As the College Board overhauls the panic-inducing SAT admissions exam, it’ll be giving Khan Academy access to actual test questions in the hopes of creating a sophisticated learning program aimed at test prep otherwise reserved to wealthier students. “So big picture success is that access to college (and success in life) becomes much less dependent on income and much more dependent on merit,” Khan Academy Founder, Sal Khan, writes to me. “We think we can make the playing field more level by making the best-in-class tool and making it free. We hope that beyond individual students, these tools become adopted by after-school and college readiness programs.”

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.

Get ready for more extreme weather and increasingly serious impacts on health, the economy and the environment, courtesy global climate change.

  • The U.S. average temperature has increased by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, with more than 80 percent of the increase occurring since 1980.
  • Extreme weather and climate events have risen in recent decades, with “new and stronger evidence” that many of these increases are related to human activities.
  • Climate change impacts already are evident and expected to become “increasingly challenging” across the U.S. through this century and beyond.
  • Climate change threatens human physical and mental health in many ways due to rising extreme weather events, wildfires, degrading air quality, disease transmitted by insects, food and water.

Wielicki noted that coastal areas are particularly vulnerable because of rising sea levels. Yet, the coastal population is increasing by 1,000,000 people per year. Many of these areas have key infrastructure such as ports, military bases, power plants and tourism.

This has to be the coolest app ever. Create a quiz on Quick Key and then you can print out a bubble sheet. Snap a picture of the quiz with your iphone and it will grade it for you! Wow. Just remember that if all you do is bubble in - you’re probably not testing very well. Hat tip to Richard Byrne’s Awesome Facebook page for this one! (Free Technology for Teachers)

(via Quick Key Turns Your iPhone Into a Scanner | iPad Apps for School)

We send students to spend half a day at a testing center to take the SAT. We ought to invest equal time in sending them to assessment centers to gauge their values and their social, emotional and creative capabilities. If colleges did this, they would gain a much better picture of their prospective students. More students would have a fair chance to demonstrate their distinctive talents and qualifications, and colleges might be less likely to reject the next Walt Disney.
Reflecting on my new assessment practice and taking some advice

So before the year began I really wanted to improve my assessment practices. I wanted to have an easy and detailed way to track all my notes, thoughts, and my students goals.

I came up with this method:


I made a new spreadsheet or sheet as Google calls them for each of my students and a new tabs for each strand. I loved how organized it was and as I started using it this week I loved it even more.

BUT then, I began documenting all my students work and opening up different sheets and tabs for each of the students took forever.

So I’m adapting and following advice from Joel Frey, and Kimberly Pollishuke. Thanks guys for taking the time and commenting on my post!

I’m creating a form for me to use to make notes about my students progress and to conference with them and make new goals.

Here is what it looks like:



I’m excited to try it this way and hope it is easier and quicker to use!

Teaching Tip: Bring in pop culture...even for a common writing assessment.

Prompt: Write about a day you experienced a food fight at lunch.

Prompt: Write about your favorite day with a friend.

Prompt: Describe how you would eat an oreo cookie.

No, I didn’t make those up. Those are some of the prompts that my students have had to write to throughout the years. (Can you say…yawn? Can you imagine having to grade 165 of those essays?)

This year, we were asked to step it up and make our common writing assessment match the World Class Outcomes put out by our district. The best part was that I was able to choose my own prompt.

I knew that I wanted to make it cross-curricular, make it real world, and make it so that students couldn’t plagiarize. I met with the science teacher on our team to see what the students on our team were currently studying and to see if she had any ideas of how to work together on this assessment. Luckily, working with Ms. H turned this into a great unit, and we were able to not only connect my assessment with her curriculum, but we were able to connect it to pop culture. If you read my book review about bringing in pop culture, you know that I think it’s important.

We decided that if we brought in the idea of GMOs from science and added in a little Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, we would have engaged students.

I first asked the students two questions: Who has read or seen the movie The Hunger Games? Who can name some GMOs that were used in the story?

That was all it took. I told them the scenario and the writing prompt, and you could see their minds already swirling:


In the movie “The Hunger Games,” the Capitol (a term used to refer to what we would call the government) produced genetically modified organisms called jabberjays to spy on rebels. Unexpectedly, these birds bred with mockingbirds, creating a new hybrid bird called the mockingjay. The Capitol did not intend for this to happen, and the bird became a symbol of rebellion.

Writing prompt:

Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games, is writing her fourth book in the series. She is asking readers to send her recommendations of other GMOs that weren’t in the previous books/movies. You will dream up your own genetically modified organism, which would be dropped in by parachutes during the Games, that could be beneficial for one player or detrimental to a player from another district. Your task is to write at least a one-page letter to Suzanne Collins PERSUADING her to use your invented GMO in her story.

Before writing, the students needed background knowledge of GMOs and how they currently affect today’s society. They watched part of Dr. Oz’s show about GMOs, along with reading an article about them in a science magazine. They were also provided with links of websites to research in order to do their own thinking and note taking.

In Science, the students were learning about Punnett squares and Pedigree charts, so the students first designed their new GMO for the Hunger Games. Would they combine animals or plants or both? Would their GMO help or hinder another tribute? Can they show the transfer of genetic material in which their GMO was created? Can they explain how they genetically engineered their organism? I absolutely loved seeing their drawings of their new GMOs; I will post some of my favorites another time.

In Language Arts, they wrote their letter to Suzanne Collins. I have to admit, even though it is taking me FOREVER to grade these puppies, they are enjoyable to read. They couldn’t possibly plagiarize their information; their ideas are fresh and original. My favorite part is reading how they would incorporate their GMO into the Hunger Games.

To make the common writing assessment even more exciting, I decided to turn it into a writing contest. I will take the top ten or so letters and have volunteer teachers vote on their favorite three. Then I will buy those three students lunch one day. I will even mail the top ten letters to Suzanne Collins; who knows, maybe you’ll read about one of my student’s spectacular GMO one day.

So the next time you are trying to come up with a writing prompt for your students, think big. Think cross-curricular. Think pop culture. Then enjoy having engaged students…even while they are “just writing to a prompt.”


Plenty of Fish Assessments

One of the most interesting things about Plenty of Fish (other than all these fish who can’t spell for shit and don’t use any punctuation whatsoever) is that it is chock full of seemingly dead-on personality assessments that are designed to help you find a match and understand what you need and want out of a relationship.

First, there is the Relationship Needs Assessment:


After taking this 100+ question test, Plenty of Fish gives you a shockingly thorough assessment on your personal relationship needs according to the categories above. Then they summarize your assessment and you can choose to make it visible on your profile or not.

(It is so thorough and long, I won’t post my results here. Don’t worry, I post other results below.)

Then there is the Psychological Assessment which consists of only 30 questions and aims to “determine what you really want versus what you say you want” in a potential match based on the theory that there are three key issues that lead to misunderstand and conflict in relationships: (1) Accomplishment (2) Physical Chemistry and (3) Drive. 

I had some big doubts about whether this site could actually tell me this with any accuracy because, um, I’m not even sure I know what I want half the time I’m a very nuanced, unique flower but WHOA GUYS. They kinda nailed it:


So naturally, when I saw that there was a “Seduction Style Guide” I had to see what it was about. I mean, it says, ”If you dare to proceed, this test will generate a complete step by step guide on how someone would seduce you and you wouldn’t be able to resist.”

Yeah alright.

I’m game.

This was far more than 30 questions and they got super detailed especially when it comes to fetishes, fantasies, and locations where you may or may not want to get it on.  For example:


I honestly had no confidence that this assessment would actually get it right. But again, Plenty of Fish shocked me. Here is a selection of my results:



I mean, without going in to more detail than the ridiculously detailed assessment above, I can say very confidently that this is scary accurate.

You do not have to be a member of Plenty of Fish to take the test! Access it here.

So why are there so many sucky people on this website?! The science is there…. but the people are just not. It’s a travesty, really.

Although, I have to confess: I did go out on a date with one person from Plenty of Fish….

And it was a really great date.

So we went on another…

… and another…..

and a few others….

… and we’re still hanging out.

And he’s pretty fucking cool.

So, you know, there’s that.


“Human intelligence is so multifaceted, so complex, so varied, that no standardized testing system can be expected to capture it,” says William Hiss, the study’s main author. Hiss is the former dean of admissions at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine — one of the nation’s first test-optional schools — and has been conducting similar research for a number of years.
First Steps

Sawyer’s assessment went very well on Tuesday.  There will be two specialists that come once a week to work with him.  From what I got, Sawyer may not fully understand what we’re doing or saying when we try to communicate with him.  He has no way to distinguish words with their meanings.  I hope I understood that correctly, but it’s a learning process I guess.

It just kind of breaks my heart that he is dealing with this, but who am I to judge?  He’s such a happy kid, and the biggest sweetheart.  I just wish that I could fix whatever problems he is having, or help him understand and learn.  I don’t know, I’m just a big worry wart.  

Here are seven questions to guide your thinking as you shape your classroom, school or district’s assessment toolkit.

  1. How will you use the information?
  2. What type of insight are you seeking?
  3. Can the assessment measure multiple targets?
  4. Does the assessment measure multiple targets?
  5. Does the assessment meet content and depth of knowledge standards?
  6. How do you ensure fair and accurate assessments?
  7. How can this assessment engage students?
Companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review, as well as smaller boutique test prep businesses, can charge more than $1,000 per course. Private tutors often charge more than $15,000 a year. According to the College Board, the industry is largely built on teaching kids “tricks” and gimmicks to outsmart the test, as well as other skills and facts that even Coleman now admits have been disconnected from what kids learn in school. Part of Coleman’s SAT overhaul will scrap esoteric vocabulary and the non-evidence-based essay, with the goal of making the test more tied to schools’ curricula so that any student who studies hard can be sufficiently prepared for the test.

Just a short sweet treat of a coffee ride today followed by an interesting afternoon at prac. My supervisor - who is also my professional skills lecturer - has practised kung fu since boyhood and is a proponent of fusing eastern and western exercise ideologies. Most of my practicum has been gym based and while I always emphasise neutral posture as a strength base with my clients, it is amazing learning the subtleties of movement & posture from a guru.

Bonus, we are working on me as a project to try to solve my back spasm issue. We got half way through an assessment during a lull before our next client. No surprises: rigid thoracic spine and weak knee control during one-legged squats, but everything else very good.

All is jolly super! Well, except for my back of course. And boo got a call from the GI to tell me my latest bloods showed my meds continue to hammer my liver function and he wants more tests. One of these days I’m probably going to have to become teetotal I suppose…but not tonight.