Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ever Tried Glogster???

This is hilarious! Anyone out there use Glogster? If I can figure it out I will be using it with my classes!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Is it just me?

Is it just me or are there other people out there who are noticing that even the new units being presented for sale are no more in depth than the "pre" common core units? It seems like people are just splashing the CCSS on them, saying they meet this or that standard but they don't.
As far as I can tell, the CCSS is asking us to be much more rigorous in our teaching and assessment, yet as I look through "new" units out there for sale, I see the same surface level type of assessments. The old "cookie cutter" approach. It seems that I will have to reinvent the wheel for all my teaching.
I am wondering if all these publishers are just trying to unload their materials. I, for one, will not be buying them!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Planning with the CCSS

After spending most of my summer vacation reading and researching, I have finally begun to write my writing and reading units. Today I worked on Argumentative writing. I am so glad that I am teaching all 3 middle school levels because the CCSS pretty much says the same thing for each level with just a bit more added to 7th and 8th grade. This makes writing the unit much easier. I simply have to make adjustments for the higher levels and of course go into a bit more depth. I plan on teaching my grammar in conjunction with the writing, so now that I have this unit structured, I am figuring out what I want to focus on at each grade level, still keeping an eye on the CCSS.

Anyone else out there planning with the CCSS in mind? I figure it is best to just jump in with both feet and as I teach I will fill in the gaps. I know the students will be lacking in areas, especially in the area of writing, so I will teach what I need to teach as I find out where they are lacking.

I sure would appreciate any information anyone may have relating to the CCSS.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Results from the ASCD teacher survey on summative assessment

Check this out.  Says something about what really counts. Just click on the first word, Check, above to be directed to the site.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Effective Grading Practices

This was taken from ASCD Educational Leadership Magazine, Fer. 2008/Volume 65/Number 5

Gives you something to think about as we head into another school year.

Effective Grading Practices

Douglas B. Reeves

If you wanted to make just one change that would immediately reduce student failure rates, then the most effective place to start would be challenging prevailing grading practices. How can I be so sure? Try this experiment in your next faculty meeting. Ask your colleagues to calculate the final grade for a student who receives the following 10 grades during a semester: C, C, MA (Missing Assignment), D, C, B, MA, MA, B, A. I have done this experiment with thousands of teachers and administrators in the United States, Canada, and Argentina. Every time—bar none—I get the same results: The final grades range from F to A and include everything in between.

As this experiment demonstrates, the difference between failure and the honor roll often depends on the grading policies of the teacher. To reduce the failure rate, schools don't need a new curriculum, a new principal, new teachers, or new technology. They just need a better grading system.

Ineffective Grading

The results of my experiment are not surprising. Guskey and Bailey (2001) and Marzano (2000) have synthesized decades of research with similar findings. Neither the weight of scholarship nor common sense seems to have influenced grading policies in many schools. Practices vary greatly among teachers in the same school—and even worse, the practices best supported by research are rarely in evidence.

For example, the most effective grading practices provide accurate, specific, timely feedback designed to improve student performance (Marzano 2000, 2007; O'Connor, 2007). In the best classrooms, grades are only one of many types of feedback provided to students. Music teachers and athletic coaches routinely provide abundant feedback to students and only occasionally associate a grade with the feedback. Teachers in visual arts, drafting, culinary arts, or computer programming allow students to create a portfolio to show their best work, knowing that the mistakes made in the course of the semester were not failures, but lessons learned on the way to success. In each of these cases, "failures" along the way are not averaged into a calculation of the final grade.

Contrast these effective practices with three commonly used grading policies that are so ineffective they can be labeled as toxic. First is the use of zeroes for missing work. Despite evidence that grading as punishment does not work (Guskey, 2000) and the mathematical flaw in the use of the zero on a 100-point scale (Reeves, 2004), many teachers routinely maintain this policy in the mistaken belief that it will lead to improved student performance. Defenders of the zero claim that students need to have consequences for flouting the teacher's authority and failing to turn in work on time. They're right, but the appropriate consequence is not a zero; it's completing the work—before, during, or after school, during study periods, at "quiet tables" at lunch, or in other settings.

Second is the practice of using the average of all scores throughout the semester, a formula that presumes that the learning early in the semester is as important as learning at the end of the semester (Marzano, 2000; O'Connor, 2007). Interestingly, when teachers and administrators have been students in my graduate courses, they routinely insist that they should be evaluated on the basis of their understanding at the end of the semester rather than their work throughout the term.

Third is the use of the "semester killer"—the single project, test, lab, paper, or other assignment that will make or break students. This practice puts 18 weeks of work at risk based on a project that might, at most, have consumed four weeks of the semester.

A small but growing number of school systems are tackling the issue head-on with comprehensive plans for effective grading practices. (The policy developed by one such district, Grand Island Public Schools in Nebraska, is available at

But even in districts that have attempted to put effective grading policies in place, enforcement is often inconsistent. Grading seems to be regarded as the last frontier of individual teacher discretion. The same school leaders and community members who would be indignant if sports referees were inconsistent in their rulings continue to tolerate inconsistencies that have devastating effects on student achievement.

High-Stakes Grading

The Alliance for Excellent Education estimated that the annual cost of high school failure exceeds $330 billion ("An Economic Case," 2007). Some of these failures are no doubt caused by excessive absences and poor student performance. But, as the experiment at the beginning of this column clearly indicates, many failures are caused by the differences in teacher grading policies.

Do another experiment: Randomly select 30 course failures from the last semester, and determine the cause for failure. Two common causes are missing homework and poor performance on a single major assignment—a term paper, lab, or project. What would it mean to your school if you could reduce the number of failing grades resulting solely from uncompleted homework?

The stakes of grading practices are not limited to student failure. When grading policies improve, discipline and morale almost always follow. For example, Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, achieved a remarkable reduction in course failures through focused attention on improved feedback and intervention for students (Reeves, 2006). I recently checked in with the school, and Principal Joel McKinney reported that the success of this challenging urban school (74 percent free and reduced-price lunch, high mobility, and increasing numbers of English language learners) did not stop with reducing 9th and 10th grade failures. As of fall 2007, enrollment in advanced placement classes had increased 32 percent; suspensions had declined 67 percent; elective opportunities in music, art, and technology had increased; class cuts and tardiness had fallen significantly; teacher morale and school climate had noticeably improved—and the course failure rate had continued to decline (personal communication, December 5, 2007). When schools take steps to reduce failures, lots of good things happen.

The Steps to Take

Although changing grading systems is a challenging leadership task, the benefits are so great that it's worth doing.

First, create a sense of urgency. Identify the exact cost of inconsistent grading practices. How many failures can we prevent this semester if we improve our grading practices?

Second, identify teacher leaders who are already improving policies. Chances are that some teachers in your school have already eliminated the use of the average and the zero on a 100-point scale and created meaningful opportunities for corrective feedback outside of grades. Provide a forum for these teachers to share their insights with colleagues and lead the effort to develop improved policies.

Third, get the facts; gather evidence that will create a rationale for decision making. At the end of the day, your choices about teaching practice must be guided by evidence, not opinions. For example, although many people sincerely believe that giving poor grades as a punishment is effective, Guskey (2000) has marshaled 90 years of evidence to the contrary.

Fourth, reassure parents, students, and teachers that certain things will not change. Students will still have letter grades, transcripts, honor rolls, individualized education plans, and everything else that they have counted on as part of their grading system. What they won't have is irrational grading policies that give students widely different grades for the same work.

The benefits of effective grading practices are not limited to a reduced failure rate—although that benefit alone is sufficient to justify change. When student failures decrease, student behavior improves, faculty morale is better, resources allocated to remedial courses and course repetitions are reduced, and resources invested in electives and advanced courses increase. When was the last time a single change in your school accomplished all that?


An economic case for high school reform (Editorial). (2007, November 1). Minneapolis Star Tribune. Available:

Guskey, T. R. (2000). Grading policies that work against standards … and how to fix them. NASSP Bulletin, 84(620), 20–29.

Guskey, T. R., & Bailey, J. M. (2001). Developing grading and reporting systems for student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Marzano, R. J. (2000). Transforming classroom grading. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

O'Connor, K. (2007). A repair kit for grading: 15 fixes for broken grades. Portland, OR: Educational Testing Service.

Reeves, D. B. (2004). The case against zero. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(4), 324–325.

Reeves, D. B. (2006). Leading to change: Preventing 1,000 failures. Educational Leadership, 64(3), 88–89.

Dr. Douglas Reeves Toxic Grading Practices

Dr. Douglas Reeves Toxic Grading Practices


I found this great site about the book Wonder. It tells about the author and has ideas to use with the book. The Choose Kind site has a pledge that you can sign that says you agree that bullying is awful and that you are going to stand up against it. I put the picture on my sidebar but when you click the picture it won't go to the site. Right underneath it I put just the link and that one does really work! I don't always understand Blogger!!!

If you haven't read Wonder by R.J. Palacio you absolutely have to get the book and read it. This is how it is described on Goodreads:

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July Already!!!!

I can't believe how fast June has skated past and now it is the 4th of July and I still need to do a lot of planning for my classes!!! I am very excited to be teaching only Language Arts (reading and writing) this coming year. I will be teaching 6,7 and 8th grade LA. I have been accumulating books this summer and I have several texts picked out already. I am trying to choose novels that have the recommended Lexile rankings of between 955 and 1155 but I have to tell you that it is difficult. I know for a fact that my 7th grade class is below average so I can't just drop them in a complicated book or I will lose them. There are also several titles that I feel teach a good lesson that aren't at the lexile rankings that the CCSS wants us to be at. I am going to take poetic license and do what I think is best. For my 8th grade class I will start the year with To Kill a Mockingbird and focus on the theme of racism. I already taught this group the Holocaust so they should be able to transfer to this theme pretty seamlessly. I will possibly follow with Animal Farm but I am not for sure on that yet. In 6th grade I plan on starting with Wringer, I know, it has a low Lexile but I need to get a handle on where this group is before I throw them something too tough. Then I plan on having them read Holes. Both of these books will speak to the peer pressure and bullying themes. Both of which I think this group will be able to relate. Especially since they are just entering those crazy adolescent years. But 7th grade is stumping me. I think I will start with Things Not Seen but I am not sure of a theme for this book. If I don't catch this group with an interesting novel to start, they turn off and it is HARD to get them motivated again. I could start with Surviving the Applewhites, that would be a funny book and then we could debate homeschooling versus traditional schooling. Of course we will also be doing reading and writing workshop and word study and grammar. Our school report cards still have a spelling grade required so I will choose from their vocabulary for spelling. I personally think time is better spent in other areas besides spelling at the middle school level. Just my opinion! Anyone out there know of a good site or book for teaching Greek and Latin roots. I think this is an important area to approach since so many of our words stem from these roots. And all the research says that those who know lots of words end up doing better in school. I have perused a few things but I am not sold on anything thus far. Suggestions would be appreciated. I am planning on using a classroom blog with the 8th grade too, I just haven't figured out exactly how I want to use it. I already set up my 8th grade using kidblog because it looks the most secure. I want to start simple, and see what I am getting myself into before I jump in with both feet. I would like to have a place where my students could put their writing so we aren't using so much ink and paper. (since I end up buying most of it!) Anyone out there with any good ideas please share! Those are my plans for now, they could change by this evening!!!