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

Bus driving past a school

The Heart of the Matter: Cultivating Compassionate and Mindful School Communities

Categories: School Improvement

Based on Mindful School Communities, scheduled for release in February 2020.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” —The Dalai Lama

Compassion and love are needed in all areas of our lives. Quite simply, people are hurting and in need of healing. Schools are no different.

Students, teachers, and whole school communities are wrestling with how best to understand and respond to the impactful nature of trauma and stress and how it collides with our ability to function, teach, learn, live, and just be. Sometimes, “students are too scared to learn” (Lacoe, 2013). For many of our students, the impact of stress and trauma is formidable, compromising their physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being and academic development (SAMHSA, 2014), playing out in the form of their physiological response system of fight, flight, or freeze (Schwartz, 2016). Read more

Two students, one with a pink brain, and one with a blue brain

Coaches, Remember: Gender Equity is for Everyone!

Categories: School Improvement

Based on Step In, Step Up: Empowering Women for the School Leadership Journey

At the age of five, girls believe that girls and boys are equally likely to be “really, really smart.” Just a year later, though, at age six, girls are less likely than boys to believe that members of their own gender are “really, really smart.” And then, they begin avoiding games and activities that are labeled as being for the “really, really smart” (Bian, Leslie, and Campion, 2017).

Instructional coaches—not to mention school leaders—should be alarmed that this change in self-efficacy takes place during a girl’s first year of formal schooling. Gina Rippon (2019), in her book The Gendered Brain, documents more studies showing that teachers give higher grades to boys than girls, compared to when the same work is scored by objective, outside graders. Girls, by age nine, are less likely than boys to say that they may take advanced math classes, even though their math scores indicate they are doing just as well as or better than boys, and that boys overrate their science and math skills while girls underrate theirs. We have a gender gap, and it starts early. Read more

books, pencil, students, sitting

RTI and Parents

Categories: Authors, RTI

Based on Starting a Movement: Building Culture From the Inside Out in Professional Learning Communities.

Response to intervention, or RTI, is a structured, multitiered approach to help identify and support struggling students. It is one of the most research-based, effective practices that schools can employ to ensure all students learn and at high levels.

In the book Starting a Movement: Building Culture From the Inside Out in Professional Learning Communities, Williams and Hierck (2015) talk about this being an effective tool, a part of the “how” phase of being an effective professional learning community (PLC). It only becomes an effective tool, however, when schools have purpose clarity, the “why” stage of being a PLC. Once schools are clear on their purpose and mission, the tools are used by all members of the school community and known by all members of the school community. An important part of that community is the parent body. Read more