Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) are gaining ground as a way to improve student achievement at the classroom level. An SLO is a measurable academic goal for a student or a group of students that is focused on the most important course content. It is set at the beginning of a course, usually based on a student’s baseline performance, and student progress toward the goal is tracked through formative assessment. At the end of the instructional interval, the student is assessed through summative assessment.

SLOs are designed to measure a teacher’s impact on student learning within a given interval of instruction. In many states, SLOs are being used in educator evaluations. The number of students who meet or exceed the stated objective is used to calculate an effectiveness rating, which is then used as one of several measures for the educator’s performance evaluation.

While many states and districts devote a great deal of time and resources to developing SLOs, few think about creating a technology infrastructure or managing the tasks that must be accomplished to implement thousands of SLOs with fidelity. (read more…)

Jeff Charbonneau, 2013 National Teacher of the Year, received a standing ovation for his keynote remarks on Sunday at the National Association of State Boards of Education Annual Conference in Arlington, Va., where he implored members of the education community to maintain a focus on teaching “students of all backgrounds, all abilities to be successful no matter the circumstances.”

Charbonneau, a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches chemistry, physics and engineering at Zillah High School in Washington state. He described his own efforts — through courses that allow students to earn college credit as well activities, such as robotics, drama and summer backpacking trips — to help students develop characteristics such as courage, confidence and self-sufficiency.

He encouraged states to see developments, such as the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, as opportunities rather than obstacles. “These are opportunities, if we get them right, to drastically improve education,” he noted. (read more…)

Teacher walk-throughs are formative data collection opportunities for teachers and leaders to learn about general trends in a school. They are NOT designed to evaluate or judge the performance of a single teacher. This is a common misconception about walk-throughs across our nation.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been closely examining the research on teacher walk-through tools. I even downloaded and read the new book entitled “Engaging Teachers in Classroom Walkthroughs.”

Save a few exceptions, the walk-through tools I discovered focused heavily on one set of behaviors: what the teacher is doing. Whether the tool was designed to measure classroom climate, guided reading instruction or positive behavior support, the phrase, “The teacher is..” occurred very frequently.

If I’m being honest, when I enter a classroom, I rarely notice what the teacher is doing. In fact, the less I notice about the teacher, the better.

When I walk into a classroom, I focus on one thing: the students. (read more…)

FridayA majority of states have signed on to the Common Core State Standards and work is well underway across the country to implement the new standards from curriculum changes to preparation for new online tests. However, debate over the standards continues in some states, as some continue to question the standards themselves while others are concerned about the cost and logistics of implementation.

Respondents to a recent SmartBrief on EdTech poll say information about the common core is being shared primarily through updates on school or district websites — 55.88% — and newsletters — 26.48%. Another 11.46% of respondents said special public meetings were being held, and just about 6% are sharing updates through social media or other electronic communication.

Despite these efforts, when asked about support for the standards, some 63.51% of respondents said questions remain about the standards among multiple groups of stakeholders, including policymakers, teachers, parents and students. (read more…)

Recently I’ve been escorting my first grandchild, Luke, on tours of the garden and grounds around our home. It’s probably more accurate to say that Luke — who has just turned one — is towing me through the tulips. With my finger in his hand, he’s pulling “B” (his pet name for me) at what for him is breakneck speed through an incredible learning adventure. Every day.

I know that every time I’m in a school building this year, and every time I work with teachers and principals in the physical or virtual world, I’ll be thinking about Luke. I’ll be contrasting his learning exploits — mentored by me but largely directed by his own curiosity and self interests — with the reality being experienced by millions of older students inside our educational structures.

We all know that new and emerging Web technologies are connecting young people in ways never before possible. (read more…)