Statewide Support

The journey is the reward. – Chinese Proverb

I am grateful for the educators in Montana!  With their support, nearly 400 hundred teachers and administrators took the time to complete my online survey, while eight also participated in an additional interview protocol that was created for my dissertation research at Montana State University. As I reflect on this journey and my recent Dissertation Defense, I am humbled. When one of my committee members asked me how I felt after my research was complete, I immediately responded with positive tears. I have always respected my colleagues; however, after spending over a year investigating their knowledge about and perceptions of the formative reading assessment process, my respect has increased beyond measure!  I was continuously fascinated by their expertise in and passion for reading instruction as well as their commitment to developing trusting relationships with each one of their young scholars.

Our educators are truly dedicated to our students, as both teachers and administrators, they continue to also be students who are engaged in life-long learning about best practices. Our educators have a relentless focus on learning how to most effectively meet students individualized instructional needs! Below is a visual of the conceptual framework for my research. Please click here to view my findings.

Diagram 7.15.15

Random Thoughts: Common Core Standards…What do I think?

Consistency and explicit expectations provide students a clear path to meet and exceed educational standards.

My teaching career has been an exciting journey as I have had the opportunity to lead as an educator in three different states and five different grade levels.  Needless to say, when I learned about the implementation of the Common Core Standards, I was grateful for the consistency and clarity. Although it has taken a little time to thoroughly unwrap each standard and align our own teaching tools and curriculum to guide students on their journey toward mastery, there is a collective understanding among educators, students, and parents about what students need to know and be able to do. When considering ELA Reading Standards,

Hollenbeck & Saternus (2013) suggest the standards outline a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the 21st century.  “Students who meet the Standards readily undertake the close, attentive reading that is at the heart of understanding and enjoying complex works of literature” (p. 558).

As I was revising my Chapter One this weekend, I found the video below.  It provides a simple explanation of the why behind our Common Core Standards.

Three-Minute Video Explaining the Common Core State Standards from CGCS Video Maker on Vimeo.

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.

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?