From Learning to Implementation of CCSS

Highlights of 2012-2013

It’s been a remarkable year of growth for our district, and I think it’s important to take a moment to sit with our accomplishments before we move on to our summer lives.

Our work began in August with the Math and ELA shifts of instruction and learning with the Common Core. By the time teachers took our spring survey, 78% of teachers reported that they understand and felt ready for the demands of CCSS. That’s huge growth, considering the level of new learning that CCSS requires.

In October, CHS led the assessment charge by taking on the first ELA Performance Task in our district. Ninth-grade advisors from all content areas helped students through a three-hour reading and writing assessment that required small group discussions and Cornell note-taking. In January, CHS teachers learned the new Smarter Balanced scoring guides and applied the rubrics to students’ writing. In the spring, advisors helped students understand the test results and reflect on what it meant for individual learning.

Not to be outdone, elementary teachers took on the deep work of the Math Studio Project, learning and applying the eight mathematical practices in instruction; students discussed mistakes and “stuck points” as well as articulating their varying pathways to problem-solving and metacognition reflection, which is also a factor in ELA CCSS.

Just last week, K-8 teachers wrapped up their learning from their ELA Performance Tasks. Because of the efforts of our ELL and DLI teachers, CSD students were the first students in the state to take a Spanish Language Arts Performance Task. In both the English and the Spanish tasks, teachers noted student strengths in taking notes with graphic organizers, discussions, and stamina. Grouping student heterogeneously allowed students to learn from each other. Teachers noted that we need a district-wide agreement on what proficiency looks like in citing evidence.

We successfully completed two rounds of math performance tasks for grades 1 through 8. It included our high school algebra teachers and grades K/1 exploring 1 math performance task. The tasks used this year came with suggested strategies and a structure that promoted collaboration on how to teach with the 8 mathematical practices in mind.

We’ve been industrious, to say the least.

Because it’s very difficult to have a year of instructional growth with limited professional development, we weaved training into our Collaborative Team meetings. Our Instructional Leadership Teams met throughout the year to learn reflective-practice with STAR protocol and to analyze their school’s instructional focus. In addition, 34 teachers received PSU credit for our after-school CAFÉ / Daily 5, Mentor Texts, and ELL Studies classes. When we had free moments, we used them toward our learning.

When it rains, it pours, so of course this was the year to build new report cards to reflect proficiency-based grading for the coming years. Elementary teachers from across the district came together to craft a cohesive report card. Secondary teachers will conclude their report card work next year.

Alvin Toffler predicted that learning in the 21st century would require learning, unlearning, and relearning. He didn’t mention anything about the pace at which we’d be doing that or how harried such learning might feel while we strive each day meet our all our students’ needs.

As you lean toward summer, leave your work understanding your accomplishments. Rest, read, do all of your favorite things. You’re going to need to be refreshed because our work demands it. When we see each other again, we’ll be transitioning from learning to implementing the CCSS:

ü We’ll have Synergy, which will help us support our students in their learning.

ü We’ll have district-wide performance tasks, including mini-tasks (see district template).

ü We’ll have a single K-5 math curriculum.

ü We’ll begin developing grading practices that help us determine what students know and are able to do.

ü Content Area teachers will incorporate their content standards with CCSS literacy standards (scroll down for Social Studies and Science Literacy Standards)

ü New English Language Proficiency Standards will begin to be implemented for our ELL students.

ü Science teachers will begin learning (and dabbling in) Next Generation Science Standards,

ü Four of our six elementary schools will be involved in eight mathematical practices through Math Studio Project.

ü Innovation Grants will continue to support CCSS implementation in our classrooms.

I hope you have a wonderful break. As you contemplate your summer reading, know that your Administration Team will be reading Mind Set by Carol Dweck. John and I think it’s a compelling read for our work; please consider reading it, too. We can talk about it when we see each other again.


Screen Free Week

Screen Free Week, April 29th to May 5th, 2013

What is Screen Free Week? First of all, it’s not a rant against the TV. We like TV. Joan loves The West Wing; Corina watches reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond; Maureen never missed Seinfield; and Cindy likes Dancing With the Stars and The Voice.

What we really like is TV and media in moderation, which is what Screen Free Week is about: it’s a gentle reminder that life is rich and interesting away from the TV, computer, and iPhone, too.

Read on to understand why we what you to be aware of TV’s possible influence on you, your family, and your students:

Television’s Affect:

Time the average American watches TV each day: 4 hours

Time the average 65-year old has spent watching TV: 9 years

Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes

Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner: 66

Number of minutes per week parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5

Number of minutes per week the average child watches television: 1,680

Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900

Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1,500

Number of 30-second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child: 20,000

Percentage of local TV news broadcast time devoted to advertising: 30

Viewing Content:

  • Number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8,000
  • Percentage devoted to stories about crime, disaster and war: 53.8
  • Percentage devoted to public service announcements: 0.7

Statistics from Kill Your Television

  • We believe it’s best to consume anything with care, but we also know that it’s hard to change habits. To ease the way, we’ve included a link on other activities to do when you’re not glued to a screen:

Things to do instead of watching TV (

Screen Free Week Resources—including pledges, list of events, and an organizer’s kit (


Report Card Project Update

"Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world."

Joel A. Barker

In the past two weeks, the Report Card Committee worked toward a purpose of report cards that includes: the information that gets reported and the target audience. The committee of thirty-two people is also charged with defining proficiency progressions and the format of elementary report card. We are deep in the process of tying our shared visions with practical action, and the committee is seeking recommendations, building consensus, and working to make decisions based on gathering information from colleagues, parents, and students.

Please see your building administrator to see who’s on the committee from your building. Ask questions, share your visions about grading practices, and request that your comments are shared with the committee.

Rationale for Moving to Standards-Based Grading:

More Rationale for Moving to Standards-Based Grading:

o HB 2220

o Other legislation expecting a district system to show student achievement in addition to state testing, such as Achievement Compact, HB 290.

What does Standards-Based Grading Mean?
Grades are the reporting tool we use to communicate with students, parents, and other academic institutions about the quality of our products. Grades should have meaning, and standards-based grading is a focused attempt at fixing an inconsistent system.

Standards-based grading differs significantly from traditional grading, which determines grades by grading or assigning points to homework, worksheets, papers, quizzes, tests, lab work, participation, attendance, and/or behavior. Standards-based grading focuses on key standards students must learn and demonstrate understanding of throughout the course. Traditional grading scores every assignment (or nearly every assignment) and teaches students that points matter more than learning, which often invites cheating and pleas for extra credit.

Purpose of Report Cards Created by Consensus:

o Elementary Report CardProvide communication to parents and students progressing towards meeting grade level standards and demonstrating behaviors that allow students to be successful in school. It includes specifics around academic strengths and challenges.

o Secondary Report Card - The purpose of a report card is to clearly communicate to students, parents and educators about a student’s level of academic proficiency, attendance and learning practices.

Why is the Purpose so Important in Report Card?
o Without purpose, our work becomes more difficult and less effective. When we share a purpose and a vision, we can collaborate and advance our students’ progress toward college and career readiness.
Will standards based grading change my workload?
o Yes—it’s a different grading system, and we’ll face a learning curve. It’s a matter of changing our grading practices. Shawn Cornally, a high school physics teacher, writes: As a teacher, you replace students’ previous grades with more recent demonstrations, whether these are improvements or backslides. This gives an accurate and timely report about the current level of understanding of the student, and forces the student to care about learning over points.”

Immediate Next Steps for Elementary by March 1:
Determine the basic format
  • Highly specific reporting standards that are unique to each grade level – different report card for each grade level K-6, or
  • More general reporting standards that are common across grade levels means that the same report card can be used for the multiple grade levels (Example: K-2, 3-6)
Immediate Next Steps for Secondary by March 1:repo
o Define the meaning of letter grades related to proficiency progressions

Also see:

Got comments or questions? Use the reply button at the bottom.

1 comment

Honoring Our Processes

When I see students engaged in Math Studio, I experience it like an English teacher, which is not an admission of a math phobia. It’s just the opposite: Math Studio has reminded me how much I love math processes and how close those processes are to literacy processes. Language Arts just happens to be comfort food that launches my learning in other content areas.

On Monday, I saw students’ learning preferences play out in Abbie Perrin’s Math Studio at Trost Elementary. While one student was manipulating tiles to explore an algorithm, another student relied on visual thinking through drawing, and a third student used a ruler to map out her thinking on the same problem. Moments later they partnered together for “constructive math talk” where they commented on each other’s processes and strategies to solve the problem.

An effective writing workshop works similarly: to generate content (one of the hardest aspects of writing) one student may cluster or map ideas; another may free write to explore initial thoughts; a third might outline or list her brainstorm. Each process is right, a type of intellectual comfort food—so palatable that the writer can concentrate on the content rather than the tool to capture the quick flame of thought.

There’s no need to worry that a preference is a limitation—it’s not, and Math Studio ensures that students understand the varying pathways to solutions. The student who manipulates tiles knows that he could arrive at a solution by drawing or measuring, but his ease with his chosen approach helps him enjoy the process, and his math conversations help him appreciate multiple pathways to solutions. It also sets the stage for comparing, critiquing, and debating possible outcomes, as known as CCSS.

It’s true for writers, too. When students are easy in their approaches, they relax and can stretch deeper into their content. They look up at the end of the period, stunned that time has travel so fast around them. Options in a process build autonomy, which research consistently credits as a huge motivation for student learning.

Math Studio includes habits of mind posters that could easily be taken for literacy habits of mind, with the exception of a rogue word of two. I invite you to examine the posters and print ones that you suspect could ease the way for your students to deepen their work in your content. As a reading and writing teacher, I found all 17 posters appropriate for my classroom, but I’d start with the three biggies: generalize, make sense, justify why. That’s not just effective math or literacy thinking—it’s the heart of critical thinking.

Download file "MIND_POSTERS_061312_copy.pdf"

Download file "INTERACTION_POSTERS_061512_copy.pdf"

Happy Processing!
Joan Flora


Good News Statements

Came back this week seeing, hearing and talking about so many great things happening in Canby School District. Here are just a few:

  • Eight teachers have completed the their ESOL course work and now working on their 90 practicum hours to complete the ESOL endorsement requirement. This journey began in the fall of 2010 for most of the teachers. Each practicum teacher has a cooperating teaching and we could not complete the practicum experience without the support of our cooperating teachers! This is great news for our students in the Canby School District! Kudos to all of you!

  • Teachers are seizing professional development opportunities throughout the district: The CAFE study group is full, several teachers are attending the Oregon Writing Project workshop on Tuesday, Feb. 5th, and over twenty teachers have stepped up to help score CHS's ELA performance task.
  • More heartening on the professional development front, teachers are sharing and learning collaboratively. It's now common for me to receive emails describing your good work, inviting others to join in. Such messages buoy my work, and I know that colleague learning is more than powerful and lasting; it's a sign of true professional growth throughout our school district.

  • Teachers grappling and learning about student metacognition; aka, thinking about their thinking. Asking questions about how to build in strategies to promote students reflecting on their own learning.
  • Teachers complimenting each other for sharing instructional strategies, units created newly created to align with CCSS and formative assessments

  • Teachers embracing their own learning through the use of performance tasks, finding new ways for students to analyze, evaluate and apply (Blooms)

What are your good news statements? Happy 2013!


Next Logical Conversation as We Shift to New Standards

This is the time of year when I typically reflect on how the school year is going and consider next steps for teaching and learning. As I go into the the next couple weeks I’m struck by the focus of teachers learning about and taking steps toward fully implementing Common Core State Standards. I am also in awe of how teachers and administrators are using what we’ve learned over the past 5 years about smart goals, formative assessments, best practices, use of classroom assessment data, and intentional conversations about instruction and using those skills to learn about the CCSS. Thank you for all you do.

I continue to reflect on John’s message to Canby staff in August about the shift in education coming both nationally and statewide. I destinctly remember him describing how our focus on collaboration, formative assessments, smart goals and instruction has positioned us to adapt to the changes in education. I agree, we are poised to make these changes.

In January we will begin the process of revising our report cards K-12. There are many reasons for this, which include aligning with CCSS. Here are a few others:
  • Realigning report cards to reflect the shifts in our instructional practice.
  • 7-12 has been having conversations with administrators and doing some shared reading of articles related to grading. See attached
  • K-6 report cards have been temporarily revised to better align with CCSS, and still needs further revision.
  • We will be implementing a new student information system, and revising the report card now is both efficient and cost effective when we consider training staff in this system in the fall of 2013.

We will be looking for teacher representation primarily in January and February to join this process. It’s important to note that the committee role will be as follows:
  • Have a growth mind set (see blog dated 12/10)
  • Be able to commit to the time (I am anticipating between 12-20 hours), which will be determined by the group once we convene
  • Willing to present to staff and follow whatever “next steps” identified by the group as it relates to helping your colleagues stay informed, as well as gather feedback
  • Participate in parent group meetings
  • Asked to present on the report card in the fall of 2013

Commitments from me:
  • Identify the common elements K-12
  • Honor the differences of the levels and meet in smaller groups (Example K-6, 7-8, 9-12) as appropriate
  • Be transparent throughout the process, using the blog to post updates, and share the readings the committee is doing for those interested.
  • Following a process where feedback is gathered and voices are heard
  • Utilizing samples of what has been created already to build upon knowing our resources are limited
  • Being efficient and effective with the time we spend together
  • Using Developing Standards Based Report Cards, by Guskey as our guide

I have asked our administration team to read the first 3 chapters of Developing Standards-Based Report Cards by Thomas R. Guskey. This will be used as our guide throughout this process.

I have also linked a number of articles that have been circulated within the district in the past 6 months. One of the articles is from the OEA, “Praise for Proficiency,” written in June, 2011. I invite you to take a look at any of interest.

Interested in joining the conversation, please contact your building administrator.

Reading and Video


CCSS and Performance Tasks

Yesterday, our CSD math teachers came together to discuss the performance tasks their 7th and 8th grade students took. After scoring the assessment, we discussed the instructional implications as we adjust our instructional strategies to meet the demand of the Common Core State Assessments. In addition, we collected the data as an item-to-item analysis, so collaborative teams could continue their conversations about teaching and learning.

Last month at our district math performance task training, each group defined the performance task (Some of the big ideas):
    All students can begin the task Provides context for students to build upon as they progress through the task Demands of the task get increasingly challenging and conclude at a higher level of learning that includes thinking, application, and relationships (see STAR) Informative for teachers to see a progression of skills leading to application
~ Tools for promoting the highest levels of student thinking

What we learned after unpacking the 7th grade task with the math team:

  • Providing students with opportunities to actively participate in sense making, reasoning and understanding is critical for them to apply the various knowledge and skills needed to be successful.
  • Looking at the last question from the 7th grade task required students to “develop connections” (STAR/Thinking/#8b, c, d, e, h, j) between consecutive odd numbers and square numbers.
  • Integrating strategies listed in 8, 9, 11, 14, and 15 will help provide those opportunities for students in any context or subject.
  • Unpacking the 8 Mathematical Practices will help us learn about changing our practice (we spent a lot of time unpacking the first 3).
  • Teachers saw the power of providing these kinds of opportunities in class.
  • As we collect data for performance task, perhaps the most important data is the last question where students have to use the higher levels of Bloom’s to show their learning.
  • Discussing the “big ideas” of the task are critical to consistent scoring.
  • Clarifying and creating common criteria for higher-level questions is critical to consistent scoring.
  • Calibrating on predetermined sections of the task and with some of the papers will increase the consistency of scoring (we didn’t do this in a formalized way, but I wished we had).

Teachers asked two great questions at the end of day: “What is the long term goal for us doing performance task, and will we be expected to learn how create and use these tasks?”

My response:
  • Short-term goal this year is to develop our understanding of CCSS while developing our understanding of performance tasks.
  • Using performing tasks is a way to inform our instructional practices.
  • It’s a great way to see the connections students make while scaffolding context to an end-product that applies the highest levels of Bloom’s.
  • I encourage teachers to explore the use of performance tasks in classrooms (see the link from a 2nd grade Canby teacher who did just that).
  • Districts across the state will soon be expected to use multiple measures of student growth in addition to the state assessment. Will performance tasks be our secondary measure across the district? Maybe.

There are many reasons and benefits to explore the power of performance tasks. Aside from learning the scope of the tasks this year, I’m concentrating on gathering data, facilitating teacher discussions, and working on understanding the patterns and structures unfolding before us.

I’ll keep you posted on what we discover.


Teaching Students How to Learn, and Then What to Learn

Picture this: 20 educators gather in a classroom, scrutinizing students’ learning moves with specific strategies that promote students making sense of a single situation. The learning unfolds as students justify their thinking, make generalizations, and connect prior learning to deepen their understanding. Within minutes, students listen to each other, compare their logic and ideas, explain their thinking, and reflect on what they are learning.

It's not an easy scenario; and yet, that is what approximately 50 elementary teachers experienced in the past two weeks (see John's blog dates 11/28). Teachers focused intently on student talk and on students making sense of the mathematics as students created a model, an equation, and a real life situation to reflect new thinking. Students shared their thinking with their neighbors and eventually compared and contrasted their thinking processes.

It’s almost impossible to leave the "studio" setting without a sense of awe about how students think and wonder, and about how teachers deepen their practices to enable the above scenario. It is that shift in practice that will help our students reach higher levels of achievement through the CCSS.

One way we can all think about teaching students to learn is to consider the culture of our learning environments. Are you organizing your classroom for learning in a way that promotes a "Growth Mindset" or a "Fixed Mindset?" If you are curious about the research on the learning environment and its affect on learners, read the two-page summary, "Research on Classroom Culture."

You may argue that these strategies are fine for elementary schools, but not applicable to your teaching situation. I challenge you to pull out a CCSS at any grade for any subject, and reread the standards through your specific teacher’s lens. Joan did that from a reading teacher’s point of view, comparing effective vs. ineffective reader moves in "What Effective Readers Do."

Our essential question is this: how do we teach students how to learn? The reality is they can find any factual information on their own, but they need to know what to do with it once they get it.


Strategies and Resources

The feedback that I continue to get is that teachers want more strategies to help them tackle the work they’re facing this year. After considering the best way to share the information, I decided to use one blog a month to cover math and literacy strategies.

Math—Three hands-on activities

These activities can help students develop and reinforce their understanding of hundredths as fractions, decimals, and percentages. Students explore using candy pieces as they physically make and connect a set/linear model to area models.

For a bigger picture of math strategies, visit the National Council of Teachers of Math:

Middle and High School Resource for more tasks and other activities:
Mathematics Assessment Project

Literacy Strategies for pre-reading
ELA Strategy of the month—Anticipation guides acclimate students to content before reading. An effective guide asks students to react to a series of statements related to the content of the material. Benefits:
    Relating prior knowledge to new information increases comprehension Creates interest for discussion Creates low-stakes reading and writing opportunities

: Fungi
Social Studies
: Panama Canal
Language Arts
: Romeo and Juliet
: Computers in the workplace
Grades 8-9 Geometry

Want bigger ideas for ELA literacy? Check out this site and be inspired:

ELL Strategy of the month

Building background knowledge through a picture walk of a chapter before reading.

Most Effective
: Do a picture walk beginning with the book’s cover. Looking at the cover art, students can make predictions about what the title means before moving onto other pages. Students can discuss where and when the story might have taken place. Moving through the illustrations, students might notice differences in the characters, particularly the emotions displayed on their faces. Encourage the students to put together a story in their minds before reading the words.

Least Effective
: Do not ask students learning English to read the text and answer the questions at the end without building context.


"I Choose C"

One of my goals for the past year has been to support you as learners in wrapping your arms around the CCSS, and we’ve been doing that in a big way this fall. We began last year by looking at the big picture to discover how the CCSS is organized. The key design is focused on results rather than means, so you have the freedom to implement that standards to match your pedagogy. CCSS is not dominated by prescriptive lesson plans, so it’s truly a matter of acting on what you think will impact student learning the most in your classroom.

I believe it’s a huge benefit and responsibility that the CCSS doesn’t tell teachers how to teach. It’s a respectful acknowledgement that we’re engaged professionals who know our content and our students. CCSS asks our students and us, “What do you think?” It’s the most respectful stance education as seen in a long time.

Many of you already have an effective instructional framework and are making modifications to fit the CCSS. For teachers who already use a workshop approach (Daily Five, SSR, Math Studio, genre study, writing to learn), it’s a matter of combing through the standards find key areas to refine your current methods, to see where the standards can sharpen what you already teach your students. Other teachers may have more problem solving to do, and my office is working to support you through short trainings, after-school conferring, and engaging in collaborative team conversations.

Another benefit of the CCSS is that the assessments are open-ended, such as solving a design problem, troubleshooting a CTE issue or constructing an argument essay. Smarter Balanced Assessments grant students the opportunity to create solutions and show evidence of how they solved a relevant problem. NCLB didn’t do that. Nor did NCLB treat literacy as an integrated model, a connection between reading, writing, speaking, and listening, which is really how language works.

NCLB has de-emphasized critical thinking, which is a sharp contrast to the critical thinking emphasis in CCSS. Sandy Blazer, an educational consultant, shared with our Instructional Leadership Teams last week the following ‘You Tube’ video. While the video’s message may make you laugh or feel slightly uncomfortable, consider watching it through the lens of our work now in asking students to truly think:


Highlights from Performance Task Training

Below are excerpts from teachers and administrators who participated in the ELA and Math Performance Task Trainings. There is one more session for teachers in grades 3-high school who will be learning more about performance tasks in the future.

"Students will rise to the challenge when they have occasion to rise. This assessment gave them this occasion."
"I noticed high Lexiles are accessible because of the common background knowledge that is provided."
"I want to do whatever I need to to help my students succeed."
"I learned that while there are not ELA performance tasks in 2nd grade yet I can still be preparing my students for them. I can be using my colleagues to help me do this."
"I really appreciate the "breathe" part! I have figured out my anxiousness is from not being able to produce a final product yet, but I do know I am teaching them an important skill!"
"I feel moving forward on mini performance tasks is totally possible and Baker Prairie has already taken steps."
"The idea from a teacher of reframing the 3/4 task to make it more relevant was brilliant."
"Is this culturally relevant and understandable to the student?"
"I am grateful CHS paved the way and allowed themselves to be video taped about their performance task experience."
"I learned that math performance tasks are an extension of what we are learning with math studio around student talk, habits of mind, habits of interaction."
"Language is so important and is a huge missing link in our current system of work samples and output (student). Also as a teacher, I need to teach students to be metacognitive. BEST PRACTICES."
To be successful, I need: "To focus more on student talk, student thinking and student metacognition."
"The learning around performance tasks this year is for teachers."
"Nice to have permission for teaching how to learn."
To be successful, I need: "To think more about the questions and conversations I elicit in math time."


Worthy Struggle

When we hear from principals and teachers that we are pressing teachers too hard, too soon on CCSS, we have to pause and acknowledge the struggle that we’re all facing. The truth is, the pressure we’re all experiencing is the result of complex learning, and the shifts in CCSS are difficult.

As Cindy, Joan, and I met to reflect on our work this week, we admitted that we’re in the uncomfortable disequilibrium of difficult learning. The rigorous demands of CCSS are our “worthy struggle” this year.

Educators believe that students should be given opportunities to struggle and to learn about themselves and their processes as they struggle, preserve, and eventually succeed. We work to give our students a supportive struggle, a chance to learn from mistakes they make along the way. No one expects students to have all the answers to every aspect of their learning while they’re in the process of learning, especially first draft learning.

Teaching starts with a deep understanding about what makes learning complex. As educators, we excel at scaffolding complex learning for our students, but how good are we at supporting our own “worthy struggles?” How generous are we to ourselves in our own processes? Some people are more comfortable with uncertainty than others, but while we ease the way into the CCSS and Smarter Balanced Assessment, what can we do now to lower our anxieties over the next steps?

Beginning with the end in mind is long-standing comfort food in our histories of complex learning. Our office can’t give you all the answers to your questions because what we’re all facing is too complex, too big. But we also have the gift of time, and this year is about acclimating, working to understand the new standards and assessments. It’s never been about having all the answers—CCSS doesn’t prescribe how to reach the standards. This year is about sitting in uncertainty, collaborating, improving our practices, and caring for each other and ourselves in the process.

We want our students to eventually be self-winding, reflective learners. We want them to know that when they face learning that is just out of reach they still have resources at their fingertips to guide them. We might have to give them permission to let go of previous tasks that have been presumed by the new learning. The same is true for us.

One suggestion to help you sit with uncertainty is to self-reflect about your classroom practices. Joan prefers keeping a journal to capture her journey, struggles, and eventual successes, but self-reflection can be simply asking guiding questions and allowing discussions with colleagues. STAR protocol suggests the following questions:

~ Is student thinking evident in my classroom? Do I provide opportunities for students to struggle with open-ended questions, explain their processes, and reflect to create personal meaning? Do I give myself the same opportunities?
~ What am I doing well? Am I comfortable sitting with my successes? Am I willing to share with my colleagues?
~ What can I do differently in my own practice to ease the way into complex learning for my students, for myself?
~ When and where will I begin?
~ What colleagues am I willing to share my commitments and outcomes with?
~ Am I being generous with myself as a learner in the face of complex learning?

If teaching starts with a deep understanding about what makes learning complex, then so does teacher learning. We need to recognize worthy struggles and be patient with the process. We’ve got the gift of time on our side, but we also have student achievement to navigate. The pressure is real. The question is can we be good to ourselves even in uncertainty?



Using Technology and Innovation to Move to CCSS

It's difficult to envision the classroom of tomorrow without models or avenues that provide you the opportunity to be creative in shifting your instructional practices to meet the demands of teaching so students are college and career ready. Below are a few things to consider:

Jeremy Ensrud's Classroom (Wiki page from the Innovation Grants). Jeremy's paperless classroom and access to various online resources has increased student engagement and performance with work turn in and overall scores increasing dramatically. Imagine your classroom where students have ownership of their learning, they are accessing the information they need, so they can make connections, analyze, summarize, pose a viable argument.

Check out Khan Academy if you teach mathematics, science, humanities, economics, social studies, primarily in the upper elementary grades through high school. Khan Academy is an incredible resource of instructional videos, practices, where you can track how your students are doing. The practices make for great formative assessments and you can immediately see how students performed to guide your next day teaching moves. You can find specific videos and practices directly related to the CCSS, see other resources. Bob Webber is using Khan with Edmodo and is increasing students engagement as they are learning how to ask questions, provide ongoing feedback, and craft appropriate math talk with each other. This is a free resource, check it out.

  • Defined STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) is another rich resource that integrates all the subject areas into rich learning opportunities that include overarching strategies like interdisciplinary Units, independent learning, project based learning, summative assessment, inverted classrooms. It looks like a rich resource of real world video connections, performance tasks, and literary tasks. This online website does require a membership fee; however, you can sign up for a free 14 day membership. If you're curious, sign up, use it and let me know how effective it is and the potential you see with a tool like this to create a learning environment that meets the demands of CCSS.
Using specific technology and/or innovations? Hit the comment button below and let us know.


CCSS - It's About Students Showing, Not Telling

“What does it mean to press students for thinking conceptually?” This is an idea Carus teachers, along with colleagues from each of the other elementary schools explored this week in their Math Studio Project. Elementary teachers around the district are joining Trost teachers in learning about instructional strategies that challenge students in ways that align with the 8 mathematical practices and the CCSS. Regardless of what subject or grade you teach, how do you “press” for the highest levels of learning?

  • Do you expect students to provide viable arguments to justify their thinking or do the same 5-7 students share procedural summaries of steps they have taken to find an answer?
  • Do you maximize errors as opportunities to rethink a problem, consider another’s opinion, consider additional facts, explore contradictions and look for alternative strategies or are errors marked as incorrect and you move on to cover the content?
  • Do you provide opportunities for students to make connections among various strategies, viewpoints and positions or is there a limited set of strategies, viewpoints and positions shared?
  • Do you provide students with the opportunity to engage in a similar collaborative process where they are accountable for their contributions including coming to consensus when appropriate or are most opportunities limited to a single or pair learning experience with limited critical thinking?
  • “The CCSS really is about teaching kids about the process and not as much about the product.”
  • The type of feedback we give either informs student learning or excuses them from thinking.”
  • It reminded us of a lesson Joan did with district ILTs about going deeper
  • “How are we reacting to errors?”
  • “Are errors an opportunity for new learning?”

When you “press” for learning is it the full court press or do you sag back on defense waiting to see what the offense does?

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Memo Regarding Performance Tasks

The memo linked in my blog today doesn't work.

I've attached it here:

Download file "PT Memo.pdf"


Using Performance Tasks to Learn about CCSS

Most weeks we are using the CCSS Blog to share things happening in the district, new information, innovative instructional strategies, and thought provoking articles. As we begin our work with performance tasks I thought it might be more timely to have a nuts and bolts blog entry. Please take a look at the memo linked as it describes in more detail the performance task development we will be doing this year.

From my perspective I really want you to understand this year is about teacher learning, so we can learn how to adjust our instructional practices to meet the demands of the Common Core State Standards for student learning.

Below are some bullet points that include upcoming actions and dates of activities:
  • By Tuesday, Oct. 2 Math teachers (designated grades/subject - see memo) will view a bank of performance task and begin to consider which one they would like to facilitate in a designated time
  • By Tuesday, Oct. 2 ELA teachers (designated grades/subject - see memo) will view a description of a performance task, along areas of instruction, they will facilitate in a designated time period
  • On October 10 during CT time there will be an overview of Literacy in the Content Area for our 7-12 Content Area teachers where we will also collect information from you to determine what your needs are to integrate the CCSS
  • After the performance tasks are selected and we have a time line our Learning Specialists (Title, Sped, ELD) will be asked to identify specific actions or strategies to support the skills needed to be successful on the performance tasks. These are skills that align with your expertise.
  • TBA - Training on how to facilitate performance tasks - Next week specific dates will be communicated via email to specific groups regarding trainings on performance tasks. These will be 4:00-6:00, are optional and you will be paid for your time. There will be at least 3 dates for math and for ELA to provide you with some choice (all 3 sessions will be the same). This same training will be provided later in the year for designated content teachers.
  • On Wednesday, Oct. 10 - Any teacher, grade 3-5 or ELL/Sped, who was not able to join us in the summer will have a 2 hour ELA session where we will look at the work done in Aug. and focus on strategies to implement the new CCSS. If room is available this could be appropriate for other grades/subjects, but those listed above will be invited first.
  • On Monday, Oct. 15 - Any teacher, grade 3-5 or ELL/Sped, who was not able to join us in the summer will have a 2 hour Math session where we will look at the work done in Aug. and focus on strategies to implement the new CCSS. If room is available this could be appropriate for other grades/subjects, but those listed above will be invited first.
  • TBA - A needs assessment will be disseminated to K-2 teachers to determine additional needs to support the further implementation of CCSS (year 2 implementation)
  • Throughout the year designated teachers from each elementary school is joining Trost and Carus Elementary Schools in the Mathematical Studio Project, where teachers are experiencing at specific strategies to make learning visible in mathematics. This project is tightly aligned with CCSS Math Standards, specifically the 8 Mathematical Practices.


Tackling Complex Texts Regardless of the Grade Level or Subject Area

Joan Flora shared Mark Bauerlein’s “Too Dumb for Complex Texts?” article with CHS’s faculty in 2011, but she think it’s an effective backdrop for this year’s literacy work. Cindy Bauer and I read the article and decided it was important to share with CSD’s educators because it captures the crux of our Common Core work, which demands the development of students learning how to analyze and reflect in order to pose a viable argument or solution with reasoning.

Download file "Complex Text.pdf"

Joan argued with the title of article and retitled it “Too Distracted for Complex Texts” because deep reading and thinking are not about intelligence (access Joan’s marked up version of the article to see her reading process and how she thinks the content impacts K-6 literacy).

While up to 43% of community college students and up to 29% of four-year public college students must take remedial courses to cover the reading, writing, and math skills they were promised by their high school diplomas, it doesn’t have to be that way, and we have a chance that trajectory this year.

Aside from an “inability to grasp complex texts,” the author claims that the real problem lies with students’ lack of experience with complex texts. If deep reading isn’t happening in schools, it’s not happening at all, and students are blind-sided the demands of college reading.

Cindy’s favorite quote was: “Does the gap widen because unready students don’t have the intelligence or background knowledge to understand complex texts? To some extent, perhaps, but ACT suggests that the difficulty lies just as much in students’ lack of experience and practice with reading complex texts.” Cindy linked Bauerlein’s quote to Duane Baker’s quote about students not benefitting from best practices they have never experienced. This year is an opportunity to increase effective learning experiences that can benefit our students.

As we learn about the new standards, it is important to practice the same skills that the standards ask of our students. We have had many questions posed specifically about increased Lexile levels, wondering if we simply increase the text complexity to meet the raised expectation.

We need to first understand the target, then consider the following:

  • where are students are in their learning,
  • where are we in our learning of the new CCSS,
  • can we identify the expertise in the room,
  • how do we have a thoughtful and strategic plan for reaching the goals over time?

Long-term change will not happen overnight, and we have time to understand, analyze, and reflect on our own practices before considering next steps.

Thanks for taking this first one on. I look forward to hearing your comments on this article. Please post your responses below.

It’s the reading that makes the reader,



Canby English Language Arts Teachers Exploring the Shifts of the CCSS ELA Standards

Canby English Language Arts teachers, Grades 6-12, collaborated on Tuesday, February 14, as they delved into the new Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts with the guidance of Penny Plavala. Teachers had an opportunity to experience learning first hand as we focused on the major shifts of increasing text complexity, frequency of informational text and informational writing. Below are a few discoveries taken from teachers from the day:

~ Managing text complexity of student reading requires a solid understanding and integration of the following:
- Lexile level or level of complexity (word frequency and sentence length)
- Structure
- Levels of meaning
- Knowledge Demands
- Variables of the reader, such as motivation, knowledge, experiences
- Purpose and complexity of the task assigned and questions posed
~ There is both a science and an art to identifying text that will pose intellectual challenges to students.
~ There is a need to align our resources both across grade level and subject areas and vertically from grade to grade
~ These new standards are a huge shift
~ Informational texts need to be emphasized across school curriculum, in order to hit at reading target closer to 30% Literary and 70% Informational in high school.
~ Rubric type systems show the levels of complexity between different types of texts which would help us to compare our students levels and comparing new samples of writing.

Next Steps for ELA Teachers 6-12

At the end of the day teachers talked across grade levels and came to consensus on next steps:

  • ELA teachers want to identify scope and sequences for all grades levels, 6-12, and course with identified novels
  • ELA want to continue conversations between grade levels within buildings and across buildings

Other next steps were also considered to address over time:

  • Integrate the following standard into all grade levels: WRITE ARGUMENTS TO SUPPORT CLAIMS WITH CLEAR REASONS AND RELEVANT EVIDENCE.
  • Include writing in response to reading
  • Provide students with more informal writing prompts
  • Require students to provide textual evidence in speaking and writing


Canby Math Teachers Working Through Shifts of the CCSS Mathematics Standards

Canby Mathematics Teachers, Grades 6-12, collaborated Thursday as they delved into the new Common Core State Standards for Mathematics with the guidance of Shannon McCaw. Teachers had an opportunity to experience learning first hand as we focused on the major shifts of focus, coherence, and modeling. There were a couple discoveries made throughout the day:
~ Students must learn to read informational text in all subject areas, including mathematics
~ The levels of mathematics problems and performance tasks students will be asked to do in 2014-2015 will require us to change our teaching practices
~ The 8 Mathematical Practices cut across all grade levels regardless of the content
~ The shifts in the Mathematics Standards will provide our students with skills to analyze and develop skills to reach a strong knowledge and deep conceptual understanding of mathematics.
~ Here are a couple tools that all teachers can use to engage students in their learning, so they are not sitting passively listening to the information.

Below are tools any subject teacher could use to increase student engagement

    • Download file "Looking at other student work.pdf"
    • Download file "Structuring Student Talk.pdf"

Below are photos and videos from Tuesday

An 8th Grade problem on transformation

The same transformation problem being solved collaboratively by teachers across the levels.

Shannon stops by to engage in the dialogue just like in the classroom.

Pat and Dave solving problems together.

Sue, Debbie and Marian come together on what will be considered a high rigor level mathematics problem on Smarter Balance.

Lynne and Brenda working on a high school problem considered a lower level problem on Smarter Balance.

An example of a 6th grade problem from Smarter Balance.

A high school example from Smarter Balance.


Trost Engages in Critical Thinking in Mathematics

Every teacher from Trost Elementary School is engaged in learning about keeping student understanding and achievement at the core while learning together about the following:
  • Powerful Mathematical Practices (CCSS 8 Mathematical Practices)
  • Effective Mathematics Classrooms
  • How Students Learn Mathematics
  • Powerful Mathematics Professional Learning
Trost teachers challenged themselves and each other about effective ways to promote conceptual understanding after reading an article titled, "Discourse That Promotes Conceptual Understanding." As we continue to learn about increased expectations for students to be able to meet new rigorous Common Core State Standards teachers at Trost Elementary School are deepening their understanding through their work with Teacher Development Group. Though the focus is mathematics the structures and practices fit many of the schools instructional focus in Canby School District. What does it take to engage students to the highest levels of learning? The discourse article gives you an idea of what discourse is and is not in a classroom.

Justify Why

Teams discuss what it looks like and sounds like to provide reasoning, justify why, make conjectures, make generalizations, use metacognition, make connections, use mistakes as learning opportunities, explore "what if" questions. This team reported on justification in the classroom.

Collaboration about "Habits of Mind" and "Habits of Interaction."

Trost teachers practice their interaction skills and the skills listed above while working on a mathematics problem and making connections to how students learn in a classroom structured for students to engage in critical thinking with each other.

Powerful Learning

After a day of learning mathematics and effective classroom routines and structures for engaging students teams report out on what happens to the learner when powerful learning takes place.