Balancing Standardized Testing and Classroom Learning

I had a parent of my daughter’s friend ask me the other day why we do so much testing with kids. To be honest, I feel we over test our students. Not just at my school, but at all schools. And we can’t hold schools accountable for the amount of testing they do: it’s the result of district mandates, which often come from the state, which is responding to federal laws and regulations. It’s obviously a very complex situation that no single teacher or school can control.

standardized-test

That notwithstanding, this parent asked me why we couldn’t just have a platform that monitored the kids work as they did it; why there was any need for assessments or tests at all. I smiled and said I was using just such a platform with my students and went on to describe the benefits of ScootPad practices. However, as much as I love ScootPad practices, and as much as I really am not at all a fan of testing, testing, testing, I do also believe there needs to be some formalized assessments. Not ones that replace the results and achievements students accomplish in their day-to-day efforts, but ones that actually inform a different kind of learning, or possible struggle.

That is to say, I have students who perform amazing on in-class work, assignments, and practices and yet struggle on assessments. This is important information for me to have. Similarly, if students are lackadaisical in class and then hit it out-of-the-park on an assessment, there is also important information for me to look at there as well. Demonstrating knowledge in more high stakes or pressured environments is an important component of growth and an important demonstration of knowledge. If my students are not able to successfully do this, especially if  they  are so competent in class, there is some discovery work for me to do.

So where am I on standardized tests? I think they serve an important function and provide useful information. But I also agree with this parent: there is a way to do that through a program like ScootPad. ScootPad can be used not only to track practices, but also to track long term learning and give formalized assessments. This allows the same important information to be learned, without losing weeks or months to testing that comes at a much greater cost.

What are your thoughts on the amount of testing we give kids… and what other options may exist to keep it better balanced?

Cheers!
Dr. Anthony

Finding Joy in the Small Things

School has officially ended for us. And like me, I think the kids need and deserve a break. But I am also aware that things like reading and doing learning activities often are practices of habit as opposed to activities that easily pop into or out of a schedule. Especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, where habits will dictate how they spend their time this summer. I worked hard to try to motivate my students to want to continue to think, learn, and expand their abilities over the summer. But even my own children have told me they want time off from all that to just play outside. And, really, how can you argue with that?

So imagine my excitement when I got the below email from one of my students the Monday after school let out for summer!

School finished on Friday...imagine my surprise to see this email the Monday after!

School finished on Friday…imagine my surprise to see this email the Monday after!

Knowing that one student was looking to log in, maybe others had as well…I decided to go check it out and this is what I saw:

Seeing two more students had logged in to Scootpad already made me smile!

Seeing two more students had logged in to ScootPad already made me smile!

Believe me, I see all the 0/3’s on there. That notwithstanding, I was so pleased for several reasons. First, at least 3 students had been thinking about practicing during the very first days of summer, when everyone is most excited to have no school anymore. Second, one student even did all 3 of the math practices I had assigned. When I went to look at her ELA practice, she had done all 4! Knowing that this had been a student I had struggled to get onto ScootPad at all during the year made it even more exciting. The other student who had logged on and done 1 math practice is so close to graduating a grade, I think he can taste it. He’s the kind of kid who loves a challenge, and I’m hoping that being so close to the opportunity to graduate a grade officially will motivate him to continue working.

Then, the next morning, I saw a post on my class’ Google+ account from a student. Granted, because my students all share my account, I’m not yet sure who this student is. But, less than a week after school was out for the summer, I had a nice handful of students continuing to challenge themselves on ScootPad!

This clever student connected with me through our class Google+ account.

This clever student connected with me through our class Google+ account.

It’s all about finding joy and success in the small moments. What small moments of success have you experienced recently?

Cheers!
Dr. Anthony

 

Evidence of Summer Learning

As anyone who has read my blog posts recently knows, I have put a great deal of effort into helping my students get excited about continuing to use ScootPad over the summer. I have no idea what to expect as summer goes on and their memory of my encouragement wears off, but I was pleasantly surprised the first week by the fact that 13 students of mine had logged in over the past 11 days. For me, that alone marked success, in that keeping kids engaged in learning in June is a near impossible feat!

But of course, I want more than simply to have students log-in. I want students learning! With the give and take in the classroom, and the opportunities I set up for my students to come in at lunch or recess to do ScootPad, I have a number of chances to interface with them about what is easy and hard for them. But with so few opportunities to do that over the summer, I have my eyes peeled for evidence of advancement.

Happily, I saw some today. “TJ” as I will call her is a good student, but one who has not been on ScootPad much over the year. Either she didn’t have access at home, or didn’t want to spend her free time at school adding on more learning…whatever the reason, she did not do more than was allotted in the times she had in class, and even then she was often behind in her work in general. Yet she is the one student who  did all 3 math practices and all 4 reading practices that I assigned for week 1–the first week school was out for the summer!

TJ's math practices for the first week of June

TJ’s math practices for the first week of June

Her scores were interesting: She did well on the last practice of Unit 2, but then took a nosedive for the first practice of Unit 3. I took a look at what was tripping her up in the new unit. Below was more-or-less what I saw across the board for the types of mistakes she was making: word problems, rounding, and measurement.

Mistakes TJ had made in the Unit 3 Practice 1 assignment

Mistakes TJ had made in the Unit 3 Practice 1 assignment

 

Normally, when I see this type of drop in scores, I do a check-in with the student. Not possible in the summer. But, to my delight, it is clear she persisted through the frustration of not doing well, and she applied what she learned from her mistakes to the very next practice. Take a look at hew new ability in the following practice:

TJ not only showed persistence, but also evidence of having learned from her mistakes!

TJ not only showed persistence, but also evidence of having learned from her mistakes!

For TJ to independently log in to ScootPad, challenge herself with a new unit and then persist with a difficult and frustrating practice shows tremendous growth for her from the beginning of the year. Happily, being the school GT teacher, I see a number of my kids over a number of years, so I will get to continue to work with TJ in the fall. She’s a great candidate for our Summer ScootPad-ers Pizza Party I am already planning for our return to school!

How do you measure growth when your students are no longer with you?

Cheers!
Dr. Michelle Anthony

New School Year. New ScootPad!

This August, we’re introducing a brand new design and a ton of new features making it easier to engage students and accelerate learning than ever before. You’ll enjoy:
New Design
Every page has been redesigned to be easier to use with intuitive navigation.
Any Device
The new design adjusts to perfectly fit your desktop, tablet or mobile phone screen.
Online Instruction
Interactive instruction to help students learn common core concepts easily.
Interactive Assessments
20+ unique question formats (more than both PARCC and SBAC combined!).
Features You Wanted
New and enhanced features most requested by admins and teachers!
More Payment Options
Online ordering of site licenses and classroom plans. Pre-pay or pay as you go!

To help you get a head start for the new school year with ScootPad, we will be announcing free webinars and training sessions shortly. Stay Tuned!

Cheers,
ScootPad Team

Uncovering Hidden Struggles

I always find it interesting to see what areas my students struggle with in ScootPad. When I look at the results, I can see if it’s a specific area of struggle for a whole class, or if individuals are getting tripped up by specific kinds of problems. Sometimes the reason for the struggle is obvious (e.g., a student does not know their multiplication facts and thus is having a hard time with division). In such a case, the solution is also obvious–work on the area of weakness to improve skill knowledge and student performance.

But what happens if the reason underlying the poor performance is not so obvious?  Such was the case with “Colby.” Colby is a bright, eager first grader who is whizzing his way through the second grade math track. He almost always scores 100%, or close to it, on math practices.

Looking at the practice results, we can assume this student is doing perfectly.

Looking at the practice results, we can assume this student is doing perfectly.

 

So imagine my surprise when I was printing out his progress report and saw he was at 64% on something!

I was surprised to see this  red score amidst what looked like near-perfect practices.

I was surprised to see this red score amidst what looked like near-perfect practices.

Confused, I went into the practices themselves to see what was tripping him up. It was hard to find one worthy of exploration, but I decided to check out 2 of the 85% scores.  Seeing the kinds of questions he was getting wrong, I was more confused: the math was simple, the concepts not nearly as advanced as many I had seen him do without any issues.

Sometimes a child's struggle is more than meets the eye.

Sometimes a child’s struggle is more than meets the eye.

After sitting with it for a bit,the solution came to me: it was the wording that was throwing him off, not the math. And while this may seem relatively insignificant, it pointed to something worthy of my time and consideration: the new tests coming (PARCC in our case) rely a great deal on just such types of wording! No longer can students get by on math understanding alone: They must also be able to decipher the math desired through the veil of a great deal of language.  For students in schools such as mine, where many are second language learners, thinking about teaching students the language is as important as teaching them the math! Colby’s results reminded me of the great challenge that awaits me with my students as we prepare for PARCC in the coming months.

What new challenges have you discovered by looking at some interesting questions and student answers on ScootPad?

Cheers!
Dr. Michelle Anthony

Meet Our Interns!

Please join us in welcoming our 2014 Summer Interns! They have joined us from all over the country to work on some interesting projects and to make an impact on millions of students using ScootPad!

Alekya

Alekya_photo

“Hey! I’m from Seminole, Florida and am a sophomore in high school. I like to listen to music, play sports, and watch movies.”

Cavan clashofclans

Cavan_photo

“Hello! I am currently a senior in high school and am from Campbell, California. I really enjoy working at ScootPad because everyone is super nice, helpful and the program is just great! During my time off work, I enjoy hanging with friends, listening to music, and gaming some. If you play Clash of Clans and read this, join my clan! PAX-13. Now have a great day.”

Connor

Connor_photo

“Hey! My name is Connor and I am currently a junior in high school. I’m from Saratoga, California and I love listening to music and playing sports.”

Kevin batman_logo

Kevin_photo

“Hi, my name is Kevin, and I am currently a junior at a high school in Gotham… sorry it’s actually in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I enjoy running, drawing, playing the piano, and fighting crime ehm I mean coding. I’m super excited to be working at ScootPad this summer, and I already exceeded the 1-2 sentence limit for this post, so bye!”

Meghna double icecream cone melonheadz colored

Meghna_photo

“Hi! I am a junior in high school and live in San Jose, California. I enjoy spending time with other people and I love to eat. :-)

 

Cheers,
ScootPad Team

Creative Ways to Track Student Activity

I love how ScootPad sends me weekly updates on my students. One of the first things I look at in my account is how many of my students have logged in that week. I work with a great number of students every week, some of whom rotate into and out of my class, depending on a number of factors. Thus, seeing the number of sign ins may not give me all I want to know in terms of who has signed in most recently.

Can you tell who's logged in just by their avatars?

Can you tell who has logged in just by their avatars?

So I have developed a little trick to allow me to easily see right away who has logged in and who has not. I give my kids a challenge: change their avatars when they log in each week. To add to the fun, I set guidelines:

  • Choose an animal
  • Choose something with the color green in it
  • Avoid one that has the color red
  • Remove the smiley face from your avatar.

I’ve even asked my students to choose a mood from one of 3 that I’ve given them to choose from. For example, have everyone choose either dancing, hypnotize, or whistling. Mix it up and make it fun.

mood

The kids love the challenges, and you can easily see who’s logging in, even before you check your dashboard for results.

Cheers!
Dr. Anthony

 

Helping Students See Strengths and Weaknesses

Each week I set up both Math and Reading practices for all my students to do at home. Not all students do the practices, mind you, but they are always available. In fairness, some of my students don’t have internet access. Also in fairness, when my students are in my GT class, they are missing work in their regular class that they will have to make up as homework. Adding homework to homework is often not the best way to excite kids for additional learning opportunities. So what can get them excited?

Students often have no idea what all those checks and X's add up to.

Students often have no idea what all those checks and X’s add up to.

 

One strategy that has worked well with my students has been to give them the tools to recognize their own areas of strength and struggle. For example, I have them log into ScootPad and go to their learning paths. They always marvel at how far they have come, looking at the number of units they have completed. They also love to see their “beehive” as they call it. While they chip away at a set of skills with each practice, they don’t notice or realize that each question builds towards something. And they rarely take the time (or realize the means) to see what they are building towards: proficiency and mastery.

What better way to see progress than a green “hive” staring back at you? It imparts a feeling of instant success! And what better motivation to improve than realizing there is a red “hive” in the mix? I have many students who stare at the red hexagon as if it were a black hole: their face reveals shock, and confusion. As if they had no idea that those little ‘x’s’ at the end of a practice over time actually meant anything.

“Ms. Anthony?” some will question, “I don’t understand. Why is this score so low?”

Others will come over somewhat despondent, as if they have been “discovered” or “found out.” “Ms. Anthony, I know I’m not doing well on this, but I just don’t know how to do it.”

While it can sometimes be difficult for them to acknowledge a challenge, the opportunity it presents for me is well worth it: having kids own their learning and invest in their own outcomes.

succeed

Cheers!
Dr. Anthony

Fundraise to Get ScootPad For Your Classroom!

money_iconWe know how tight school budgets can be so we wanted to share some fundraising options to help you get ScootPad for your school or classroom. We recommend setting up a fundraiser through Donors Choose, through ScootPad, or through both!

 

donorschooselogoScootPad teachers have had great success raising funds through DonorsChoose, an online charity open to thousands across the world.

donorschoose

Ms. Mini (Imagine South Lake Charter School, Clermont, FL), for example, recently added a fundraiser for a ScootPad subscription for her students.

ScootPad Fundraiser

fundraiser_setup1fundraiser_share

You can also easily setup a free fundraiser on ScootPad!

You can share with your community through your school webpage, Twitter, Facebook or Twitter.

The securely donated funds are immediately added to your account!

 

To set up a fundraiser on DonorsChoose: http://www.donorschoose.org/

To set up a fundraiser on ScootPad: Click on upgrade in your teacher account and then select “fundraiser”

SP_Fundraiser

Cheers,
ScootPad Team

What to Do When Kids Say: I’m Bored!

As teachers, we work so hard to make learning interesting and engaging for kids. This practice gets harder and harder with the number of requirements that keep getting heaped on, with less and less time to do it due to increased testing. Knowing how hard I work to spark my students’ interest, there is no worse comment I could hear than “I’m bored.” I feel deflated, defeated, and defensive.

bored

This actually happened just yesterday when I was working with a small group on ScootPad. My student, Luka, was distractedly punching keys on his computer and then said to me, “Can I go back to my seat and do other work? I’m bored.”

“Bored?” I thought. “Oh no! Maybe ScootPad has run its course and it’s not engaging the kids anymore. Maybe the excitement has died down and it’s all “work” to them now. I mean, who has time in school to be bored?” I was ready to actually announce my last thought aloud when I stopped myself. There is so much to engage kids within ScootPad, I knew there was more to it than simply being bored.

“What’s boring you?” I asked.

“These math problems. They’re just really boring.” I came over and saw that he was getting a number of problems wrong in a row.

When problems feel hard, kids can get "bored."

When problems feel hard, kids can get “bored.”

Knowing Luka, a bright boy for whom most learning comes easily, I asked, “Does it feel boring to get the problems wrong over and over?” He shrugged.

I had deciphered the code! We sat and problem solved some of what had been tripping him up. I saw the light go on in his eyes and his energy picked up.

“Oh!” he exclaimed, “So THAT is how you do it!” Re-energized, he went back to work, newly engaged. I moved on to another student. “Ms. Anthony,” I heard him call over, “I got 20/20. Can I do another?”

So much for being bored!

Cheers!
Dr. Michelle Anthony

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