Hard Stop.

the-end-is-nearHard Stop.

May 24, 2017


I not a big fan of summative assessments.  I tend to look at everything formatively.  This is partially due to the fact that I’m not really ever finished with students until the go to middle school.  

What I have been thinking a lot about lately is the Miracle Question.   If your students accomplished this,  what is the first thing you would notice?

When I begin to collect the end of year data,  I seem to approach it in a different way each year.  Maybe it’s the lens I have at the moment, perhaps it’s a reflection of my goals for the year.  This year I’m thinking about curriculum changes, staff changes,  focus of instruction changes.  How well does the data reflect that?

As a school and as a district,  we have benchmark summative goals for grade levels.  They are arbitrary, but based on sound developmental data.  Certain reading levels, fluency levels, your standard benchmarks.  That’s what worries me.  That we view all of this data in our rear view mirror.  A hard stop.  The end.

What a big huge waste of time!  So…  perhaps we should get from it what works for us.   What works for us as practitioners.  What works for us as facilitators.  What works for us as learners, both teachers and students.  So what works for us?

When looking at the developmental reading assessment or any other assessment that gives us a reading level, fluency, miscues, and some level of comprehension,  let’s look at the individuals and make instructional recommendations based on what we notice.  Also let’s look for classroom trends.  What do we notice that makes us consider our instruction, exposure, and opportunities?   What would it look like to master these measured skills in the “wild”?  What do each of these missed components tell us?
We could travel across all of the assessments in this manner, but let’s make the journey one of inquiry and not tedium.  Not a hard stop, but a comma.  A pause for reflection.  It’s so difficult to make time for that at the end of the year, but it’s precisely when we should.  Think about those next students and what we have learned that will benefit them.  Think about those current students and what we might send them on with to their new homes.  If you students accomplished (fill in the blank)  what IS the first thing you would notice?  


It doesn’t add up 


Calendar with pushpinsApril Calendar Math

April 1, 2017

11 weeks of school

14 more days of bus duty

13 more schedule child study meetings

1 month missing from intervention because of:

10 days of MCAS administration

10 days of benchmarking

6 vacation days

3 days of data meetings

2 conference ½ days

1 field trip
Not enough time

When is Measuring Fluency So Much More

When Measuring Fluency is So Much More  

March 2, 2017

IMG_7993 (1).jpgProgress monitoring reading fluency gets a bad rap almost everywhere, but not at my school.  I’m going to take credit for that.  

The question is on the table in my district and many others.  Are we assessing students too much and can the endless time tests in reading fluency be the first to go?  I say an emphatic NO.  And here’s why.  

I agree that drilling student with boring reading passages and telling them to read faster and faster is at least pointless and at most damaging to reading as a pleasure.  But my students look forward to our Wednesday progress monitoring.

What’s my secret?  Jedi Mind Tricks…  Actually no.  We have a routine.  When Wednesday rolls around each student knows that they will have 5 minutes of my undivided attention to discuss their reading, to show off their prosody, and to revel in their success … or future success.  They chart their success, monitor their rate of improvement,  map out how many words per week they want to gain, and cheer each other on.  Wednesdays,  we write about our reading quietly, while our friends get a chance to read at my desk.  I have a special stool just for this activity and a special notebook for my notes about our conversations. I had to create a list of who got to read first in a rotation because everyone wanted to be first!  Everything about Reading Day is special.

The truth is that this is so much more than reading fast.  Everyone has a ‘zen’ moment where they mentally prepare for their reading.  They use their good reading habits,  scanning the text,  thinking about what they might read about, and accessing their schema. All the things we hope readers do every time they prepare to read. We discuss training like athletes.  We trade tips for how to improve.  They sometimes ask for re-dos, which are willingly given because this isn’t a competition with winners and losers.  This is training.  This is creating mental strength.  This is seeing how much we can improve ourselves.

So today was “READING DAY’!  It was a good day.  Several students met their goals and we set new ones together.  Today, when I met with some first year teachers,  they were excited to share this time with their students.  Today, when someone asked me if I was putting too much pressure on my students with these big goals,  I said it’s about progress.  I said, we set these goals together week by week.  I said research says that having goals helps students meet goals.  I said drop by and see for yourself.
So maybe it is a Jedi Mind Trick.  I tell you honestly,  Wednesday is my favorite day of the week.