Monday, October 21, 2013

Resources for Implementing the Common Core

I was asked to represent my state on a subcommittee of the CCSSO, Textbook Work Group for the Common Core. Immediately my response was, "Are you sure you want ME?" I am in a district that hasn't purchased a textbook for grades 6-12 in over 5 years as we continue to implement the 1:1 technology initiative that is starting to spread around our state. The DE assured me that was very much the reason they wanted me to attend - to share the perspective from an integrated technology approach.

So off to Chicago. Within 60 minutes of the start of the meeting, I had my first major aha! that caused me to write. It will seem simple, I know. Others have already done this too, I know. I'm behind sometimes, I know. Here it is: Materials adoptions - and all the resources, rubrics and meetings that go with them - should be just one small outcome of professional development, not the end itself. All the tools we talked about and processes that states were using really comes back to the idea that teachers have an opportunity to understand the Common Core standards and what they mean. Purchasing materials is just this one little result of a much bigger purpose. Instead of thinking about how I could get a team of teachers to give up their time to help me decide which materials to purchase, we should all embark on a better understanding of the Common Core and learn which tools we have and need to support the implementation as part of professional development.

With this new found lens for my learning, I have sought to capture some of the resources and my ideas for their use. If nothing else, I can come back to this post myself as I prepare to help teachers with curriculum, instruction and assessment.

From the people at Student Achievement Partners comes an amazing website of tools ( to help teachers and administrators consider ways to improve practice. One such tool stood out to me as my district continues to learn about Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW) in collaborative teams (PLC's). Instructional Practice Guides could be used by an individual teacher for reflection (daily lesson) and planning (year-long guide). But I can also see them as a tool for conversation in collaborative teams using and AIW approach and protocols. Having teachers "score" the instructional practices of a peer could be really beneficial for the implementation of the Common Core. It would take a collaborative culture in your building to use these tools in this way, but I really think teachers could see this as more meaningful than the broader AIW standards.

The EQuIP rubric (from Achieve) was created by a few states coming together to work on a tool to reflect on lesson and unit design. I like tools for teachers that allow them to reflect upon smaller chunks of their craft at a time. Thinking about overhauling a course or a year is just too much. Starting small is often the best way to get big change to happen. This rubric is something I plan on sharing with teachers who are ready to consider that next step in improving their instruction - lesson design.

Sometimes the best place to start is to see an example. It's hard to know how to change if you haven't seen it yet. I appreciate open source sites as a way to share and collaborate the work we are proud of. It doesn't always mean we will think it is our best in a year or two from now, but I think that's a true testament to learning. I plan on giving this link to teachers now to start conversations about similarities and differences between what they are finding here and what they are doing in their rooms. And they get to see it all unlike Teachers Pay Teachers. :-)

I appreciate calendars and proactive ways to communicate with various stakeholders. This calendar was created by the Council of Great City Schools and has a monthly list of questions to consider as you implement the Common Core. It's just another tool to help me think about and anticipate the questions that others may be asking.

Finally, the CCSSO launched an iTunes University page that includes courses designed to help states and districts implement the Common Core.

  • Access it here. (You may need to open up iTunes first)

Student Achievement Partners (SAP) has developed several iTunes U courses intended to assist educator. 

There are more resources here than you can look through in one sitting and this certainly isn't the only set of resources available. I hope that this can be a reference page for the work of implementing the Common Core (or Iowa Core for my friends within my state).  I'll share updates as the CCSSO work group shares/creates them.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Portable Data Charts for Collaborative Teams

Why the Data Cards?
We are moving to an RtI framework in our district and part of that move requires better data use in our collaborative teams. Our collaborative teams of teachers (PLC's) have really started to use data in their results focused conversations, but often the data is too complicated to access or is housed in too many places. Sometimes, it's just having it on different screens on the computer that makes it difficult to really "see" how students are doing.

In an attempt to make the data more visible, accessible and concrete, the elementary instructional strategist (Janelle Thompson @janellejt) and I have come up with our portable data charts. We've used RtI colors (green, yellow and red) and incorporated them with our formative assessment tool, Skills Iowa, color coding (blue for exceeds standards).

In talking with other districts, there are some great ideas out there about how to make data more visible. We heard about designating a space for a data room, but we don't have space for that. We also heard about sticky notes that were moved across the wall, student pictures put in different categories, and other ideas that we took into account as we created our portable data charts. I'd like to tell you it's super complicated and we went all out cost wise to make the data charts, but alas, they are nothing more than pieces of construction paper laminated into one long chart. We move the student data cards around on the chart based on the instructional supports students need. We adhere them to the chart using "reposition glue" which makes paper into a sticky note. We decided against velcro because it was too expensive and it kept coming off. I'm sure good old masking tape could work too :-).

How to Create the Data Cards
To make the cards, we use an Excel spreadsheet merged into a Word project template. First, you need to get all your data into one place. Set up column headings in Excel that start with the student ID. This is helpful for data look up formulas you'll want to run to get all the data into one sheet (like VLOOKUP).

Once your data is housed on the same spreadsheet, open a Word document project gallery.  We selected labels and printed our data out onto blank business cards. The mail merge feature allowed us to bring our data onto the cards with a click of the button. We print last year's data on the card and teachers will write new scores on the card throughout the year as we complete district-wide assessments.

We used each student's photo from LifeTouch to make each student's data card more personal. For those students who were new to our district, we printed a picture to add to the card. I can't stress enough the importance of the pictures. It makes data mean so much more!

Using the Charts in PLC's
We use these charts in our PLC conversations (collaborative team time focused on student learning). Because we don't have a dedicated meeting space where the data can stay up, we fold up these charts after each meeting and clip them together with binder clips.  It's the binder clips I use on the command hooks in my office to hang the charts while we discuss student progress. The instructional strategists we have in our district are a huge help in using the charts and understanding the data. We are still working on their use consistently across grade levels. If you approach data in a similar way or are just starting to implement RtI like we are, be prepared for some questions like:

  • When do we move kids from one color to the next?
  • Whose job is it to deliver the interventions?
  • What about those kids that are just on the line of being proficient? 
  • How do we address students who may be proficient overall, but are missing a few key standards or skills?

Here's another article on the use of the data charts. More to come as learn more and as the secondary staff start to use them too. See page 5 of the ISFIS newsletter to read another explanation of the data charts.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Data Cards

Target Cards for Expected Growth on Iowa Assessments
I'm always looking for ways to make data more useable for students. I have to thank my mentor, Jill Anderson, from Norwalk Schools for sharing the district's data card idea with me (Created by Sandy Latham and Jan Jensen, I believe). When I learned of it 4 days before we started testing, I had to get it done for Van Meter students because it was so great!

You can print business cards is almost any word processing program, and I did a mail merge with an Excel data file that pulled our student scores and the Iowa Assessment norms into one document. The finished example is below.

Our students had the cards out in front of them when the started the testing, and teachers went over what their personal target was (based on the expected growth tables and their previous year's scaled score). Students really like to see the personalized card and appreciated the number of questions they had to get right. It was a more concrete example for them instead of the scaled score itself.

A practice we will continue for next year, one teacher had students write on the back of the card the amount of time the test took them and then collected all the cards at the end of testing. When we received the results, she handed back the cards along with the paper reports so students could see if they hit their target.

If you are interested in the files to help build your own target card, I've linked them to my web page for your convenience.