Posts Tagged ‘formative assessment’

New Teacher Evaluation Instrument: Standard #4

March 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Standard IV: Teachers facilitate learning for their students

Teachers know the ways in which learning takes place, and they know the appropriate levels of intellectual, physical, social, and emotional development of their students.

Teachers know how students think and learn. Teachers understand the influences that affect individual student learning (development, culture, language proficiency, etc.) and differentiate their instruction accordingly. 

Teachers keep abreast of evolving research about student learning. They adapt resources to address the strengths and weaknesses of their students.


Teachers plan instruction appropriate for their students.  

Teachers collaborate with their colleagues and use a variety of data sources for short- and long-range planning based on the North Carolina Standard Course of Study. These plans reflect an understanding of how students learn.

Teachers engage students in the learning process. They understand that instructional plans must be consistently monitored and modified to enhance learning.

Teachers make the curriculum responsive to cultural differences and individual learning needs.


Teachers use a variety of instructional methods.  

Teachers choose the methods and techniques that are most effective in meeting the needs of their students as they strive to eliminate achievement gaps.

Teachers employ a wide range of techniques including information and communication technology, learning styles, and differentiated instruction.


Teachers integrate and utilize technology in their instruction.  

Teachers know when and how to use technology to maximize student learning.

Teachers help students use technology to learn content, think critically, solve problems, discern reliability, use information, communicate, innovate, and collaborate.


Teachers help students develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.  

Teachers encourage students to ask questions, think creatively, develop and test innovative ideas, synthesize knowledge, and draw conclusions. They help students exercise and communicate sound reasoning; understand connections; make complex choices; and frame, analyze, and solve problems.


Teachers help students work in teams and develop leadership qualities.  

Teachers teach the importance of cooperation and collaboration. They organize learning teams in order to help students define roles, strengthen social ties, improve communication and collaborative skills, interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds, and develop leadership qualities.


Teachers communicate effectively.  

Teachers communicate in ways that are clearly understood by their students. They are perceptive listeners and are able to communicate with students in a variety of ways even when language is a barrier.

Teachers help students articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively.


Teachers use a variety of methods to assess what each student has learned.  

Teachers use multiple indicators, including formative and summative assessments, to evaluate student progress and growth as they strive to eliminate achievement gaps.

Teachers provide opportunities, methods, feedback, and tools for students to assess themselves and each other.

Teachers use 21st century assessment systems to inform instruction and demonstrate evidence of students’ 21st century knowledge, skills, performance, and dispositions.

Examples of Artifacts

Lesson Plans


Use of Student Learning Teams 


Collaborative Lesson Planning

Display of Technology Used to Facilitate InstructionDocumentation of Differentiated Instruction Professional Development

Materials Used to Promote Critical Thinking and Problem Solving


To access the full North Carolina Teacher Evaluation Process Document, click here:   (Pages 5-9 of this document will provide you with background information, definitions, and a rationale for the changes in the teacher evaluation process and instrument.)

To access all documents, videos, forms, PowerPoints, and charts related to the New Teacher Evaluation Process, click here:

Prepared for Success

January 10, 2010 Leave a comment

As we approach exams for first semester, teacher and student anxiety is building. I would like to share the research-based test-taking strategies that I have observed you practice throughout the semester that will contribute to our students’ success. This week’s message will conclude with student reminders that I hope are beneficial as you try to decrease test anxiety for our kids.

You continue to work to ensure that the curriculum is aligned with the standard course of study and that your pacing is appropriate. This is perhaps the most obvious and most discussed method of test preparation.  Through vertical alignment, discussions within your department, and sharing/adjusting pacing guides, you are making important instructional decisions that will give your students the best possible opportunity to experience success.

You have established a safe and caring emotional climate. Your hard work will help students feel secure, take more academic risks, and try again until they succeed. Continue to communicate the relationship between effort and achievement as well as your belief that your students will succeed.

You continue to use vocabulary, literacy, and formative assessment strategies that have created a climate for learning that is centered on the occurrence of frequent and quick reviews of previously learned material. Because your students are accustomed to regular reviews and they are aware of your expectations, you have created yet another plan for success. The self-assessment focus in our professional development is a means by which to help students learn to test themselves.  Because your students have experienced informal formative assessments, benchmark assessments, and self-assessments, they will rise to the occasion when taking exams.

I have seen many of you continue to work with students to unpack the language of the test and build students’ sense of security with test vocabulary. You have provided explicit practice to help students gain a greater understanding the language of both the test and the content to be tested.  Understanding that students often miss questions that contain information they already know because they cannot translate the language found in the question has helped prepare students for success.  By unpacking the language of the test, you have provided yet another means for student success.

Not only have worked to unpack the language of the test, but you have also used these terms in class.  I have heard you infuse these terms in discussions, writing assignments, quiz and test questions, tickets out the door, and graphic organizers.   You understand the importance of having students use these vocabulary terms when they take multiple-choice tests, but you also realize that it is imperative that students see and use these words outside of a standardized testing situation so they truly understand the meaning of the language and become comfortable using words that could potentially become stumbling blocks.

Perhaps reflecting on all the strategies that you have used throughout the semester will help alleviate some of your anxiety. I appreciate all that you do for our students.

Some Quick Pointers to Share with Students

  • Read the question before you look at the answer.
  • Come up with the answer in your head before looking at the possible answers.  This way the choices given on the test will not throw you off or trick you.
  • Eliminate answers you know are not correct.
  • Read all the choices before choosing your answer.
  • Always take an educated guess and select an answer.
  • Usually your first choice is the right one, unless you misread the question.
  • A positive choice is more likely to be true than a negative one.

Please feel free to send your test-taking strategies out to the HHS Faculty this week so that everyone has the opportunity to share as many strategies with our students as possible.

Delivering Critical Messages

January 5, 2010 2 comments

As we approach the end of the first semester and anticipate the beginning of second semester, it is important to make sure that we continue to cultivate a We-Expect-Success attitude with our students. Some of our students are beginning to look for excuses to explain their failure. We must keep sending the message that their efforts are important and that their efforts will impact their performance.

Robert Marzano (2003), in his meta-analysis of research on motivation, identifies five lines of research that explain our motivation to learn. One line of research is attribution theory, which focuses on what students perceive to be the cause of their success or failure, such as ability, effort, luck, task difficulty, etc. Of the factors named, Marzano concludes that effort is the most useful because a strong belief in effort as a cause of success can translate into a willingness to engage in complex tasks and to persist.

The National Mathematics Advisory Panel weighed in on the importance of an effort-based belief system in the 2008 report Foundations for Success. The report states:

“Children’s goals and beliefs about learning are related to their mathematics performance. Experimental studies have demonstrated that changing children’s beliefs from a focus on ability to a focus on effort increases their engagement in mathematics learning, which in turn improves mathematics outcomes: When children believe that their efforts to learn make them “smarter” they show greater persistence in mathematics learning.”

Jonathan Saphier is another of the many researchers who writes about the role of beliefs and effort-based ability. He concluded that a student’s belief in his or her efforts rather than his or her innate ability is the most important determinant of student learning. He also stated that these beliefs can enable all students to do rigorous academic work at high standards. According to Saphier, schools that recognize and celebrate effort-based ability communicate three critical messages to all students:

1. What we are doing here is important.

2. You can do it.

3. I’m not going to give up on you—even if you give up on yourself (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, pp. 89-90).

What message are we sending to our students if we communicate to the class, either explicitly or implicitly, that we expect final grades to follow the bell curve?

Many students will interpret this message as, “Only a few of you can expect to get A’s in this class.” This is hardly a We-Expect-Success message.

Contrast this example to the message that students receive when a teacher announces that he or she expects grades to cluster at the lower end of the grading scale at the beginning of instruction, approach normal distribution as different students master content and skills at different times, and follow the “J” curve, with most students earning high scores by the time summative grades are posted.

By using the formative assessment strategies that we are learning during our professional development, we can continue to show students that their efforts are directly correlated to their academic success. Formative assessment is another means to communicate the message that we expect success.

Thank you for your willingness to send critical messages to our kids that communicate the importance of their effort and our belief in them.  Recognizing and celebrating the fact that the effort that they put in will result in their academic success will not only help our students become more motivated but also help them realize that they can be successful.


Westerberg, T. R. (2009). Cultivating a we expect success attitude. Becoming a great high school: 6 strategies and 1 attitude that make a difference (pp. 7-10). Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Planning for Student Processing Time

November 15, 2009 1 comment

0000-4378-4~Try-Trying-Success-PostersSeveral of you are using advance organizers as a way to provide instructional scaffolding for our students. Instructional scaffolding is a way of offering students templates, direct instruction, and other tools that can help them experience success. The idea is to provide support until our students can “fly solo.”

Providing students with a fill-in-the-blank style advance organizer is a great scaffolding strategy that also serves as a summarization device.  See the example below:

Advance Organizer:  Dividing Mixed Numbers


Working independently, fill in the blanks below.When dividing mixed numbers, we must first turn each mixed number into a ______________________.


Once done, we change the operation from division to ________________________________________. Now, we multiply the first fraction by the__________________ of the second fraction. If our final answer is top-heavy or an ________________ fraction, then we rewrite it as a _____________________________, and we reduce it to ___________________ terms.

students-interacting-in-classTry this method, and see how it works for your students. Write your own summarization of the material that you’re presenting. Then review what you’ve written and make a second draft, replacing key words and phrases with blank lines.

Either during or after the learning process, ask students to complete these fill-in-the-blank organizers by writing the correct terms. If appropriate and if time allows, they might share their responses with a class mate and agree on the best answers.  As students discuss their responses, they will engage in evaluation of their own responses as well as the responses of their peers.  Furthermore, if answers differ, students will justify their responses as they converse.

1_46e6d5a459042-76-1Even though you will have a specific idea of what word or phrase goes in each blank, you will be surprised at how our students can show us that the blank can be interpreted differently and how something else can fit logically into the space. When we are open to allowing students to explain their logic and reasoning for selecting a term or concept, we see that our students have a lot to teach us too!

Advance organizers are a great means of formative assessment.  Teachers can quickly discern what students understand as well as where clarification is needed.  The use of questions, cues, and advance organizers has an average effect size of 0.59 and can result in a 22 percentile gain in student achievement (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001).

Share One; Get One is another quick processing technique that works as a “brain dump” to break lectures and other extended learning experiences into smaller chunks. These mini-processing activities can be done at any time during the lesson.

Present the lesson’s concepts as you normally would. When it’s time to take a break and have students process what has been presented, ask them to fold their paper or draw a grid of nine squares, big enough to cover at least half a sheet of notebook paper. In any three squares of the matrix, ask students to record three different concepts, facts, or skills they recall from the presentation. Now, ask students to move around the room asking classmates to fill in the remaining squares with concepts, facts, and skills that they haven’t recorded on their matrix. Each classmate can add only one idea to another classmate’s matrix, but students can add ideas to as many matrices as time allows. The task is complete when six different classmates have filled all remaining six squares with different concepts, facts, or skills. Then students return to their seats.

Two%20Students%20Sharing%20PaperAsk your students to make a coherent summary of the presentation using the information recorded in their matrices.  Have your students put the concepts, facts, and skills in logical order and to rewrite the points from each square in sentence form. This manipulation of content and skills into a particular format is very effective because it forces students to interact with the material, not just record it. It also allows the students an opportunity to interact with the learning environment and to get out of their seats.


Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wormeli, R. (2004). Summarization in any subject: 50 techniques to improve student learning. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Summarization Techniques that Work

November 7, 2009 2 comments

As we continue to make adjustments to our instruction based on the results of the 6-week benchmarks, pacing guides, and formative assessments, retention is a common area of concern. Putting strategies in place to assist students with comprehension and retention of lesson concepts will decrease student and teacher frustration.

mnemonicsConsider poor old Aunt Sally. She’s constantly making mistakes in the mathematical order of operations. You will have to excuse her if you already understand when to perform each order of operation: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

“Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” is an extension of PEMDAS, the angry-old-ladyclassic acronym for the order of mathematical operations. This mnemonic device assists students daily in understanding what to do and in what order. When you think about it, PEMDAS is also a summarization strategy. Creating acronyms for concepts, cycles, protocols, sequences, and systems is a great way to allow students to summarize and retain information.




writing3One way to begin is by asking students to list the essential attributes of something that you have been teaching. For example, say that you have been focusing on how to write good introductions to essays. In response to your prompt, students might generate a list that includes the following:

• Hook the reader with an interesting attention getter that provides background information to set the stage for your thesis.
• Add your thesis statement.
• Provide an organizational hint to serve as a preview for the content of the essay.
• Use a clincher to transition from the introduction to the first body paragraph.

Classroom Instruciotn Book

Great information on summarization can be found in this book. See me to borrow a copy.

Then, ask your students to examine each attribute and identify a single term to serve as a key word for remembering that attribute. This group activity involves discussing and deciding on key words, providing yet another opportunity for summarization. Key words for remembering how to write good essay introductions might be attention getter (AG), thesis (T), organizational hint (OH), and clincher (C).

Now it’s simply a matter of sequencing the letters in an order that makes sense. If the attributes are things that do not need to be in a specific sequence, then all the students have to do is move the letters around until something coherent and meaningful emerges. If the sequence is set, such as the steps in a math problem, the process of how a bill goes through Congress, or the metamorphosis of mealworms, the order of the letters is nonnegotiable, and creating a memorable acronym can be a bit more challenging, but it is certainly a worthwhile task.


thesis_funnelThis technique can also work as a pre-assessment activity. You might ask your students to create an initial list of attributes as a whole class activity. Then, have the students revise the lists on their own (another opportunity for summarizing). As mnemonic devices, acronyms can be even more powerful when created by students themselves. Consider asking each student to design his or her own acronyms for something to be studied, and then vote on the top three. The voting criteria might include clarity, accuracy, and how easily the acronym can be remembered.


wormeli book

See me if you would like to borrow this book.

Summarization is not only a technique proven to improve student achievement, but it is also a method of formative assessment that can help you assess where your students are and help them self-assess. By implementing various summarization strategies, we can help provide students with yet another exposure to higher-order thinking activities.



Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Westerberg, T. R. (2009). Becoming a great high school: 6 strategies and 1 attitude that make a difference. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wormeli, R. (2004). Summarization in any subject: 50 techniques to improve student learning. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Formative Assessment… Now what?

November 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Over the past two weeks I have had the pleasure of meeting with most EOC teachers to discuss the results of the 6-week benchmark tests and how the results will drive their instruction for the next 6 weeks. It is exciting to see that we are beginning to reframe our questions as we strive to achieve 17 of 17 targets and meet AYP.

pics for 11-2We are moving away from asking, “What labels do students have? to asking, “What are their interests and needs?” We are not looking at just what deficits students have, but we are also looking at what strengths our students bring to their classrooms. We are moving beyond thinking solely about questions such as, “How do we remediate?” We are starting to focus on how we can maximize access to the richest possible curriculum and instruction.

We are no longer simply asking, “How do we motivate?” but we are beginning to explore what it would it take to tap the motivation already within our learners. We are moving to the point that all of us are asking, “What circumstances maximize the student’s full possibilities?”

additional picsBy asking these questions, we are moving from the blame frame to exploration of potential for all kids. In her article “Deciding to Teach Them All,” Tomlinson (2003) outlines principles for fostering equity and excellence in academically diverse learners. I thought that this might be a quick reference for exploring ways to reach and teach all of our students now that we have the data about student performance for the first six weeks of school.

Good curriculum comes first. The teacher’s first job is always to ensure a coherent, important, inviting, and thoughtful curriculum. All tasks should respect each learner.

Every student deserves work that is focused on the essential knowledge, understanding, and skills targeted for the lesson. Every student should be required to think at a high level and should find his or her work interesting and powerful.

11-2When in doubt, teach up! Good instruction stretches learners. The best tasks are those that students find a little too difficult to complete comfortably. Be sure there’s a support system in place to facilitate the student’s success at a level that he or she doubted was attainable.

Use flexible grouping. Find ways and time for the class to work as a whole, for students to demonstrate competence alone, and for students to work with varied groups of peers. Using only one or two types of groups causes students to see themselves and one another in more limited ways, keeps the teacher from “auditioning” students in varied contexts, and limits potentially rich exchanges in the classroom.

Become an assessment junkie. Everything that a student says and does is a potential source of assessment data. Assessment should be an ongoing process, conducted in flexible but distinct stages, and it should maximize opportunities for each student to open the widest possible window on his or her learning.

more pics for 11-2Grade to reflect growth. The most we can ask of any person—and the least we ought to ask—is to be and become their best. The teacher’s job is to guide and support the learner in this endeavor. Grading should, in part, reflect a learner’s growth.


Tomlinson, C. A. (2003). Deciding to teach them all. Educational Leadership, 61(2), 6-11.

Formative Assessment and Benchmark Testing

October 18, 2009 2 comments

pic 1As I continue to meet with teachers regarding results of benchmark testing, I am reminded that sometimes we just need to take time to reflect on why we do what we do. As a school and a district, we are challenged to decrease the achievement gap between white students and students of color by 25%.  Research shows that high quality formative assessment does have a powerful impact on student learning. Black and Wiliam (1998) report that studies of formative assessment show an effect size on standardized tests of between 0.4 and 0.7, an effect larger than most known educational interventions.  Effect size is a measure of the impact of an intervention or strategy on student outcomes.




Pic 2

Data from formative assessment/benchmark tests provide us with a better understanding of gaps between learning goals and students’ current knowledge.  The feedback you provide to students following a formative assessment/benchmark test helps them become aware of their specific learning gaps.  The clear and specific feedback you provide guides students through actions necessary to achieve the learning goal (Ramaprasad, 1983; Sadler, 1989).

The most helpful type of feedback on tests and homework provides specific comments about errors and specific suggestions for improvement (Bangert-Drowns, Kulick, & Morgan, 1991; Elawar & Corno, 1985).  When we encourage students to focus their attention thoughtfully on the task rather than on simply getting the right answer, we move them toward mastery learning, not just performance on a particular assessment on a specific date.




pic 3

Specific feedback is particularly helpful to lower achieving students because it emphasizes that students can improve as a result of effort. Formative assessment helps support the expectation that all students can learn at high levels and counteracts the cycle in which students attribute their poor performance to lack of ability (Ames, 1992; Vispoel & Austin, 1995). When students become discouraged, they are unwilling to invest in further learning; formative assessment coupled with specific feedback provides a second chance for students to relearn and master previously taught concepts.





pic 4

Admittedly, feedback generally originates from a teacher. However, some of you are allowing students to play an important role in the formative assessment process through self-evaluation. Two experimental research studies have shown that students who understand the learning objectives and assessment criteria and have opportunities to reflect on their work demonstrate greater improvement than those who do not (Fontana & Fernandes, 1994; Frederikson & White, 1997). Furthermore, students with learning disabilities who are taught to use self-monitoring strategies related to their understanding of reading and writing tasks also show performance gains (McCurdy & Shapiro, 1992; Sawyer, Graham, & Harris, 1992).




pic 5

During our last session on The Power of Formative Assessment, I found it interesting that our students struggle with self-assessment, as evidenced by the posting regarding using Stoplight strategy. When students indicated that they positively knew the answer to a specific question and coded it green only to discover that they were wrong, we must reevaluate why students harbor these misconceptions.  This posting tells us that we must teach our students how to self-assess and guide them through that process as a procedure promote mastery learning.

As we continue to learn about formative assessment, whether through our benchmarks or our daily assessments, our goal is to make necessary adjustments in our instructional practices to improve student achievement.


Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84 (3): 261-271.

Bangert-Drowns, R.L., Kulick, J.A., and Morgan, M.T. (1991). The instructional effect of feedback in test-like events. Review of Educational Research, 61 (2): 213-238.

Black, P. and Wiliam, D. (1998b). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80 (2): 139-148. (Available online:

Elawar, M.C., and Corno, L. (1985). A factorial experiment in teachers’ written feedback on student homework: Changing teacher behaviour a little rather than a lot. Journal of Educational Psychology, 77 (2): 162-173.

Fontana, D., and Fernandes, M. (1994). Improvements in mathematics performance as a consequence of self-assessment in Portuguese primary school pupils. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 64 (3): 407-417.

Frederiksen, J.R., and White, B.J. (1997). Reflective assessment of students’ research within an inquiry-based middle school science curriculum. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.

McCurdy, B.L., and Shapiro, E.S. (1992). A comparison of teacher monitoring, peer monitoring, and self-monitoring with curriculum-based measurement in reading among students with learning disabilities. Journal of Special Education, 26 (2): 162-180.

Ramaprasad, A. (1983). On the definition of feedback. Behavioral Science, 28 (1): 4-13.

Sadler, D.R. (1989). Formative assessment and the design of instructional systems. Instructional Science, 18 (2): 119-144.

The concept of formative assessment. Boston, Carol. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2009, from

The Value of Formative Assessment | FairTest. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2009, from

Vispoel, W.P., and Austin, J.R. (1995). Success and failure in junior high school: A critical incident approach to understanding students’ attributional beliefs. American Educational Research Journal, 32 (2): 377-412.