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Showing posts from August, 2015

Formative Assessment Is Not a Buzz Word

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Formative Assessments are the keys to identifying the actual learning that takes place within every student.  I'll admit that "formative assessment" is certainly an educational term that one wouldn't typically hear on a regular basis outside of education circles.  But it isn't a meaningless "buzz term" that we use to confuse people.

       Formative Assessment is something that good teachers do on a daily basis to gain information on how well the students are learning the daily objective or standard that is taught in class everyday.  If teachers didn't use some sort of formative assessment, they would only be delivering information instead of actually teaching.

       I think that people outside of education hear the word "assessment" and immediately think of "a test"; and then they think of a grade; and then they think about its impact on the course grade; and so on and so on--only thinking about grades.  Teachers on the other ha…

Fifty Million Students

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Public Schools in the United States educate 50,000,000 students.  Fifty million!  With a population of roughly 322 million people, more than 1 in every 7 U.S. citizens are students in our public school system.  These students are taught by 3.1 million teachers in 17,000 school districts that contain 100,000 schools.

       Add to these numbers the number of parents of these students; the number of non-teacher employees of these schools and school systems; and the number of relatives of these students, teachers, and school employees and you have a school system that touches the lives of a majority of our nation's people.

       That's a big system!  And I believe that big is good.

       It is because we are so big that we have so many diverse opinions of the best way to educate students; the best teaching strategies; the best school structures; and the best content to deliver.  This is a natural occurrence for such a large system and I believe that such debate is a goo…

11 Serious Questions for Teachers

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Yesterday I welcomed our 200+ secondary mathematics teachers to the 2015 - 2016 school year.  We do this every school year and it is always an exciting day.  We get to see people we haven't seen since last June; middle school teachers get to network with their high school colleagues.  The first day of school is getting closer and closer.

       This year I welcomed them with 11 serious questions about teaching.  Since this week is filled with the details of preparing those first lessons, decorating the classroom, preparing class resources, and learning about any new school policies and procedures, teachers don't usually get the chance to sit down for 30 minutes and reflect on why they do what they do.

       Here are the questions I asked them.  Read each one and take 30 seconds to reflect on your answer to the question.

Why do you teach?What is your goal this year?Will you make a difference?What will you do differently this year?How do you view challenges?Where is the…

Open Letter to Parents

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This is the third of a three-part series of open letters to the three most important stakeholders in our educational system: students, teachers, and parents.  All three of these groups play a vital role in the education of our children.


Dear Parents,
       The school year is about to begin.  This is an exciting time for your children; but I know that it is an exciting time for you too.  And well it should.  As parents, you are an important part of the educational process of your children.  You encourage your children to do their best and you help them as much as you can.  Your children need you as they navigate their way through the P-12 system.  Thank you for supporting your children.

       I'd like to offer a few suggestions on this topic that you might not have ever heard before.  I say this because these suggestions tend to go against popular thought on the best way for parents to help their children.  Here goes:

1) It's OK to let your children struggle a little bit while t…

Open Letter to Teachers

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This is the second of a three-part series of open letters to the three most important stakeholders in our educational system: students, teachers, and parents.  All three of these groups play a vital role in the education of our children.


Dear Teachers,
       If students only knew how excited and anxious and thrilled and nervous and ... all teachers are as the first day of school approaches.  The first impression, the first lesson, the first assignment, the first words that a teacher utters on the first day of school--every second is precious.

       A teacher's role in the education of our nation's children is the most vital and influential component of our educational system. As a teacher, your abilities have more of an impact on student achievement than any other factor.  All of this importance (I know) puts a lot of pressure on you to do the best job possible everyday.


       And to add to these pressures--as you already know--teaching is a very difficult job.  Different stud…

Open Letter to Students

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This is the first of a three-part series of open letters to the three most important stakeholders in our educational system: students, teachers, and parents.  All three of these groups play a vital role in the education of our children.


Dear Students,       As a brand new school year begins, I want to share some of my thoughts about school and education in the hopes that they will help you to have a successful year of learning.
       Note that I've used the wording "learning" and I didn't say a successful year of getting good grades.  Grades may be one indication of your learning, but grades are not the purpose of school.  Indeed the reason we adults have these rules about going to school is because we want to do our part in preparing you to be as prepared as you can be for the majority of your life as an adult.  Hence, school shouldn't be a competition for grades, but instead it should be a journey of learning.
       Some of you will learn best by sitting …