your level - but you can use these to see where kids are heading.
2. Will be a great additional tool to use with the Tri-State Rubric columns on alignment/rigor and assessment.
3. We need to help teachers take an honest look at materials they are currently teaching to see if they are getting the most "bang for their buck" out of them.  May be perfectly awesome book or poem or article, but if it only hits on 1 or 2 standards, maybe there is something else that would accomplish the same purpose, but have more options for building learning opportunities.

Read my summary of the PARCC Updates and 6 Month Timeline at this link:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A PARCC Postcard From Chicago

Hi Blog Friends,

Wind is whistling through the crack in my hotel window, snow has been coming down all day...this is February in Chicago.  Inside the O'Hare Hilton,  hot topics of discussion included updates on accommodations for students with disabilities, literacy in all content areas, using the Tri-state Rubric, supporting ELL students and using the standards and evidence tables for classroom instruction.  Since you all can't be here, let me share some "snapshots" from my day.

Can your students explain why literacy is important in their science classes? How do we help them see the importance of literacy and also of being scientifically literate?  Three take aways from this session:
1.  Science teachers ( math too) can use CLAIMS EVIDENCE  REASONING (CER) as a basic formula to help students write scientifically or mathematically with precision.
2. Students can have precision in their reading by using close reading strategies to help them access their textbook, lab procedures, research articles, narrative texts, and informational text.
3. Teachers need to model close reading and CER in science and math.

PARCC News You Can Use
Three take aways from our PARCC update session:
1. Additonal tech preparedness tool targeted to building principals and superintendents will be released in early March.  It will help with gap anlaysis, allow modeling of different scenarios and have additional info on testing windows ( with some flexibility for district start and end dates)
2. Available in April will be ELL draft policies, and Draft subject and grade level performance indicators will be available for public comment.
3. For HS on block scheduling, the EOC exams will be available at the end of semester 1 in the 2014-2015 school year.

Testing Accommodations for Students With Disabilities
Three take aways:
1. Currently doing cognitive research on how students with disabilities interact with PARCC like items. This will help with decision making on accommodations.
2. PARCC does not directly assess k-2 foundational reading skills, so, the 3-11 standards focus on reading independently and with comprehension. Audio text would meet this standard when appropriate.
3. The accommodations manual will be approved in June.

PARCC Lunchtime awesomeness:
Three take aways from my chance lunch encounter with Lydia Stack, former president of TESOL and  one of the writers of  the Framework for English Language Proficiency Development Standards corresponding to the CCSS and Next Generation Science standards.
1. Great ELL insights for teachers of Math, ELA and Science
2. Great VENN Diagram showing relationship of the standard "practices" in ELA, Math and Science
3. ELL research papers and videos

PARCC Assessment Limits in Evidence Tables...scholarly title for " how to decode the numbering/ cataloging system being used to help match "evidence" that will be " looked for" in the assessments with the original standard(s)
Three take aways:
1. There are two types of evidence standards...exact - a direct restatement of the standard and derived- a component of a standard that has been broken into smaller pieces for assessment.
2. Clarifications will be provided to help teachers see how it will be used on a grade level assessment. In some cases, multiple standards may be asssessed in one item (especially true on performance tasks)
3. On the 3rd grade math performance task, which is designed to assess students 75% of the way through the 3rd grade year, second grade major standards may be included to allow students to demonstrate a secure understanding of the standard and how it applies to 3rd grade work. This does NOT mean that 3rd grade teachers need to reteach 2 nd grade materials, only that they should be building on foundations laid in 2nd grade.
More from PARCC Chicago tomorrow!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Playbook For Ohio Education Initiatives...Learning From the Super Bowl

This is Super Bowl Weekend.  Analysts have spent two weeks dissecting every possible factor that could impact the performance of either team in the big game.  Data has been analyzed, portrayed in charts, graphs and pictographs. Data has been talked about, diagrammed and shared via multiple social networks for others to comment on.  No one thinks that this is abnormal - in fact it is expected that the coaching staff from the contending teams would have gathered as much information as possible about the opposition's players, play calling, offensive performance, defensive packages, special team threats.   Commentators will share percentages on field goals made beyond 50 yards, 3rd down conversion rates...and on and on. Plays will be called based on evidence collected from past games.  There are very high expectations for player performance, growth targets are in place, the ability to shift plays on the fly to adjust to what is happening in the game is essential - hmmmm. This sounds very much like what we, as educators, should be doing to prepare for implementing Ohio's New Learning Standards, OTES and Ohio's Next Generation Assessments.  Maybe we need ESPN - Educational Shift Programming Network.

So, sit down with some wings, nachos and some pizza bites and lets look at how we can use evidence to help us prepare for 2014-2015...our Ohio "Big Game" year.

The best Defense Is A Good Offense
Evidence Centered Design is the process being used by PARCC to develop assessment tasks/items that will accurately measure a student's performance on a standard.   Based on the concept of "claims", teacher teams can discuss standards to come to agreement on what students will be expected to do - and a what level of rigor. From this, assessment items can be designed to collect the "evidence" that would be needed to prove that students can actually DO what they are expected to do - at the level we expected them to do it.    Once assessments are created, units and lessons can be designed to provide the supports students will need to get to the point that they will be successful on the assessment.  If all teachers would invest the time up-front in setting learning targets, understanding the expectations of the standards and building assessments - both formative and summative - to make sure students reach those targets - our test scores in 2014-2015 may not be as low as everyone is predicting.

Put Me In Coach..I Am Ready To Play
OTES is the new teacher evaluation system.  Professional Performance will be assessed using 10 categories, based on Ohio's Teacher Standards.   Teachers and Principals (or other credentialed observers) will be collecting evidence to support a rating of ineffective, developing, proficient or accomplished.  Teachers should spend time now going through the OTES rubric to begin to identify what they already do - or could tweak- in their professional practice that could be used as evidence in categories like "knowledge of students", "differentiation", "use of assessment data" and "use of resources"  Think about ways to organize your evidence - box, binder, pile on a bookshelf, electronic portfolio - whatever works for you.  Remember, the new OTES system is based on a collaborative relationship between the teacher and the evaluator - so be prepared!  Most teachers in the state will be rated "Proficient".  Proficient is a GOOD thing!

32 27 Chevy Blue Right Shift ...or if you are a Browns Fan - Red Right 88
 Like an NFL playbook, teachers build lesson/assessment plans for the year, based on evidence, to help all students to grow as learners and achieve long term learning goals. OTES also includes a Student Growth Measure evaluation component. Teacher teams have the opportunity to do  "pre-season" data analysis to set expectations based on levels of expected student performance.  State tests provide more data on past and predicted achievement. Throughout the school year, using formative assessments to gather evidence that students are on track and units designed to help students build understanding/skill, teachers coach their students through practice - and assessments - all preparing them for the final assessment of growth at the end of the year.   State Value Added Data is also a growth measure.  It is a detailed analysis of student past performance and projected future performance.  Value Added data uses NCEs (Normal Curve Equivalent) as an equal interval scale that lets researchers compare achievement over time.  Ohio will be using Value Added data as a required component of the OTES.  SLO plans are also an option for some teachers.  SLO plans give teachers the opportunity to assemble evidence of student growth based on locally developed growth measures.  Team discussions of "baseline" evidence, agreement on potential evidence of growth, rationale for tiered growth targets  - and how to accurately assess them will help all teachers and could be used to demonstrate "evidence of differentiation, use of assessment data and focus for learning", components of the OTES Teacher Rubric.

Show me the evidence...and start preparing now for the changes that will be implemented between now and 2014-2015....and enjoy the Super Bowl festivities this weekend! Maybe someday the Browns will make it to the game - given the right plays, the right coaching, the right supports...there is always next year.