Assessments That Deliver Results

My nephew, who is in elementary school, suffers from anxiety. When he was in third grade, in the days leading up to the high-stakes state exam, his teacher told his class that what they were about to do was so important that even the President of the United States would check to see how they performed.

This fire and brimstone approach to assessment has been going on for too long.

Just a few months after No Child Left Behind was passed, the Sacramento Bee reported that “test-related jitters, especially among young students, are so common that the Stanford-9 exam comes with instructions on what to do with a test booklet in case a student vomits on it.”

Rather than allow students to fear exams, we should use assessments in no-stakes or low-stakes settings to build confidence and strengthen learning. It’s time for us to realize the importance of using assessments to combat the anxiety of assessments.

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Beyond Being Nice

When I was in the classroom, I had the good fortune to have a team teacher. We were very similar in our personalities, and that sometimes caused tension, especially when we were first getting to know each other. The first few weeks of our five year relationship were very cordial. We were testing the waters and seeing how the other person operated in the classroom. We tried to figure out how to make our teaching styles and pedagogical beliefs work together, all while getting to know our new students and some of our colleagues. We joked later on that it was like all the adults were dressed for prom, done up in their best outfits and afraid to get dirty. Lucky for me, about a quarter way into the school year, the prom dresses “came off” and we quickly moved into giving each other critical feedback on practice and really tried to mesh our styles and beliefs, not just make them work.

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Here’s Why I’m Going To Teach My Math Students To Code

Why teach coding?

Simply put, coding can change and impact people’s lives.

Getting Better TogetherThe effect technology — as a result of computer code — has on this world is incredible. What used to be thought of as impossible is now made possible. What’s more amazing is that our technological accomplishments always open up new realms of possibilities. Cellphones, for instance, didn’t stop at phone calls — they led to streaming music and eBooks and brain teasing games and the ability to map the night sky.

This suggests that learning technology and its underlying language — coding — is extremely powerful.

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Five Favorite Reads For Your Professional Bookshelf

I’m always looking for a good book about education — one that can put words to the many feelings that are part of this work, that sparks my thinking and creativity for my teaching, and that challenges me and opens my mind to see my work in new ways. I was fortunate to come across a number of just such books last year, and here are five favorites from 2015.

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#TchLIVE: Is Every Kid A Born Engineer?

Over the past few months, Teaching Channel has been working with more than 230 partner organizations on the 100Kin10 initiative. The overarching goal of the initiative is to train and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers to educate the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.

Two of the initial steps that our collaborative has undertaken is to identify the root causes of our current STEM teacher shortage, and also identify both the frequency and the fidelity of the engineering instruction that is occurring in today’s schools. So far our findings have been quite interesting and all of the robust conversations have left me wanting to dig in deeper with all of you during a #TchLive Twitter Chat. And what better time than during Engineers Week, which is happening Feb. 21-27.

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[ARCHIVE] #TchLive: Teams Roundtable Discussion – Spotlight Teachers

Teaching Channel Teams recently held their second round table event last week. Andrea Thune presented Ontario-Montclair’s practices of how to use Teams with their Spotlight Teacher program. Spotlight Classrooms are an internal model of instructional support, where the team is willing to open their doors in order to be a resource for learning. The strategy embodies how Teams partners grow together and helps illuminate puzzles of practice. Watch the webinar below or read more about their program from Andrea’s previous blog.

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Coaching Towards Collaborative Learning

How do you transform a 45-minute PLC time from being a place where teachers get professional development, to a place where teachers are actively involved and feel ownership in the learning? This was the question I faced as I planned for my first year as the math specialist in my building.

Getting Better TogetherMoving into this new position, I felt that something needed to change from the ways we have typically done PLCs. Instead of the sit-and-get structure, I introduced my teachers to Learning Labs, a method of collaborative planning and classroom observation. In three new videos, Creating a Collaborative Culture of Learning, Teacher Time Out, and Connecting the Dots, you’ll see Learning Labs in action as I work collaboratively with my colleagues to create a space where teachers are actively involved in their own learning, as well as that of their students.

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Four Tips For A Successful Learning Lab

Tch Laureate Team


Each time I lead a round of Learning Labs, I reflect on the lessons learned in order to make changes and improve upon the process.

Getting Better TogetherAfter the first round, for instance, I realized one 45-minute period wasn’t enough time to plan as a team. So I adjusted the schedule to allow for two consecutive 45-minute periods, a week apart, dedicated to learning and planning before going into the classroom. To help better prepare for these meetings, my colleague Erin and I also designed a Google Form for each grade level team to complete the week prior to the first Learning Lab meeting. As I sat with all of the team’s responses to begin my planning, I was prepared, excited, and thought having all of this information would make my planning more focused and easy to put together.

But I quickly realized that while having information from each team was incredibly helpful, that very same information added more layers to my planning process, which I’ve listed below. (Also see Learning Labs in Action in this video: Creating a Collaborative Culture of Learning.)

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10 Tips For Meeting The Needs Of Diverse Learners

Tch Laureate Team


This is part of Geneviève DeBose’s Getting Better Together work. Geneviève and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community.

What happens when a group of educators collaborate to meet the diverse needs of their students? A lot of reflection, dialogue, sharing, and learning!

Getting Better TogetherIn November I kicked off my Getting Better Together focus of meeting the needs of diverse learners. My team and I made a number of shifts to our process and practice and I’ve shared ten of them below. As I thought through everything we’ve done, I found that our work seems to fall into three main categories — Data and Information, People Power, and Curriculum and Assignments.

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Lodestar: A School Built Around Agency

Making in Schools

This is the fourth in a six-part series titled Making in Schools.

Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, roughly 125 years ago, American schools have looked roughly the same. At its heart, our system has been driven by two organizing principles:

  1. Students should be organized into classes by age and subject.
  2. Content should be delivered in a standardized order and at a standardized pace.

While this system may have been functional in preparing students to work in steel factories or cotton mills, ensuring that each graduate of the system had similar skills/knowledge and were used to working according to a standardized, regimented schedule, it’s not holding up to the demands of today.

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