Associate Katie White writes about the usage of the word "Ability" in the classroom.

Ability: What’s in a Word?

Categories: Assessment

Based on Unlocked: Assessment as the Key to Everyday Creativity in the Classroom

Lately, I have found myself becoming increasingly antagonistic toward the word “ability.” I hear it used almost daily in my work with assessment and learning in a variety of educational settings, but rarely do I hear it used without experiencing a flash of frustration.

Because I am not usually prone to this kind of negative response to a commonly accepted term, I have decided to “unpack” the word and why its use in an educational context bothers me.

When I examined the literal definition of the word, I found nothing that immediately explained my questionable response: Read more

Classic Mistakes in Grading Reform, and How to Avoid Them

Classic Mistakes in Grading Reform, and How to Avoid Them

Categories: Authors, Common Core & Standards

Based on Get Set, Go!

Many grading reform efforts fail because reform leaders make the same classic mistakes (Guskey, 2020). Two important lessons learned from these mistakes can guide others in avoiding these errors and drastically improving the chances for success.

Lesson #1: Begin with Why, Not What

Many leaders begin grading and reporting reforms by revising the report card. They modify the report card’s content and structure and change how report card grades are determined. Some leaders simply adopt the “standards-based grading” option within their computerized grading program and then launch efforts to inform students, teachers, parents and families, school leaders, and board members of the changes they plan to implement. Read more

Kindness Amidst the Anger Storm

Kindness Amidst the Anger Storm

Categories: Instruction, School Improvement

Based on HEART! Fully Forming Your Professional Life as a Teacher and Leader

“Anger is not impressive or tough—it’s a mistake. It’s weakness. Depending on what you are doing, it might even be a trap that someone laid for you.” —Ryan Holiday

During the fall of my second year as superintendent at Stevenson HSD 125 (birthplace of the PLC At Work® process), I picked up the phone, only to be verbally assaulted by a very angry parent about an issue regarding her son, who was not receiving the resolution she sought.

I listened for about three minutes and tried to deescalate her anger, but it only got worse. Despite my best intentions to understand her concerns, she mostly just wanted to vent, but her yelling and the cruelty of her words got in the way of her message. Sound familiar? Read more

Differentiation and the Elementary School Classroom

Differentiation and the Elementary School Classroom

Categories: Assessment, Authors

Based on Teaching With the Instructional Cha-Chas: 4 Steps to Make Learning Stick

In a nutshell, differentiated instruction is meeting the unique and diverse needs of your students so they are successful in reaching the standards. It’s a concept based on a mindset that all students can improve their skills and understanding to achieve the daily learning target and eventually the standard—it just might take more time, different tools, and/or more teacher support.

Students may not arrive at those goals on the same day or in the same way. Teachers evaluate the data to determine what to do next and then respond with powerful feedback and by differentiating the instruction. Read more

Formative vs. Summative

Formative vs. Summative: Is One More Important?


Based on Common Formative Assessment

Prior to the important assessment research from Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black (1998), there was little understanding in our profession about formative assessments. This research found that there is a significant positive standard deviation impact on student learning when teachers use formative assessments to guide instruction.

While the research about formative assessment was published in 1998, it wasn’t until Rick Stiggins (2004) began to write and teach about Assessment of Learning (summative) and Assessment for Learning (formative) that teachers began using formative assessments more regularly in their classrooms to guide their work. Read more