I enjoy waking up every day and skimming through my RSS feed to read what other educators are thinking out loud via their blogs. Here are a few of the recent highlights.
"Should the Textbook Determine the Essential Skills We Teach?" By Rick DuFour
In short, the people who contend your textbooks should determine the curriculum are wrong. Those who are arguing about what books to read are wrong. Shift your focus to the knowledge and skills your students must acquire and determine how you will assess whether or not they are acquiring the skills. Then, most importantly, use the results to get better at teaching the skills and intervening for students who struggle.Bottom line: When teams of teachers begin to answer the question, "What do we want our students to learn?" the answer should not solely come from the materials currently being used. As a former high school math teacher, I taught for the first few years straight through the textbook. While this approach isn't necessarily a poor one, believing that the "what" of teaching begins and ends with the textbook doesn't make sense.
"Is REAL Formative Assessment Even Possible?" by Bill Ferriter
Second, I’m completely exhausted and doubtful that I can keep up this work all year long. I haven’t seen my daughter or my wife much this month simply because responsible formative assessment is an incredibly time-consuming process.
Heck, just last night I spent 3 hours grading one set of graphs because I wanted to get them back to my students in a timely way—but that required working from 5:30-8:30 and missing dinner with my family and bedtime with my little girl.
The past two weekends in a row were similar stories as I spent 5-6 hours both weekends putting exemplars together, writing remediation activities and designing new lessons to review challenging content.
Bottom line: Providing students timely feedback during the learning experience that informs new learning for students and new instruction for teachers is a time and resource consuming process. Bill writes about a possible solution which involves more teacher-created common assessments. One of my biggest regrets from leaving the classroom after six years is not experiencing the power of common assessments first hand. As a district guy now, I can't wait to see us move forward this year and in the years to come.
"Give Us The Tools We Need" by Paul Cancellieri
The primary purpose of grades is to communicate information about content mastery to parents and students.
With this purpose in mind, it becomes clear that there is a clear distinction between the skills and knowledge dictated by our curriculum, and the habits and behaviors that lead to success in both life and school. Both are critically important. Over the past few decades, however, we have combined these two pieces of information into one grade that is displayed on report cards. Conflating content mastery with work habits causes a lot of confusion....