Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beyond Gold Stars

The days of the gold star on a worksheet have passed. Engaging in meaningful assessment tied to specific learning outcomes is no longer limited to classroom teachers. It needs to be integral to the information literacy curriculum of every school library.

Like many school districts, we have been engaged in curriculum mapping, discussions around the new Common Core State Standards, and the new regulations surrounding the supervision and evaluation of teachers in the state of Massachusetts. These are complicated discussions with important implications for school librarians.

Student achievement is at the heart of these activities and discussions. How do I, in my role, support student learning? What data do I collect that documents this learning? Am I holding myself to the same standard as my classroom colleagues?

These words from Richard DuFour were shared during a recent leadership team discussion:

"To what extent are the students learning the intended outcomes of each course? and What steps can I take to give both students and teachers the additional time and support they need to improve learning?"

The full article is well worth a look. It focuses us on what we need to do to participate as fully accountable educators within our schools.

  1. Clarify outcomes - What is the goal of each lesson? Is the goal transparent and assessed?
  2. Common assessments - How do we know if we are succeeding? Regular assessments are important, but we also need to be developing common assessments to obtain evidence on our effectiveness as teachers in improving student learning.
  3. Analyze results - Share this data with collaborating teachers and our administrative evaluators. Where is there room for professional growth? Where are our strengths, and where do we need to focus on improvement?
Working with our English Department, we have developed a core curriculum unit with embedded common assessments.  Sophomore students will be doing historical research to build context before starting to read The Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison. During this inquiry I will be teaching research skills, source citation, and providing a final, summative assessment on student works cited pages. This requires generating assessment rubrics for the skills I want my students to acquire.

Things I am thinking about:
  • How effectively can I provide formative feedback to both the student and teacher during the course of the unit? 
  • How will I leverage the face-to-face class time with students into an effective online partnership as they do their research independently?
  • How will I effectively collect and manage the assessment data to provide evidence of student learning and growth? 
Identifying opportunities for grade level common assessments will be an ongoing challenge, and a change in the way I have worked in the past. I am looking forward to moving our information literacy curriculum to a new level, with assessments to gauge the impact on student learning.

Gold stars are still nice. I'll stick one at the top of each summative assessment. 

The Learning-Centered Principal

May 2002 | Volume 59 | Number 8
Beyond Instructional Leadership    Pages 12-15 
The Learning-Centered Principal
Richard DuFour

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Are We Having the Same eBook Discussion?

The eBook discussions seem to be getting muddier instead of clearer. Colleagues from the world of public libraries are posting incredible, informative and cautionary information on their experiences.

Three recent posts have been particularly fascinating:

INFOdocket Gary Price and Shirl Kennedy:
eBooks, Privacy, and the Library « INFOdocket

Chris Harris:
EBook Summit 2011: Don't Buy Ebooks

Bobbi Newman:
Public Library eBooks on the Kindle - We Got Screwed

Our learning commons has been writing grants and purchasing ebooks. We are focusing purchasing on developing a complete ebook reference collection, and a professional development collection. Future purchasing will concentrate on nonfiction, to support the goals of the ELA Common Core. (Unlimited access, where one ebook can be used by an unlimited number of patrons, is definitely the way to go.)

All our ebooks are web-based, because, as research resources, they are ideal for keyword searches and are not meant for extended reading. Text-to-speech functionality also allows reading disabled students to access the content. Push your vendors for this - they need your input to push publishers.

I worry that the frustrations surrounding Kindle, Nook, Overdrive and other proprietary platforms and devices, will deter school libraries from entering the ebook waters. Like our public library colleagues, we need to get in there and experiment, and learn about this environment. We need to accept that, during this transitional time, not everything is going to work.

But that doesn't mean it won't work! It is time to read up and start advocating administration, and writing grants, to do whatever it takes to start building our ebook collections.

A recent Facebook interchange with a school library soul buddy (Hi, Anita!) really crystallized this

Be brave. Be prepared to get it wrong, document your learning curve, and accept the transitional nature of "the book." I have high hopes for ebooks in school libraries.

If you want a fabulous FB school library friend, check out Anita! I am always looking for new library friends on FB, Twitter (concordrobin) and my new HAPPY PLACE Google+!

: )

PS - Thanks to Gwyneth for permission for the pic. She had already given a creative commons license on Flickr, and when I contacted her for permission she readily agreed. How wonderful to find photos from a school librarian on Flickr Creative Commons! I pledge to start posting school library photos tagged for other library bloggers. Thanks, Gwyneth!

Photo Credit:
Flickr Creative Commons
Kindle Library Skin
 The Daring LibrarianGwyneth Anne Bronwynne Jones