Win with Reading!

Students in our elementary school are challenged to read, read, read, read.  If we meet our participation goal, the elementary principal will kiss a pig!

I will be sharing my love for reading with several classes during the next few weeks.  This morning, I started my day with fourth grade students reading a children's version of Who's on First?

Thank you, 4E!

Musings on Iowa Core, Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessments

Iowa Core, Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards
Information I've gathered:

  • The idea of statewide standards for Iowa's high school students started in 2005.  Between 2005 and 2008, the work expanded into K-8.  (Source)
  • The original Iowa Core essential concepts and skills included math, literacy, science, social studies and 21st century skills.  The skills were broken down into grade bands (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12).  

For the first time, students in Marshalltown were expected to learn the same things as the students in Mason City.  Iowa was the last state in the country to adopt state standards.
  • In 2009, drafts of the common core state standards were released to the public.  These math and literacy standards were a result of a movement initiated by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers (Source)

In summary, Iowa currently has a mix of standards that are state specific and standards other states have also voluntarily adopted.  All of these standards are collectively referred to as the Iowa Core Essential Concepts and Skills.  
  • Math: Common Core State Standards (with several additions), **grade-specific
  • Literacy: Common Core State Standards (with a few additions) **grade-specific
  • Science:  state-specific (however, a task force has recommended Iowa adopts the Next Generation Science Standards), grade bands
  • Social Studies: state-specific, grade bands
  • 21st century skills: state-specific, grade bands
A group is currently lobbying fine arts to be included in the Iowa Core Essential Concepts and Skills as well.  

Smarter Balanced Assessments
Information I've gathered:
  • Iowa Code currently requires Iowa students to take math, science and literacy Iowa Assessments (formerly Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and Iowa Tests of Educational Development) in various grade levels for federal and state accountability requirements. 
  • task force will/may suggest requirements for a new assessment that is better aligned to state standards. 
  • Iowa is a member state of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).  The Smarter Balanced Assessments are one of two assessments (PARCC is the other) currently being created to assess the common core math and literacy standards.  
  • Any new assessment(s) resulting from the task force's recommendations could be Smarter Balanced Assessments, a new form of Iowa Assessments or something totally different (or we could stick with current Iowa Assessments Form E.)  (See Twitter conversation below)
  • The task force is scheduled to meet through at least August 2014.
  • Smarter Balanced Assessments will be ready for 2014-15, so Iowa school districts would need to know at minimum prior to the beginning of the school year if they were required to use it.  
In October, I had a Twitter conversation about the Smarter Balanced Assessments with Dr. Brad Buck, Director of the Iowa Department of Education.

Looking ahead: Scenarios and questions 
  • It seems extremely likely Iowa schools will be administering Iowa Assessments during 2014-15 even though Iowa is member state in SBAC. 
  • Is it possible Iowa might require the Smarter Balanced Assessments for math OR literacy, but not both?  (This one seems really out in left field)
  • In the future, if Iowa were require students to take the Smarter Balanced Assessments rather than Iowa Assessments for math and literacy accountability, would Iowa Assessments still be required for science accountability?
  • If Iowa Assessments were phased out in favor of a new assessment, how would student "growth" be measured using the Iowa Assessments and a new test? 
  • Assuming Next Generation Science Standards are adopted by the state of Iowa, will the Iowa Assessments science test change as well?  Will a new science assessment at the national level be created that is more closely aligned with NGSS?


**CCSS math standards are broken down by grade level in grades K-8, however they are grouped together as one 9-12 grade band.  CCSS literacy standards are broken down by grade level in grades K-8, however 9-10 and 11-12 are grouped together as grade bands rather than by individual grades. 

Reading scholarly a hobby.

A while back, I began curating a list of standards-based grading related scholarly literature.  For a few weeks, it appeared as though I had hit a road block on new reading.   Then it hit me...

Step 1: Find a dissertation on a related topic, i.e. this one.  

Step 2: Download the paper for safe keeping.  (I prefer Dropbox to store all of my scholarly downloads, so they're accessible from nearly any internet-connected device)

Step 3: Head straight to the References section of the paper. 

Step 4a: Google the titles of sources cited in the references that look interesting.  

Step 4b: Search any academic databases (i.e. I have access to EBSCOhost through my school district) for the titles of sources cited in the references that look interesting.

Repeat Step 1 and if necessary, replacing "dissertation" with "article."

This process isn't anything earth shattering, but it has added a new layer of cognitive interest to my online reading during the past four weeks, so I thought I'd share it in this space.

More Homework Meme

Paul Cancellieri is on a small list of education bloggers I've consistently followed for the past three plus years.  He tagged me in an edublogosphere meme #MoreHomework.  I've never done one of these before, so here we go on the maiden voyage:

First, I need to share 11 random facts about me that you probably don’t already know.

  1. As a teenager, one of my jobs for nearly a year was working with local law enforcement doing tobacco compliance checks.
  2. I celebrated my 21st birthday by....running 21 miles during the day.
  3. My wife and I ran across the Golden Gate Bridge and back during our first visit to San Francisco several years ago.
  4. I've completed coursework at two of Iowa's three public universities.  Ironically, the university I have lived closest to nearly all of my life to is the one I've never attended.
  5. I co-led a one week mission trip to Haiti during college.
  6. Once a month, I serve as a sound technician at our church.
  7. In my younger years, I spent many hours playing the computer game, SimCity.
  8. I have not read any of the Lord of the Rings books (nor seen the movies).
  9. My favorite movie is The Truman Show.
  10. It's been at least twelve years since I've read a fiction book.
  11. When I was in college, my sister and I co-hosted a show, "Townsley Time," on the campus radio station.
Next, Paul had 11 specific questions for me to answer.
  1. If you could teach anywhere in the world (other than your current location), where would it be?  I think I'd enjoy teaching in Scotland.
  2. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, or Green Lantern?  Why?  Batman is the only one I've followed.
  3. What is your favorite comedy movie of all time?  Jim Carrey was in The Truman Show.  Does it count as a comedy?
  4. Would you rather have the super power of invisibility or flying?  Flying would make travel immensely more enjoyable.
  5. If you could drink milkshakes with any person, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be?  Ross Perot (with or without the flip charts)
  6. Favorite dipping sauce? Ranch
  7. What one quality is your greatest asset?  During the past year, several people have expressed their appreciation for my ability to follow through with tasks.
  8. Put in order of most awesome to least: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, The Lone Ranger, Walker Texas Ranger, Galaxy Rangers, Army Rangers.  The Lone Range, Walker Texas Ranger, Mighy Morphin Powe Rangers, Galaxy Rangers, Army Rangers.  (I hadn't heard of over half of these)
  9. What is the best way to reduce the number of school shootings in the United States?  I am not sure the solution lies solely within schools or with gun control.  I don't think it is arming school administrators either.   I don't have a real good answer for this one.
  10. What mobile app do you use the most often? Gmail on my phone.
  11. On a scale of 1 to 10, how dope do you dance The Robot?  1 for sure.

Now, I come up with 11 questions for others to answer.
  1. What book written prior to 1990 has influenced your professional growth as an educator the most?
  2. Why did you decide to start blogging?
  3. Which educational author do you disagree with the most?
  4. What is your favorite fast food joint?
  5. When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
  6. What is most picturesque place you've visited? (Extra credit if you share a visual)
  7. What is your favorite holiday song?
  8. What was the last book you read?
  9. If you could work any job outside of education, what would it be?
  10. Android or iOS?
  11. What was the first computer you owned?  (Double extra credit for visuals)
Here are the 11 bloggers I nominate to continue the More Homework meme.
Here’s how it works:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer.
  5. List 11 bloggers, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
  6. Post back here with a link after you write this. Go on, you have homework to do.

How We Got Grading Wrong, and What to Do About It

A few months ago, I was interviewed for an article in ASCD's Education Update member newsletter, "How We Got Grading Wrong, and What to Do About It" (paywall link).  One of my favorite quotes from the article was a standards-based grading sports analogy:

"If you have a bad week practicing, you don't show up Friday night with minus five on the scoreboard."
I owe a lot of my thinking of the role of homework in secondary classrooms to Dr. Cathy Vatterott who was heavily quoted in the article as well.

A resource created for the Iowa Standards-Based Grading Conference several months ago was featured in this write-up, too. is a collection of standards-based grading videos created by classroom practitioners.  The site has experienced an increase in traffic during the past several months, particularly in early October.

Thank you, ASCD.