Formative Assessment Within a Learning Paradigm

We have just completed our winter benchmarking period.  This interim data enables our team to collaborate to review student assessment data and to identify any areas of student deficits according to our Essential Standards (still in progress).

 “The primary purpose of universal screening is to identify, as early in the school year as possible, those students who, without intensive Tier 3 intervention, are at risk for failing” (Buffum, Mattos, & Weber, 2012, p. 78).

These data are critical as we have almost 400 students who trust us to lead them to mastery of grade level standards and beyond.  Furthermore, as the principal, I want to successfully facilitate a common understanding of instructional alignment with student learning deficits.

It is not enough to know that students are performing proficiently or below grade level standard; it is important to diagnose the type of learning difficulty that is standing in the way of mastery so that teachers can plan appropriate next-step instruction (Chappuis, 2014).

This leads me to the question… Are we working within our students’ emerging understandings? We have administered assessments and we have information about our students’ learning. However, on a daily basis, are we working within their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)?

The zone of proximal development is the space between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86).

When a teacher provides instruction within a student’s ZPD, learning is supported through instructional scaffolding, including feedback, and the active involvement with the student in the assessment/learning process. These instructional strategies are the hallmarks of effective formative assessment.

Instead of perceiving formative assessment within the context of a measurement paradigm, educators have the opportunity to focus on the process of formative assessment within a learning paradigm (Heritage, 2010).

It is exciting to have my dissertation research align so well with my daily interactions within my role as an elementary principal. The purpose for my research is to:

Identify school administrators’ and teachers’ perceptions of the validity of the formative reading assessment practices that are commonly used within the formative assessment process to indicate students’ level of proficiency according to ELA reading standards and used to plan students’ next step instruction. Furthermore, the motivation for this study is to develop a clear understanding of the degree of consensus or discrepancy between these perceptions of administrators and teachers and to consider the implications for students’ next step instruction.

I have submitted my Chapter 1 and am looking forward to feedback.  As a school team, I am also looking forward to meeting collaboratively to review our benchmarking data. This will be a starting point within the formative assessment process.

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High Trust Leadership: A Postive Paradigm Shift

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Denny McLoughlin’s High Trust Leadership training.  To say the least, the two days were entertaining, inspiring, and motivating… a positive paradigm shift. There were so many concepts taught and lessons learned that I will have to attend the training again to retain it all.  Below are just a few thoughts that have resonated with my leadership as a parent and as an elementary principal.

  • Everyone is motivated by their own ARFF
    • Achievement
    • Respect
    • Fun
    • Freedom
  • Students always come into school with success
  • Every time a student makes a mistake, we have the opportunity to teach…not punish
  • Teach students how to talk to each other
  • Modeling is teaching; telling is zero
  • Questions develop thinking; telling does nothing
  • Kids are on their way to more success
  • We have to choose to be positive and choose to go to solution
  • Healthy people go to solution, unhealthy people go to the problem
  • Put your energy and focus into the solution

This training was timely as our school is working on our vision statement.  We are still in the draft stage; however, I believe we are on the right path:

Our vision is to be a contagiously positive, collaborative, and mission-focused environment that engages in staff, student, and family relationships.  Together we uniquely lead all students to achieve high levels of learning beyond expectations.

All But Dissertation…The time is now!

I remember beginning my doctoral degree a few years ago and hearing the term ABD… I had no idea what that meant or what emotions would join these three little letters. On the eve of the 2015 spring semester at Montana State University, I have completed all of my coursework and have arrived at the point in my graduate career where it is considered ABD, all but dissertation.  I am filled with excitement to begin this journey!

My current research questions:

1.  What are administrators’ perceptions about specific formative reading assessment measures for determining elementary students’ level of proficiency according to ELA Reading Standards?

2.  What are teachers’ perceptions of specific formative reading assessment measures for determining elementary students’ level of proficiency according to ELA Reading Standards?

3.  What are administrators perceptions about formative reading assessment measures that provide the most accurate information about elementary students’ reading skills to plan next step instruction?

4.  What are teachers perceptions about formative reading assessment measures that provide the most accurate information about elementary students’ reading skills to plan next step instruction?

Reflection, Renewal, Refocus…2015

Twenty years ago this week I stepped into my first classroom.  The learning goal was to apply what I had learned in my undergraduate classes and mini teaching experiences. I was nervous, excited, and ready! The framework for my learning and leading students then and now are still the same: collaboration and commitment.  I was committed to learning as much as possible through the collaboration with my supervising teacher.  I loved working as a team and experiencing the excitement of learning through the eyes and the hearts of our students.

As I begin 2015, I feel that same passion for learning and leading.  I am grateful for the Hedges team and mentors I collaborate with now and equally as thankful for teams of educators and mentors I have learned with in the past.

When we have time to collaborate, we become lifelong learners, instructional practices improve, and together we can ultimately increase student achievement for our students.
-Carroll et. al, 2010

Reflecting on my current and past experiences, I am ignited with continued excitement to collaborate with teams of educators as together we will invest in students’ lives to team with them to reach high levels of learning beyond expectations!  Follow me in 2015 as I share this empowering learning journey.