Let’s say there are no more resources, no more time, and no more political ways to change education. If all we can do is reorganize our work in schools, how would we do that? So many school reforms ask us to take on new types of learning strategies but the reforms are “add-ons” to the work teachers are already doing so where is the time to do that? Where is the time to really learn about the latest reforms, practice them, and refine them into our individual classrooms?
What if We Could Better Use Our Time and Money?
In the past money has been used to roll out the latest school reform, offer five hours of support, and provide some small amount of follow up. But teachers are left to somehow include the new ideas into an already full agenda of teaching and learning. You have to ask, “is this the best use of the money?” The money is often spent on pre-scheduled staff development days where students have the day off. Staff gather, are briefed, and split into groups to strategize. New ideas are exciting and the staff of teachers always give it their best, but without any of their daily activities reduced, the new reform just adds to the load of work and becomes heavier to carry. Teachers agree that student achievement is the goal for all schools, but they are already working as hard as they can towards attaining that goal, so how can we expect them to take on more work and more ideas without relieving them of some tasks? Maybe the real reform we need to help our teachers do their best involves reorganizing the time we already have? What can we improve with the time and money we currently have?
The absolute best way to improve student achievement is to reduce testing and increase the use of formative assessment. Formative assessment is the process of giving students helpful feedback right away, the same day, or the next day after learning has taken place. The focus on standardized tests needs to be reduced to a very minimal role in most schools so that we can collect the much more valuable data of what students are learning each day.
Personalize Feedback through Formative Assessment
The missing data for how to help students succeed through higher achievement is the day to day assessment of student learning. Students want their teachers to know them and guide them. The daily student practice of reflecting on what you know and can do is enhanced through accurate daily formative assessment. We can encourage students to learn better by helping them understand how they learn, what they need to practice, and what they need to re-learn.