Know Thy Impact…

You can measure the positive impact a teacher has on a child by the stories they tell.

My family attended a funeral a few days ago for our sweet 83 year old neighbor.  The service was beautiful as friends and family members shared stories of the remarkable impact our neighbor and her devoted husband had on so many people in our community. Our girls were in awe of the stories told and grateful they had the opportunity to enjoy time with her as well; however, there was one story that created great emotion for all of us.

Our neighbor was a teacher for four years in the 1950s. One of her students stood up directly in front of us and shared a story, addressing the crowd with her maiden name. With a quivering and tearful voice, he shared how much she encouraged him, believed in him, and impacted his career direction. Our neighbor was his fourth grade teacher and it was evident the emotions of this positive impact still remains. As I reached for more tissues, I was reminded of the joyous demeanor she displayed when she shared her experiences as a teacher.

Hattie (2015) defines impact within the Visible Learning mantra know thy impact with four questions:

  1. Is the impact valid?
  2. Is the impact equitable?
  3. How great an impact are you seeking to achieve?
  4. What teacher practices are most related to student learning?

I will never know what test scores revealed about her student’s learning; however, I can be certain that our neighbor’s principal could answer yes to the first two questions and the third question could be answered this way, high achievement beyond or own expectations. The fourth question connects me to the formative assessment process. Our on going instruction is founded on the evidence we have about our students’ learning as the purpose of assessment is to guide instruction. I can only assume the guidance and instruction received by this student provided him with continued success. The unequivocal impact in her classroom was revealed in her student’s life and shared in a powerful and reflective story. As Hattie shares, almost everything in education works, but is it working sufficiently above the average of all possible influences?

What does success look like in your school or in your classroom? Are you leading better than your best? Is your leadership good or is it great?

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?