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Responsive Teaching with Standards-based Curriculum
and Assessment

A Few Blessings and Benefits

Demonstrating Unconditional Caring

For me, standards-based methodology is grounded in seeking to have strong relationships with my students. Carefully and continuously monitoring my students’ growth with my assessment practices tells them “I know you. I care about you. I believe in your strengths and will help problem solve any struggles you might encounter.” Any time learning was hard for my kids, I have always been careful to name any struggle as temporary with “not yet”/Growth Mindset words.

Communicating Meaningful Information

When you get right down to it, many of our assessment, grading, and reporting efforts are all about audience. Who needs information about our students’ academic growth and what specific information do they need? By working from the foundation of standards, we can detail what students currently know and understand and what they can do.

Seeing the standards as a developmental continuum, we give and gain descriptive feedback to and with students about their current strengths and needed next steps of learning.

Likewise, standards-based reporting makes it possible to give and gain descriptive feedback to and with parents about their child’s growth and progress toward specific goals/standards over time. Enlist parents’ insights and help in establishing their child’s next goals of learning.

Focus, Focus, Focus

“Know thy target.” John Hattie

Clarity about what students are to learn helps us align all our efforts - our curriculum, our assessment, each learning activity – and helps students concentrate on what is most important right now in knowing themselves as learners and thinkers moving their learning forward. Metacognition flourishes!

What does learning, teaching, assessment, and grading look like in Standards-Based Classrooms?

Apprenticeship is Focused and Shared

Teachers name the current learning focus and demonstrate the how’s and voice why’s of these Priority Standards for and with their students. Teachers encourage students to have a go at using these concepts and skills in their independent practice, too. These think-alouds and collaborative practice sessions can be observed over a long period of time to nurture students’ deep understanding and habits of mind.

Students serve as models for their peers in whole group focus/mini lessons, in small group collaboratives, and as learning partners.

Students co-create curriculum with teachers by asking questions and engaging in student generated projects aligned to Unit of Study Priority Standards.

The Walls Talk - Proficiency is Public

Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions are posted. Students also generate their own Essential Questions and develop a sense of inquiry from their questions. Some even turn into inquiry projects or serve as inquiry-based learning experiences.

Rubrics and other Unit of Study assessment tools are provided and posted.

Learning Targets are shared/posted and help to give students power and ownership over their own learning.

Exemplars are posted. Most are student-authored. Student work is the primary wallpaper or anchor texts of these classrooms.

Feedback is Constant

Multiple sources of data are sought and used to evaluate student’s and students’ progress toward academic goals and to guide lesson planning. Assessment as learning is evident daily.

Conferences – Teachers engage in daily conferences with a few or several students during each independent practice block. Students gain descriptive feedback about their progress toward Standards/current academic goals. Over time, students engage in peer conference to seek feedback and refine their work (i.e. revising a writing piece; generating possible solutions to math problem or science experiment; critiquing a process in P.E./art/music).

Student led discourse is part of every lesson.

Draft work and formative assessments are not graded.

Evaluation Energizes Learning and Teaching

Teachers evaluate students’ current level of development from and with multiple sources of data. Insights from these data pools focus and guide teaching responses.

Key Indicators of Proficiency are determined for each Unit of Study (by team). These help to gauge students’ growth and progress over time.

Practical and Informative Standards-Based Assessment Practices

Develop a portfolio of multiple data sources from formative assessments:

  • Assessment as Learning
    • Regular classroom work is the foundation of a sound well of data.
  • One-on-one Conferences
    • Critical to gaining the most informative data from conference is making sure to take notes as you meet with students (and you pull away from talking with each student). A conference note taking system is highly personal and can be old school handwritten (like my weekly, one-page grid system on a clipboard) or use an iPad or cell phone with the variety of brilliant apps available now. Our anecdotal notes legitimize conferences as reliable and valid source of impeccable data.
    • Look for patterns over time – patterns of strength and patterns of need. Identifying patterns helps you know each child and your class as a whole. Thus, your conference record notes will be of huge assistance as you develop lessons plans for your whole class, for small group collaboratives, and to clarify what you need to coach when conferring with each student individually.
    • 3 Conference Rituals:
      • LISTEN
        • Listen for evidence of students’ understanding of Unit of Study Know’s and Do’s. Are you hearing what you have modeled, taught, and practiced collaboratively with your students? Record what each child’s strengths in your notes.
      • NAME
        • Name what a student understands now and can successfully do. Over time, encourage students to do the naming of effective skills or strategies.
      • NUDGE
        • Nudge the student to try on the next easiest skill to gain greater proficiency of the Unit of Study standards/goals. When possible, encourage students to develop their own learning goals – their own nudge, if you will.
  • Collaborative Assessment
    • To chisel your understanding about student proficiency and develop a shared understanding about what to look for in student work for each Unit of Study, engage in anchoring the work with collaborative assessments as teams/PLCs/departments.
    • Individually and as a PLC team, know and monitor exactly which skills and concepts need to be assessed to determine students’ development/ levels of mastery. Standards are exit goals. Thus, it can be very helpful to identify what proficient student work toward a specific goal would look like “right now.” For example, what level of mastery would you expect for September?...January?

Guiding Premises Guskey & Bailey (2010)

  • Developing a standards-based report card is primarily a challenge of effective communication.
  • Accurate interpretation is the key element in effective communication.
  • Consistency is essential to accurate interpretation.
  • Developing a successful report card involves a series of trade-offs.
  • Report cards should be descriptive, not restrictive.
  • No report card is perfect.
  • Developing a standards-based report card requires teamwork, broad involvement, and initial training or study.

Standards-Based Report Cards Development Stages

  1. Define the purpose
  2. Developing the reporting standards
  3. *Address essential steps/considerations in development
  4. Establishing performance indicators
  5. Developing the reporting form
  6. Pilot testing and revision

*7 Crucial Questions to Address in Developing Standards-Based Report Cards

1) What is the purpose of the report card?

2) How often will report cards be completed and sent home?

3) Will a specific report card be developed for each grade level or will a more general report card be used across several grade levels?

4) How many reporting standards will be included for each subject area or course?

5) What specific reporting standards will be included at each grad level or in each course?

6) Will standards be set for the grade level or for each marking period?

7) What specific process and progress standards will be reported?

8) How many levels of performance will be reported for each standard?

9) How will the levels be labeled?

10) Will teachers’ comments be included and encouraged?

11) How will information be arranged on the report card?

12) What are parents expected to do with this information?

13) What are students expected to do with this information?

14) What policies need to accompany the new reporting procedures?

15) When should input of parents and/or students be sought?

Read More About It!

Ainsworth, Briggs, Wiggs, Besser, and Almeida (2012). Navigating Assessment and Collaboration with the Common Core State Standards.

Benson in Almeida, Benson, Doubek, and Wiggs (2011). Standards and Assessment: The Core of Quality Instruction.

Benson (2005). “Going on Rounds” in the Colorado IRA Journal.

Carr and Harris (2001). Succeeding with Standards: Linking Curriculum, Assessment, and Action Planning.

Fisher and Frey (2013). Common Core English Language Arts in a PLC at Work Grades K-2.

Fisher and Frey (2013). Common Core English Language Arts in a PLC at Work Grades 3- 5.

Guskey and Bailey’s (2010). Developing Standards-Based Report Cards.

Guskey and Jung (2013). Answers to Essential Questions about Standards, Assessments, Grading, and Reporting.

Heflebower, Hoegh, Warrick (2015). A School Leader’s Guide to Standards-Based Grading.

O’Connor, Ken. (2009). How to Grade for Learning K-11 - Third Edition.

Vatterott (2014). Rethinking Grading: Meaningful Assessment for Standards-based Learning.

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