Standardized Assessments: What’s in it for the kids?

source: www.ign.com

source: www.ign.com

Although I do not necessarily agree with the standardized assessment movement, I can see why everyone wants to use the results to judge teachers, principals, districts, etc. I get it…. You want to know how “effective” public educators are (or are not). You want to see trends, you want to see growth, you want to see the results of different types of kids. Once again, I think there are other measures that could provide you with better information.  I have one question remaining…. What is in it for the kids?

 

For instance, lets look at the education experience of Lamar, an 8 year old child in 3rd grade (the “baseline” for all things data in New Jersey)…. In school, Lamar takes assessments all the time. He tries his best, and if he struggles, his teacher provides additional support and remediation. Once a day, Lamar heads to the Response to Intervention room where he is provided research-based intervention on his academic deficiencies. On Friday, Lamar takes a “progress monitoring” assessment to see how he progressed from the previous week. He charts his own progression with the interventionist, and usually leaves with an understanding of his status (and a sticker). When Lamar works with his teacher, she helps him with his writing, math, reading comprehension and he also understands how he is progressing as he looks at his grades, written and verbal feedback from the teacher. Lamar’s mom is provided all of this information from the interventionist and the teacher. She gets a progress report, report card, and has the ability to come in and discuss Lamar’s progress at any time. She also has access to Lamar’s grades online. Theoretically, everyone is on the same page with Lamar. Then, Lamar takes the state approved standardized assessment. This is when things change. Remember, Lamar is 8.

 

source: specialedpost.org

source: specialedpost.org

As Lamar enters the room for the state assessment, he can tell that his teacher is acting different. She is much more formal, and reads the directions, and his laptop is now a state controlled test machine. His teacher usually has a helper pass out the tests, pencils, but on this day she is doing all of this. Lamar notices a bunch of his friends in class who are normally there are not in the room. They were assigned a different teacher because they need more time, extra help or redirection. Once the test begins, Lamar’s attention drifts. He thinks about basketball, the new superhero movie, and the kickball game at recess. As his teacher circulates the room she notices that Lamar’s attention is waning, and normally, she would redirect him… Not today…. Lamar does the best that he can. His teacher collects the laptops, and after the 4th day of the test, it is all over. Lamar, the 8 year old boy, notices that the whole school returns to “normal.” He quickly forgets about the state assessment. His teacher continues providing instruction, she gives tests, feedback, smiley faces, and stickers. He goes back to visiting his teacher in the Intervention room, and he charts his progress. So, in terms of the standardized assessment, what is in it for Lamar?

 

Honestly, Lamar has no idea the difference between all of the terms we use when describing his education. He has no real idea how the results of the assessment will be used. In fact, he won’t see the “results” of the test until the next school year. By that time he will be in a different grade, with a different teacher, in a different classroom. No one will review the test with him like he is accustomed to. No one will chart his progress, or point out areas he can work on. All he knows is that the test was hard, and he can’t talk about what was on it. His mom will get a letter in the mail 4 months later that will tell her how he performed. She won’t know what he got correct or incorrect because there is no item analysis. His teacher had no idea what was really on the test except the shapes in the lower corner of the screen that allowed her to ensure everyone was on the same page. No one can talk about it. No one really wants to talk about it.

 

So, what’s in it for Lamar? What is in it for the students? I can see how the students in High School see the relevance because the results of the standardized test can determine if they graduate. I can also see how High School students see the relevance of the SAT or the ACT because (even though this is changing, but stick with me) the results determine their potential college or university.  But this is about Lamar, the 8 year old little boy, that takes a test that everyone (except Lamar) thinks is very important. What’s in it for Lamar?

How Technology Connects Parents and Teachers

Guest post

By Jessica Sanders

 

Studies have proven time and time again that parent involvement is crucial to a student’s long-term learning and well-being.

 

“Children are more likely to become proficient in reading and math during the early elementary school years if their parents are involved in home learning activities, provide materials such as dictionaries to nurture their children’s cognitive growth, and monitor their children to make sure that they spend enough time on homework,” according to a July 2010 Child Trends Report.

 

Technology helps teachers ensure that parents are provided with all possible avenues to become involved. It brings the classroom directly to them; often allowing you, as the teacher, to deliver real-time updates directly to parents, whether they’re are at work, in the car or at home.

 

This also allows parents to be involved in their child’s school day without much effort on your part or theirs, which is a major benefit: “When schools invite and encourage parent involvement, parents are more likely to become engaged,” according to Empowering Parents Through Technology.

 

Use the following tech tools to connect with parents— whether they’re reading a blog post or checking the classroom Facebook page—and ultimately improve student learning and success.

 

Apps

“There’s an app for that” is a phrase most people are familiar with and holds true in education. Teachers have many apps to choose from that help connect parents with the classroom. Whether you’re sharing student photos or updates on grades, these two apps are a great addition to your technology toolbox:

 

Collaborize Classroom: Use this app to connect with students and parents in an exclusive, class-specific forum. Here you can privately discuss grades with parents and share links, photos and information the entire group as well.

 

Remind 101: Use this app to remind parents about school field trips—“Forecast is calling for rain, don’t forget to send your child with an umbrella and rain coat!”—Or send real-time updates, for example while you’re in the classroom or out at recess. Busy parents will appreciate the reminders and updates and you’ll appreciate the convenience.

 

Social Media

 This is one of the easiest ways to stay in touch with parents because most people are on social media in some capacity. Remember these important details when using social media for school:

  • Always create a private group on Facebook if possible. This decreases the likelihood that personal information could be shared with more than just your class.
  • Keep personal information private. Don’t share information about grades in comments or wall posts. It sounds obvious, but is an important detail to keep at the front of your mind at all times.
  • Make a “teacher” account so you can keep your private information to yourself.

 

Consider which tool will be the most helpful. Facebook is likely the most popular platform, however Twitter is a great option as well. If using Twitter, create specific hashtags for your class so it’s easy for parents to find information in one place.

 

Website

 A classroom or teacher blog is a great way to connect with other teachers and students but especially parents. Nicole Long, a secondary language arts teacher recalls how the parent page on her blog has become one of the most important spots for parents: “This has become a place where parents know they can find important information, whenever they need it, without having to send an email and wait on a response.”

 

A website or blog is a simple and free medium for posting student work, classroom updates and classroom photos; don’t forget to have a special place for parents to visit with important information and updates.

 

Free Learning Tools

 There are variety of free learning tools that teachers and parents can use to monitor the progress of student work. For example, Whooo’s Reading is a free online platform where students can log their reading, answer common core-aligned questions and comment on their peers’ reading. Parents are involved in account set up and can log in at any time to see how much reading their children have done each week, month, etc. Some other free tools include:

 

  • Google Classroom
  • Moodle
  • Turn It In

 

Emails

 Most parents have email addresses, making this a simple way to keep them involved without asking for much in return. Use email to share:

  • Class newsletters
  • Field trip permission slips
  • Class photos and videos of students working on a project or presenting
  • Announce major assignments

 

The proper use of technology ensures parents are involved in their child’s education, whether you send daily photos from the classroom or write weekly blog updates. Studies draw direct correlations between parent involvement and student success and this is a simple way to ensure that happens.

 

Bio: Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and send content inquiries to social@learn2earn.org.

10 lessons from blogging everyday for a year (365:365)

source: suewaters.com

source: suewaters.com

When I set out to do the blog 365 challenge, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. I’ve learned so much about myself, my profession, and my writing though this process. There were certainly times I wanted to give up, and there were other times that I wanted to keep going into year two. It is very ironic that during the times I wanted to give up, I would run into someone who mentioned my blog to me. In addition, there were a few times that people would send me kind messages on Twitter, Voxer, Facebook and in the comment section. Words can’t express my gratitude for the support!

 

Here are my 10 lessons I learned from blogging everyday for a year:

  1. If you are committed, you can do anything. I set a goal and worked everyday to achieve it. Sometimes, it is that simple.
  2. The inspiration was the easiest part. If you open yourself up, and work with amazing kids and teachers, there is inspiration all around.
  3. Constant reflection is a blessing. I value the time spent thinking about how to be better, and how to make education better.
  4. It’s OK if you get a little ahead, or a little behind. Let’s face it, I had some really busy times throughout the year. There were times that I needed to post a few in advance, or afterwards.
  5. My biggest influence in this process was Seth Godin. He blogs everyday and many of the blogs are not more than a paragraph. Yet, his blog posts are so profound.
  6. Image searching is almost as fun as writing the post. I love Google Images, and when I needed something to support the post, I would find such amazing images. I always gave credit to the author or the site (I think that is very important).
  7. What you do most, you do best – As I said yesterday, if you really want to get better at something you have to put in the time and effort. Writing everyday forced me to write, write, and write! I probably spent about 5,o0o hours (10 – 15 minutes for 365 days) writing. I will be honest, I have a long way to go. I still have grammar, syntax and spelling issues. My editing skills are lacking.
  8. In order to be a better writer, you have to read! Many of my posts were inspired by something I read. I want to especially thank all of the other education bloggers out there sharing their knowledge!
  9. It became part of the family – My kids have been excited about this blog since I started three years ago. I can still remember my son when he was in 1st grade telling his teachers, “Follow my dad @drspikecook on Twitter and read his blog at drspikecook.com.” Sometimes the kids were the subject of the blog, and they love seeing themselves in here!
  10. You never know where this will take you – I always wanted to write a book, and because of blogging I have a published book and have another in process. I’ve been able to connect with thousands of other educators from around the globe. I have become better because of all this!!!

Thank you for all of your support on this project. I am excited for the new year and new beginnings. I won’t be blogging everyday, but I will keep blogging.

What you do most, you do best! Repeat (364:365)

source: 10000hours.com

source: 10000hours.com

Whether you are scrolling though Facebook, Google + or even Twitter, people generally post about their passions, or what they appear to be good at. Why is this? Is it because they are bragging, sharing, or keeping themselves accountable? It could be a little of each, but chances are they have set goals for themselves and they are striving to get there. The images and the posts mark their progress.

 

For instance, do some of your friends post pictures of working out all the time? It is very possible that they post to inspire themselves, others or they could be sharing strategies or even holding themselves accountable. It is also possible that they have had a time in their life when they struggled with working out and made a commitment to become better. According to Malcolm Gladwell in the book Outliers, most people are not “gifted” but rather they put in the hard work and effort to be successful. Gladwell, after culling through some research, settled on the 10,000 hour rule. If you are willing to spend 10,000 hours doing something, chances are you will be successful at it. Think about it, you didn’t become a great teacher (or administrator) over night. If you worked 40 hours a week, for 45 weeks (as a teacher) it would take you about 5 and 1/2 years to get your 10,000 hours.

 

How long is 10,000 hours? Since we only have 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year, there is only so much time to devote to 10,000. Taking the example from above, if your goal is be in optimum physical shape through working out, and you could only devote 2 hours a day, it would take you about 13 years to get to the 10,000 hours. Does this mean that it will take 13 years to get into shape? No. But I hope you realize that theoretically you would be far better off then when you began. The 10,000 hour rule has drawn a lot of criticism, but for the sake of this post, just remember, if you put in the time, you will get results.

 

So what are you willing to try in 2015? Are you willing to put in the time and effort (along with resources, assistance from others, and good old fashioned commitment)? Remember, a 1,000 mile journey begins with one step (or one hour).

I’m lovin Bloglovin (363:365)

source: bloglovin.com

source: bloglovin.com

Thanks to my pal Jessica Johnson, I learned about Bloglovin. We are writing a book with Theresa Stager on Isolation in Leadership. In one of the sections, we provide practical tips for getting connected. Jessica asked if anyone ever used Bloglovin, and I admitted that I hadn’t. So I joined. It felt like 2012 all over again!

 

I went to the site to sign up. It is super easy to connect Facebook or sign up on your own. Then you find three blogs to follow. Guess who I followed? The first 3 principals I ever followed on Twitter… Eric Sheninger, Curt Rees and Jessica Johnson. Once Bloglovin sees the 3 blogs you choose, they suggest others to follow. It was fun going through and following the blogs of my PLN.

 

Then, if you are using Chrome, you will get a nice little blue plus mark in the upper right-hand corner of your browser. After installing the app in Chrome, you can text it to your phone to get the app. Super easy, and now you don’t have to wait for the email when someone has posted something new.

 

Are you a blogger? Go to Bloglovin to get the widget for your sidebar. It will help readers connect with your blog when you post.

 

Give Bloglovin a try and let me know if you like it…

Big dreams from #stuconnect (362:365)

source: carolynandersonmd.com

source: carolynandersonmd.com

So there are a lot of adults weighing in on their big dreams and plans for 2015. Want to hear what the kids from around the world are saying?Want to hear some BIG DREAMS?

 

Check out this video featuring kids from the following areas:

Greenwood Elementary, Minnesota

Watkins Elementary, Texas

Colegrio International, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

Navasota Intermediate, Texas

Richfield High School, Minnesota

Warner Elementary, Michigan

Byram Intermediate, New Jersey

Oregon Middle School, Wisconsin

RM Bacon Elementary, New Jersey

Penngrove Elementary, California

Sandy Hill Elementary, Maryland

St. Paul Schools, Arkansas

Cantiague Elementary, New York

 


Thanks to Tony Sinanis, Brad Gustafson, and John Fritzky for putting this together!  Add to the conversation by using the hashtag #stuconnect and dream BIG!

Before you plan 2015, reflect on 2014 (361:365)

source: magazine.coffeetalk.com

source: magazine.coffeetalk.com

Still looking for the New Year’s resolution (or change, plan, etc)? Before you jump into the change you want to make, take a look at what you were able to accomplish in 2014.

 

Take a few minutes (might take longer) and go through your calendar, twitter feed, or Facebook timeline. Using your Social Networks makes it easy to scroll through the highlights (and low lights). Facebook even has a feature that will make a short flip for you or you can customize it.

 

As you do this, write down a few things so you can put it all in perspective:

  • What did you accomplish?
  • What were your awesome moments?
  • What would you like to do over?
  • Were there challenges based on time of the year?
  • Did you spend enough time with family, loved ones and friends?
  • Did you make time for your own personal growth?

 

Hopefully these questions will guide your reflection on 2014. Based on your responses, this could guide your plan for 2015.

Go chase waterfalls (360:365)

The waterfall at Ringwood State Park

The waterfall at Ringwood State Park

Remember the song Waterfalls by TLC from the 1990’s? I can’t believe that song is 20 years old. I’m getting old! In the chorus, TLC sings, Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to. I know that TLC was talking about something different, but for the sake of this post, I think you should go chase a waterfall the next time you are on a hike 🙂

Our family went on a post Christmas hike at the Ringwood State Park in beautiful northern New Jersey. I’m so glad we chose to do this as opposed to battling the millions of people who traveled into New York City.

 

Early on in the hike, we came across a waterfall. It was’t huge (probably 30 feet drop) but it was captivating. We stayed there for some time taking in the sounds, watched the flow, and of course took some pictures.

 

I asked my daughter what she thought of the waterfall, and she quickly replied, “I loved it.” I asked her why and she said, “It was cool and awesome.” I have to agree with her. I could have sat there all day!

 

I thought more about the waterfall throughout the day. There are many interpretations of the waterfall. Some say it symbolizes movement, renewal, or even spiritual awakening. No matter the interpretation, the fact is that waterfalls are amazing to look at and are a treat to come across on a hike. Go chase a waterfall!

Merry Christmas! (359:365)

source: chopeh.deviantart.com

source: chopeh.deviantart.com

One of the awesome things about the holiday season is Christmas. It is especially thrilling when you have two children (ages 7 and 10) to spend it with. These kids spent months anticipating the day when they would get their wishes granted. I know that the holiday is not about presents and gifts, but from a child’s perspective there is probably not a better day in the year.

 

What I saw different this year was how my children were also interested in the art of giving. They were interested in getting special gifts for their teachers, cousins and good friends. The kids even wanted to go the store for that perfect gift for Mom and Dad. I was really surprised when they insisted on getting presents for each other. Can’t wait for next year!

 

 

Bring the magic alive (358:365)

Our Elves on the Shelves

Our Elves on the Shelves

Yesterday was the last day of school in 2014. It was quite a day. I love how our teachers are committed to bringing the magic alive for our students! The day started off with two visitors from the “North Pole.” Two of our teachers dressed up as Elfs on the Shelf. They wanted to be outside so the parents in the car line could see, but the rain prevented it. So we set them on top of the “shelf” in a classroom and had students visit before homeroom. Kids were in awe. Our transfer students said to me on the way out, “Wow, we never had anything like that at my old school.”

 

Then we hosted our annual Sing-A-Long. We packed the gym and sang all types of songs to get the kids in the Holiday Spirit. At the conclusion of the Sing-A-Long we got all of the staff members to come down in front of the students and we sang, “We wish you a Merry Christmas.”  We all had our arms on each other and we swayed back and forth. I literally got chills.

We then showed a movie to the students and everyone enjoyed the rest of the morning. All of the classrooms bought pizza for the kids and they enjoyed lunch as they shared presents with each other.

 

It was a magical day!