Drop That “Busy Work” Like It’s Hot

I have worked with a lot of educators over the years. Each faculty and each school that I have visited they are different in so many ways. Now, this is not necessarily something to look down upon. However, there is one area that is consistently (wildly) inconsistent is every building that I visit – grading and assessment… the taboo topic in every schoolhouse.

I know… I went there.

Teachers don’t like to talk grading and assessment – ever. But, I do. In fact, grading and assessment is something that I am passionate about. Before you continue on, I must ask a question of you: do you assign busy work?

If so, shame, shame. If not, high five!

So here is the skinny on grading and assessment. I must first admit, it is something that we constantly have to work on in my building. Do the assignments that we ask our students to complete in our classrooms have a purpose? If the answer is no – then stop assigning them – like, now.

There are several areas that we should focus on when bringing purposeful assessment to your building:

Drop the Zero

100-point grading scales are mathematically inaccurate – it is a fact. We must stop the use of the zero in our buildings immediately. The zero holds six times more weight than any other grade that we can assign students. Use of the zero in our grading practices could potentially eliminate a student’s chances of passing a course in the first semester. This is what I refer to as the Grading Abyss. It is a pitfall, that when students fall into it, they will act a fool in your class as they have no mathematical chance of passing your course – even with a 100%.

Laws of Averaging State: 0% + 100% = 100%; when we divide that by 2, we get 50%. A failing grade. Bummer.

Read more about dropping the use of the zero here.

Are Your Grades Polluted?

Do you know why we grade students? You should.

Grades, at least at the middle and secondary levels, are about student proficiency with the standards that we teach. Anything else that we grade students on – other than proficiency on the standards – pollutes your grades. Say, if you grade students on participation (subjective) or behavior (subjective) – the grade becomes a reflection of much more than the student’s proficiency on the standards you are teaching. Parents when they see an A or a D on a progress report would not know whether the students are proficient on the standards, or are just a compliant student in your class.

Your grades are polluted. You can read more about grading pollution here.

Meaningful Feedback

Grading for completion? C’mon… you know you’ve done it. I was guilty of it during my early years in the classroom.

If we assign students work, we owe it to them to provide them with meaningful feedback. Checking (and assigning grades) for completion is nothing but “busy work”. Our students know that and they are on to us.

What if we grade for completion, but a student actually doesn’t have a clue about what they are talking about. Hypothetically one could pass a student that knows nothing about the content area that we are teaching them in. Again, bummer. We would be guilty of contributing to just passing students on.

If you assign work – provide your students with meaningful feedback.

In schools across this country, we must tighten up our grading and assessment practices. The ability to assign grades comes with a lot of power. With great power, comes great responsibility.

If we haphazardly assign grades and award credit without reason, we are going to produce students that are not proficient in any areas. On the other end, we are also failing hundreds of thousands of students every year based on what? This question is especially important when we reflect on the reasons for the 1.2 million high school dropouts that we encounter each year in the United States.

So, I ask that as you begin the new school year that you look hard and redefine assessment in your classroom, schoolhouse, or district. Go forth and do great things.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin (at) gmail.com
@mikemeechin

What We’re Doing With Remind101

I have the privilege of working with some amazing educators in my schoolhouse, and I wanted to share what we’re doing with Remind101.

Remind101 is a technology that allows educators to provide one way communication to students, parents, etc… via text message simply and efficiently.

My teachers began using Remind101 last school year in sporadic fashion. So, this year we focused on bringing Remind 101 school wide and ensuring that our teachers were taking advantage of this powerful communication tool. But, that wasn’t enough for us…

We felt that there were other areas that we could use Remind101 to communicate in several ways with our students and parents. We would like to outline a few ways that we are making Remind101 work for us @poincianahigh.

Remind101 Stakeholders via School Website

We have posted our Remind101 subscription code on our school’s website that allows stakeholders to subscribe to our feed. We publish important school information, announcements, and shout-outs on our Remind101. The feedback we have received has been great. Stakeholders really enjoy receiving the information via text message and we love the ability to be able to schedule reminders ahead of time.

State Assessment Review

EOC ReviewAs a school, we were looking to engage our students outside of the classroom to encourage them prep for state assessments. We also wanted them to use technology… enter Remind101. My Science Coach developed signs that outlined how students could Remind101 Biology End of Course Assessment practice right to their mobile device.

We posted signage throughout the school that outlined the quick how-to. After that my Science Coach would Remind101 practice questions to our students enrolled in the group. Students would have to come and explain the answer to us during lunch. Students ate it up – they were coming down and having higher level discussions about Biology during their lunch. The response was impactful for our students – we like that.

Attendance Intervention

Remind101 Wake UpLike most at-risk schools, we have attendance issues. We decided after reading about and idea on the Remind101 blog to use this technology as an intervention to address our attendance issues.

What we did was use data to identify our most at-risk attendance issues. We met with these students and enrolled them in our Remind101 wake-up program. We send out three reminders each morning, beginning at 5:45A, waking our attendance issues and hopefully encouraging them to get to school.

Our reminders are witty comments or inspirational quotes meant to motivate our students to get to school that day. We follow up our first Remind101 with two additional wake-ups each morning. We like the data that we are seeing in return. In our first semester using Remind101 for this purpose, we got an increase in attendance for 83% of students in our pilot cohort – we like that.

These are just some of the ways that we are using Remind101 @poincianahigh. I hope that this helps you to use this powerful technology in your school, with your students.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

FETC 2014

Well, it’s that time of year again. The Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) is right around the corner with it’s 2014 version.

I will be presenting again this year and could not be more eager to connect with fellow like-minded tech-saavy educators from around the country and the world. You will find me at the front of three sessions for FETC 2014; all of which you can find listed below. New friends, old friends… I look forward to connecting with you there.

My FETC 2014 Sessions

01.30.14 | Digital Assessment: Using Mobile Devices for Assessment
8:00 AM (Ticketed BYOD Workshop)

01.30.14 | 60 Instructional Technologies in 60 Minutes
10:00 AM (Get there early… this one was at capacity in 2013.)

01.30.14 | Blogging with a Purpose: A Different Approach to Assessment
1:00 PM (Common Core focus)

You can find full descriptions for each and every session offered at FETC 2014 at http://www.fetc.org.

Until then you can find me on the Twitter @mikemeechin.

See you in Orlando.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mikemeechin (at) gmail.com
@mikemeechin

Blogging and the Common Core

Ah, the Common Core… that’s right – I said it.

Common Core State Standards

They are here – whether we like it or not. Blogging is a great way to engage our students, but also address some key Common Core Standards at the same time. In fact, I feel like some of the anchor standards were written with student blogging in mind. Check them out…

Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

College and Career Readiness
Anchor Standard 6

If we break this standard down – we can clearly see how blogging is a perfect fit for addressing this standard with your students. Blogging requires students to produce and publish writing. The days of students writing for one person, the teacher, are over. Common Core requires that students now publish their work – what better way than for students to blog?

In addition to that, blogging encourages students to collaborate with one another as well. Moderated commenting can allow students to collaborate with one another safely. You could also have students write group blogs, where they collaborate on articles in pairs or small groups.

If you are a teacher thinking about, or already implementing blogging in the classroom I would encourage you to check out the link below of all of the Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing.

http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/CCRA/W

If you are arguing for blogging with your students and it’s effectiveness… I would encourage you to use the Common Core Standards to begin a conversation with the powers that be.

Mike Meechin
mike.meechin (at) gmail.com
@innovateed

Socrative and a Film Engage Assessment

Movies in the classroom… you know you’ve shown one before.

I was guilty of it too when I was in the classroom. As an administrator I do not necessarily want my teachers showing films to students – unless they relate to the standards of course. So when a film relates to the content and we want to use it to provide a visual for concepts already taught; how do we ensure that students stay engaged throughout? How do we ensure that students stay awake when the lights are off and engaged in the viewing process?

The answer is a tool that I used in the classroom; I called them film engage assessments. I used @Socrative as the driving force and delivery method. If you are not familiar with Socrative, check it out here.

Here is how it works.

As students watched a film in my class, we would use Socrative and I would run a teacher-paced quiz on my student’s devices. For this example we will use the film Glory as the example. The Socrative Share Code is: SOC-594065, if you want to run it in your Socrative teacher dashboard.

The engage assessment consists of ten open-ended short answer questions. Because this is a teacher-paced assessment, I would launch the questions as the students got to the scene they related to. Students would use their devices (Socrative runs on ANY web enabled device) to answer the question.

Socrative allows you to email or download a report of all student answers at the completion of the assessment. I would use the report to guide discussion at the conclusion of viewing.

Keep in mind that this strategy would work with and length of film – from short video clips to feature length films. It is an easy way to keep our students engaged while they view pieces of film in our classrooms.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin (at) gmail.com
@innovateed