Common Principles for Uncommon Schools

Horace Looking At Student Work

Indicators of Classroom Thoughtfulness

In his 1991 article “Promoting Higher Order Thinking in Social Studies” (Theory and Research in Social Education 19:4), University of Wisconsin education professor Fred M. Newmann describes six key characteristics that can be observed in a thoughtful classroom, condensed with his permission here: 1. There was sustained examination of a few topics rather than superficial coverage of many. Mastery of

Looking Collaboratively at Student Work: An Essential Toolkit

Looking closely together at student work can unveil a treasure trove of insights to guide school communities as they reflect on their purpose, assess their progress, and plan strategies for reaching all children better. It’s scary work, though, and respectful protocols can help. The New York Times Science pages recently told the story of the heart surgeons in Maine, New

Making the Good Essential School Better: The Essential Question of Rigor

When we put student work in the spotlight and ask hard questions about its quality, our standards and expectations for all students come into sharp relief. Essential schools that have been successful in many other ways are now reaching for new strategies to raise the bar higher. You are working in a Peer coaching situation that has paired you with

Making the Whole Student Visible: The Descriptive Review of a Child

At the Prospect Center for Education and Research in Bennington, Vermont, Patricia Carini developed one of the earliest and most influential processes for reflecting on students and their work. As the Center began to archive examples of student work from the Prospect School, an independent school founded in 1965, Carini and her staff recognized the potential for teacher learning through

Many Children Left Behind: How the No Child Left Behind Act is Damaging Our Children and Our Schools

Edited by Deborah Meier and George Wood (Beacon Press, 132 pages, $13.00) BUY NOW! reviewed by Jill Davidson I know a principal of a small urban high school who has to defend his school’s mission of meaningful learning as assessed by authentic, high-standard measures against constant demands for “accountability.” It galls me to see how No Child Left Behind’s labels

Sampling a “Vertical Slice” of Student Work

What might one learn by examining all the student work produced during a narrow time period by a broad sample of students in a particular school or district? In a 1996 project of the Bush Educational Leaders Program at the University of Minnesota, one Minnesota district agreed to capture such data in a “vertical slice” that would gather one day’s

Some Guidelines for Learning from Student Work

In “Learning from Student Work,” Eric Buchovecky of the Atlas Communities project has described a collaborative process adapted from the work of Mark Driscoll at Education Development Center and that of Steve Seidel and others at Harvard University’s Project Zero. The piece lays out useful reminders for how participants can stay focused on the evidence before them and on listening

Surfacing the “Opportunity to Demonstrate” Factor

In six urban school districts, Dennie Palmer Wolf’s Performance Assessment Collaboratives in Education (PACE) at Harvard University has focused on portfolios as a means to look at learning over time. When PACE teachers come together to look at their students’ portfolios, however, they often focus not only on whether substantial learning has taken place over a span of, say, one

Teaching as Inquiry: Asking Hard Questions to Improve Practice and Student Achievement

By Alexandra Weinbaum, David Allen, Tina Blythe, Katherine Simon, Steve Seidel and Catherine Rubin (Teachers College Press, 192 pages, $21.95) BUY NOW! reviewed by Jill Davidson In the field of education, we believe we can, in time and with effort, better understand the interaction among people that is teaching and learning,” writes Teaching as Inquiry’s chorus of co-authors, who offer

The ‘External Review’ of Portfolios and Exhibitions

Many Coalition schools have begun regularly inviting a panel of outsiders-university people, legislators, members of the business community, and other educators-into the school to review and comment on a sample of student portfolios and exhibitions. At University Heights High School in the Bronx, the External Review gathers some two dozen outsiders in for three hours to look at one particular

The Collaborative Assessment Conference

Developed in 1988 by Steve Seidel and his colleagues at Harvard University’s Project Zero, the Collaborative Assessment Conference asks teachers to look together at pieces of student work and discuss, quite literally, what they see in the work. Through observing and describing the work, participants practice “looking more and seeing more” of what is in the work. The protocol is

The Primary Language Record & The California Learning Record

The Primary Language Record British educators developed the Primary Language Record in 1985 as a framework for observing students. developing skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Teachers take notes on classroom events and samples of work, add information provided by parents, and a rich conversation develops over time-with subsequent teachers, with parents, and with students themselves-about the student’s needs,

The Tuning Protocol: A Process for Reflection on Teacher and Student Work

The “tuning protocol” was developed by David Allen and Joe McDonald at the Coalition of Essential Schools primarily for use in looking closely at student exhibitions. In the outline below, unless otherwise noted, time allotments indicated are the suggested minimum for each task. I. Introduction [10 minutes]. Facilitator briefly introduces protocol goals, norms and agenda. Participants briefly introduce themselves. II.

The Tuning Protocol: a Process for Reflection on Teacher and Student Work

What is it students are asked to do and what is the quality of the work they produce? The tuning protocol asks a teacher to present actual work before a group of thoughtful critical friends in a structured reflective discourse aimed at tuning the work to higher standards. In his essay Three Pictures of an Exhibition, the Coalition’s Joseph McDonald

What to Look for in Student Work: Some Standards for ‘Authenticity’

What intellectual standards should serve as a foundation for the highest quality teaching and learning? Fred Newmann, who directs the Center on Organization and Restructuring Schools at the University of Wisconsin, has come up with a set of criteria for what he calls “authentic instruction and assessment,” which can serve as a resource for reflection by teachers examining student work.

Work in Progress: A School”s “Mastery Guidelines”

In suburban St. Louis, Missouri, Parkway South High School”s Enrichment Coordinator, Anne White, offers these “plus, minus, and interesting” observations from the early stages of the school”s Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM), in which students may outline their own high-level performance to qualify for a “mastery” designation on their transcripts. PLUS Students want to be in charge of their own learning.