A Test That Tells You Something – But Not Everything

There is a photograph floating around the internet of a letter a teacher allegedly wrote to her students before they took a state assessment. I wholeheartedly believe the writing and giving of this letter is a true story. I believe this because I think most teachers feel just like this teacher. The letter goes like this: My Dearest Students, Next week you will take your State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam for math and reading. I know how hard you have worked but there … [Read more...]

What Happened to the Scientific Method?

Like many teachers, I began the fall introducing my students to the scientific method. I even went a step further, trying to align myself with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and created an Engineering Design Process Chart with my students as well. We went through each step as we conducted investigations and solved design challenges. I was feeling pretty good about what I was doing with my students and their understanding of the steps. However, I have spent quite a bit of time … [Read more...]

March Madness – Battle of the Books

March is a long month for teachers and students.  There are 31 days and none of them are major holidays.  So, how to bring some excitement while moving your students toward the goal of reading and comprehending literature at grade level by the end of the year?  Try a little March Madness and have a Battle of the Books.  This is fun to do school-wide but you could manage it in a classroom or a grade level as well. Here's how: You'll need sixteen book titles. Have kids nominate their … [Read more...]

Flight? Fight? or Shift Gears?

Fear. Recently,  in March Madness ,  I reflected on the practice SBA for English that we administered at my high school, and admittedly was in a frustrated place.  My students who will test this year: my junior AP Language and Composition students. What if they “fail”? How will their “failure” reflect on my professional choices and practices regarding their learning? Will I be deemed incompetent? Will I be allowed to continue teaching the courses I have worked so hard to develop or will I be … [Read more...]

SportsCenter for TPEP

During a recent Twitter chat discussing the new Washington State teacher evaluation system (TPEP), the issue of videotaping instruction arose. A number of participants mentioned they're worried administrators are overwhelmed with all the “scripting,” or reporting, they're required to do during their observations. It's like administrators have become more like stenographers than evaluators. In theory, each evaluator should observe their assigned teachers four times throughout the school year. In … [Read more...]

I Survived my Artifacts and Evidence Collection

If you’re on TPEP like me, you’ve been madly collecting evidence to justify the scores you hope to get on your evaluation. If you’re not on TPEP, there are some things to know about why your colleagues are hoarding paper and files more than usual. Regardless of the framework (Danielson, CEL-5D, or Marzano), there are observable components of the evaluation. This is what your evaluator sees when they come in your room to watch a lesson. It’s the lesson plan you turn in before your … [Read more...]

NGSS Transition: What’s Going On Around the Country?

NSTA Conference in Chicago... So here we are in year 2 of transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).   By "we" I mean Washington State and my school district, but since these are national standards, most 3-4 year "NGSS Transition Plans" are very similar.  I went to the 5-day national conference (NSTA = National Science Teachers Association) hoping to get help for several areas of our own transition.  The national community of science educators is simply amazing...so … [Read more...]


Not the same test for all students in the same class? Customized to each student? How can that be equitable and results comparable? Many of us are most familiar with a “fixed-form” test, in which all students see the same set of questions. Smarter Balanced is different; it is a COMPUTER ADAPTIVE TEST (CAT). To be ready for college and careers, students need to apply their knowledge and skills in areas such as critical-thinking, analytical writing, and problem solving. Smarter Balanced … [Read more...]

Literacy Baby

Recently I have been very frustrated with the criticism of the Common Core State Standards.  I am not frustrated because I can't handle some good academic conversations or because I have decided that the CCSS are the be-all end-all.  I am mostly frustrated because the arguments are not about the standards at all, they are about the tests.  I get really antsy when people tell me that they have or would petition to have our state drop the standards because of issues with the testing.  I just … [Read more...]

The Power of the Question Formulation Technique

Watch as Elizabeth Gleb, high school science teacher from Steilacoom talks about how she has engaged even the most challenging students in her classroom by empowering them to ask their own questions. Student assuming responsibility for their learning is a hallmark of distinguished teaching and important skill in Common Core aligned classrooms. By activating students as participants in the inquiry cycle by generating questions themselves, students are more engaged and take ownership for the … [Read more...]