Travel, Twitter and Time away

I returned back to the states on Saturday after two weeks traveling around Europe with my wife. We had just enough internet access (and time) to keep in touch with family and friends back home, but I vowed to "unplug" myself from education-related blogging and tweeting. I ended up tweeting a bit about running, but purposefully kept myself uninformed of what was happening back in the domestic edublogging realm. Evan Abbey has a nice post related to pushing your life's pause button that sums up my thoughts as well. Great feeling to get away, but it's nice to be back, too.

Looking ahead, I've read a few books that I hope to blog about in the near future. Meta musings is back in high gear for the summer!

(High) School is for....?

It's been a great school year. Maybe even the best I've had so far in my half-decade in the profession. In the midst of finishing a graduate degree, changing the way I report student learning and realizing that examining my assessment practice is the beginning of a much bigger revolution, I feel like I've grown quite a bit over the past nine months.

Sharing this newly found knowledge with my colleagues has yielded mixed results. Several are jumping on board with the assessment revolution while others are hesitant to change. Period. I am finding that differing responses to a fill-in-the-blank sentences may be the culprit for our divided philosophies:

"High school is for..."
When high school is for....
  • teaching kids responsibility through penalizing them for late and incomplete work, and
  • preparing them for college via lectures, sixty-minute tests and uncompromisable rules and procedures, formative assessment and alternative ways of reporting student learning don't make sense.

Common rebuttals to my suggestions to change late work policies and de-emphasize "points" on daily work can be generalized into one of two categories. The first is the "If I don't penalize students for late work, they won't ever be taught responsibility" camp. My thoughts on late work can be found here. The second is the "If I don't grade it, they won't do it" traditionalists. I elaborate on my thoughts of "points vs. learning" here. If you've taken the time to read those posts, I hope you found a common theme.

When high school is for...
  • LEARNING, formative assessment and standards-based reporting can be viewed as minor changes to the existing system with the potential to positively impact the way stakeholders view and understand the educational process. As educators, aren't we in the business of helping students "learn"? In lieu of so many state and federal initiatives, perhaps the answer seems to be too simple to grasp.

DuFour, DuFour, Eaker and Karhanek speak of learning as the constant variable in the book Whatever It Takes: How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don't Learn. Time and support can be regarded as variables when learning takes precedence above things like "responsibility" and "preparing for college."

I really appreciate the three key questions DuFour, et. al suggest for an effective school to focus 100% of their efforts on:
  1. Exactly what is it we want all students to learn?
  2. How will we know when each student has acquired the essential knowledge and skills?
  3. What happens in our school when a student does not learn?
I hope to address each of the three questions in an upcoming post to this blog.

How would your colleagues fill in the blank: School is for..._________?
How have your views changed recently regarding reporting student learning and assessment?