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. 


  1. I love your final analogy! We all must pick up our own stones...what ever our own personal challenges are, one at a time and move forward. Every administrator, teacher and student has their own point for picking up the challenges to grow and learn. If you are not identifying, picking up and moving on, you will be buried by the ruble of others moving on! The CCPS do not mandate what or how we teach and learn but are more of a compass giving us all a common direction to the top of the mountain....and beyond!

  2. Well said, Char! I think your reflections provide a great launching point for next year. OTES provides a common rubric for expectations and instructional practice, focusing on Formative Instructional Practices. Ultimately, student centered the classrooms will allow teachers to move higher on the rubric. In addition to this, Formative Instructional Practices allow for Higher Levels of Student Engagement, which is the most important part of any lesson.... the thinking and metacognition of the students!


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