Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Daily Objectives and the Alignment to Summative Assessments

I've recently been reading Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom (Tomlinson and Moon) and it's sparked quite a bit of thought.  Specifically Chapter 5, Summative Assessments: Measuring Student Learning at Key Points in a Unit.  Oh, Chapter 5 how I love thee.

While reading through the Indicators of Quality Summative Assessments, I'm drawn back to a quick alignment task my administrative team completed ealrier this school year. It did yield us some useful data regarding alignment of the student task to the daily objective. However, after my reading today I feel our time would better be focused on the alignment of the objectives over the course of the unit to the summative assessment at the end.  

This information is good and all for campus administrators, but the heart and soul of instructional change must happen in the classrooms with the teachers. Sharing this with staff and guiding them towards ownership is key. Sounds a bit like guiding our students to own their own learning. 

So, how can this be accomplished?

To begin, I would use this as a reflective practice. For the most recent unit of student, each teacher, or PLC unit, will list their daily objectives.  Our campus uses the I will/We will statements as a framework for writing objectives. Once those are listed, the staff will compare the objectives to the unit assessment in the following ways:

Does your assessment mirror the daily learning goals for your students? 

Did the items requiring the deepest knowledge (higher level skills that require competence in your content area) have the most instructional time in your classroom?

Did you daily instruction align with the most important skill to master on the assessment?

Do your daily objectives reflect the same cognitive level of thinking as the summative assessment? (i.e. same level on Bloom's) 

Does the format of the assessment align to the cognitive thinking level needed to master the most difficult concept? Was this assessed with a multiple choice question or is a performance task more indicative of student mastery?

After completion as a reflective activity, teachers would then move into identifying points of change in the upcoming unit. What good is having information about the craft of teaching if we don't use it to adjust future instruction? 

Ideally, PLCs would work together prior to the teaching of a unit to determine daily objectives and ensure their alignment to the summative assessment.  Utilizing the backwards design model for instruction often yields high results and maintains the focus on student mastery towards standards.

Yes, I'm back to instructional blogging. Stay tuned - I will certainly share the results of our assessment/objective alignment.




Saturday, July 6, 2013

My Journey Through 25 Books #3 - 6

If you've been following The Essential Principal lately you'll know our campus just launched a campus wide reading initiative where students and staff are encouraged to read 25 books.  I pledged to take you through my journey alongside me as we trek through a year of reading. 

I used a great deal of car traveling time and several relaxing vacation venues to read books #3, 4, 5 and 6.

Book #3: The Confession by John Grisham. I will admit I've pretty much read every single JG book he's written. I've enjoyed his deep Southern law stories, but his best writings are A Painted House and Bleachers - both off the beaten path of legal battles, tort reform and ladder climbing. Make no doubts, The Confession didn't disappoint either. More than once I thought the book was about to end, only to happily find out it kept going. No spoilers here - read it for yourself!

Book #4: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It's been awhile since I've picked up a YA book to read and I was glad that I did. I enjoyed the literary references and kept feeling as if the two main characters were modern-day Romeo and Juliet. I managed to read this one rather quickly and was left wondering what happened next? 

Book #5: Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. If the name sounds familiar, she's the author of Bread and Wine, also known as Book #2 in my earlier post. Another solid example of friends, faith and life according to Shauna.  Her writing brings you into her world and makes you feel as if you're right there in the room. 

Book #6: The Ten Minute Inservice by Todd Whitaker and Anne Breaux. My reading selections took a turn down the professional road.  Outstanding must-read for any administrator.  As usual, Whitaker gives honest, direct instructions that are simple and easy to implement.  Give him a follow on Twitter at @ToddWhitaker - you'll be glad you did.

In looking back at my 6 books, I realize I'm quite an eclectic reader. What's up next on the list? Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, Memoirs of an Inner City Elementary School Principal by Pat Michaux, Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching and Learning by Jane Pollock, and Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. 

Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

#N2RDG: My Journey Through 25 Books

As you've read about already, our campus has challenged our staff and students to read 25 books throughout this school year. Thankfully, summer reading counts!

One of my leadership philosophies is to never ask a staff member to do something I wouldn't do myself.  At times that has meant standing it the rain helping little ones to the car or directing traffic in the snow. For this year, it means I will read 25 books. And no, those won't be my son's Junie B Jones or Magic Tree House books.

As my journey progresses, I will add to this blog post so you can come along too! I use Goodreads (kimbarker25) to keep a log of the books I want to read and have read. If you haven't used Goodreads before, I encourage you to check it out. I use the app on my phone and iPad so I can add books while in trainings or when I get a referral from a friends. I found it about 3 years ago and it truly is the best tool for tracking your book preferences.

Book #1: White Truffles in Winter by N.M. Kelby. I love food - you'll figure that out by my book selections. This historical novel is set in the early 1900's in Paris.  The love story of the famed chef, Escoffier and his lifetime of challenging recipes and relationships. Never have I wanted to go to Paris in 1900 so much in my life.

Book #2: Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist.  Again, I love food. Can you tell? This truly is a book I feel I could've written myself. I identified with the author on many, many levels....food, family, faith and memories.  The author tells the story of life around the table....supper clubs, family gatherings, fond memories and the pains of loss.  Her honest words and sense of humor make this an easy read that'll leave you pondering the purpose of your own table.

Stay tuned....more to come!

Starting a High School Campus-Wide Reading Program

Somewhere between the eager students of 1st grade and the daunting halls of a high school, the love (and push) of reading fades. And sadly so.  Over the course of this past year, we decided that our campus needed a literacy push - specifically in the form of a campus-wide reading campaign. We found that our students were simply not reading. Not in the classes nor outside of class. It became painfully evident that something had to change - and so the creation of #N2RDG, our campus-wide reading program.

How did we get there?

During the spring, we created a Literacy Team (committee) for the campus. The LT is comprised of various members of the teaching staff - all from varying content areas. The LT, led by the campus librarian and ELA department chair, began a series of meetings to disaggregate and develop just how this plan was going to unfold.

Here is a quick frame work of the details:

1) Students will be encouraged to read 25 books throughout the course of the school year.

Why 25 books? Research shows that 25 books roughly = 1 million words. Within that 1 million words will be 25,000 new words that students have not encountered yet. Thus, increasing their vocabulary, comprehension and overall academic achievement.

2) Requirements for a book are as follows:

200 pages of fiction or nonfiction (no book less than 125 pages)
Required reading for classes
10 articles from a database
2 graphic novels @ 100 pages each
100 pages of text book

3) Students will utilize our district online course system to record their readings. It is not simply a log of books, but a summary is required as well. And yes, there is built in detection for plagiarism.

4) Time is carved out of our weekly Advisory schedule to promote books, share reading and silently read as a campus.

5) Incentives, incentives and more incentives!  Students have the opportunity to earn spirit wear, tokens to use for snacks, etc.  (This portion is still a work in progress)

6) Teachers and staff are highly encouraged to participate. (Blog post w/details to come!)

There are many, many details we are still working through and I am certain the year will provide us with the opportunity to hone our continuous improvement skills. However, I am excited at what this means for our students and I know many of our staff members are as well.

It isn't going to be easy, but the outcome is going to be worth it.

Looking for more information on developing and implementing a reading campaign for your school?  Be sure to follow us on twitter using the hashtag #N2RDG, check back here for more details and head over to our librarian's blog.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Andrew Chen and the Blueberry Story

After a full day of math instruction discussion courtesy of Dr. Andrew Chen, my mind is reeling. So many concepts, so many new ideas.

I did find myself surprised that I had never come across the famed Blueberry Story. After 15 years in education, I've heard the Starfish flinger, The Night Before Christmas Break, etc. But blueberries - I haven't heard this one.

The basic premise of the story involves a business owner who was conducting a speech at a teacher inservice - albeit making the teachers more and more upset with every word. When he finishes, a teacher asks why his ice cream quality is so renowned, he responds by saying he simply throws out the unusable blueberries.

And we all know how the teacher responds - we don't throw away the unusable, difficult to reach students. We welcome them into our classrooms and educate them any way we can.

I am proud to be a part of the public education system where we do our best to educate every child that crosses our threshold. At times it is difficult, but isn't every worthwhile difficult?

Here's theBlueberry Story...check it out.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

From Drop Outs to College Ready

As I sat in a packed house session this week at the SW College Board Forum in Dallas this past week, I was anxious to here how a local high school moved students from the Drop Out track to the College Ready road. A few key understandings are still rolling around in my head...

1) The principal challenged his administrative team to ensure that no student loses credit due to lack of attendance. He empowered them with a "Whatever It Takes" mentality.... have coaches driving buses to pick the kiddos up - where ever they are, get creative in terms of credit recovery, not to take no for an answer, get parents on board...

2) Connect these students to something that engages them. Do you suspect the student is bored? Move them into AP classes. If they're already failing, what does it hurt? You never know what could come of the higher standards. Connect these students with skills that will carry them forward....CATE, cosmetology, etc
3) The principal doesn't send passes to class for students to come to the office to talk with him....he goes goes into the halls to find each student. As he walks the halls looking for a specific student, he often talks to several others that need him as well. It all goes back to the relationship with the student.

4) eHigh - an online high school program where students complete classes at home while they can still participate in the extra-curriculars of high school. This option provides the students the flexibility they need and replaces the "ship them off to another campus syndrome." Students are celebrated each step of the way towards graduation. As they complete hours or classes needed for credit recovery, pictures are taken and moved closer to the door of graduation and mini graduations are held.

5) Year Round Graduations - Students can participate in a traditional graduation ceremony at the end of the school year or at the end of the first semester in December. Why make students wait if they're worked hard to graduate? In certain cases, campus administration develops graduation ceremonies at the time of need based on the individual student's situation. This past year, the campus had one in October for a student that had be working hard to graduate for over 5 years.
6) Create optimism about the future. Work with families to remove any and all obstacles for failure. One key aspect is taking away the language barrier...not Spanish, but academic language....provost, bursar's office, FASFA, syllabus.

Overall, a very intriguing session that stretched and challenged my philosophies as an administrator....putting me right where I need to be to struggle and learn.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Overheard in a Classroom....The Case for Purposeful Talk

Overheard in a classroom today…a teacher to her students:

“Your explanation is worth more than what you wrote.”

This is one of the most powerful statements a teacher can say. She was pointedly telling the students that their talk - their purposeful student dialog was worth more to her than the rote answers they had on their review sheets.

It’s no secret that students like to talk and engaging them in doing so will enhance their learning. As pointed out in Cain and Laird’s book, The Fundamental 5, FSGPT (Frequent Small Group Purposeful Talk) makes a “significance positive impact on retention.“ In addition, the use of this type of dialog assists the students in maintaining their attention span throughout the lesson.

Not only will the use of purposeful talk enhance the students’ understanding, comprehension and ability to attend to the task; it will build a foundation on which their expository and argumentative writing skills will grow. Research shows that students who are able to successfully verbalize their learning are able to become better writers as well. Also noted in Laird and Cain’s book, “The process of writing critically requires the learning to take a subconscious idea, expand on that idea, connect it to other subconscious ideas and bring it to the conscious level through the tangible act of writing.”

Not sure how to even start the FSGPT process in your classroom or school? While it does take purposeful, intentional planning on the instructor’s part, you can keep some sentence frames in your hip pocket for daily use.

Share with your partner/or table group….
How are xxxx and xxxx alike? Different?
What the most important learning from today’s lesson?
Explain what I just said.
Develop a strategy to…
What is the relationship between xxxx and xxxx?

Simple, yet easy sentence starters can transform the learning in your classroom and increase the rigor dramatically.


It’s easy – get the students talking.