MasteryConnect recently sat down with Kevin Rich, an English Language Arts teacher at Lakeridge Junior High School (a model DuFour School).  Kevin shared his thoughts with us about how he’s using MasteryConnect at his school.  As an ELA teacher in a mastery-based school, Kevin possesses unique insight into formative assessment approaches for Language Arts and implementing the Common Core.  Kevin outlined three ways he’s using MasteryConnect in his classroom.

Feedback

WIth MasteryConnect, it’s easy to show parents what’s happening in the classroom.  Parents love to see that teaching and testing are tied to standards.  Here is a sample of what I am giving parents during Parent-Teacher Conferences:

This is just a snippet; the actual paper that parents receive has the student’s name, many more assessment results, and related objectives.  In addition, I send parents a link where they can see their child’s assessments, which are attached to core objectives.  The link lets parents see the test, the questions their student missed, and how the rest of the class (no names attached) did on each question.

As a teacher, it’s pretty cool; communication like this provides strong possibilities for making parents partners in their child’s education.  And the feedback I am receiving from parents is, “Wow, you do more than just read stuff in English, huh?”

Yup, we do more.  Much more.

Using MasteryConnect to Implement the Common Core

MasteryConnect is a fantastic tool to become familiar with the new Core.  It displays the standards in a more concise, orderly, and simple way than any printed handout I’ve ever seen.  The other thing MasteryConnect allows me to do is organize the Core in a way that actually makes sense.  It becomes very difficult to teach and assess the Core if it is presented in a hierarchical format.

Before individualizing curriculum map:

Good teachers don’t always teach in the exact order in which standards are labeled.  For the first twenty minutes, you might be addressing the literature part of the Core, then the speaking components, then writing or language, etc.  It becomes a pain to see how your day went if the Core isn’t organized to mirror how you teach.  But you can re-organize for your day, your unit or even your year.  It becomes easy to chart your progression through the Core in a way that makes sense.

After customizing curriculum map:

Moving “Backward Design” Forward

I imagine all teachers have heard the term “backward design” at some point in their careers.  The idea is that the teacher establishes where they want their students to be and then work backwards to figure out how to get students there.

With the new Core, it becomes easier to figure out exactly where the destination point is.  If we say ‘understanding metaphor’ is the objective, well, that can be very shallow and simple, or very deep and time-consuming.  One thing MasteryConnect offers is access to other peoples’ assessments from across the network of Common Core states.  This allows me to collaborate with like-minded teachers, view the level of rigor in their assessments, and determine where others expect their students to be in relation to a standard.  As an assessment junkie, I confess I have spent hours surfing assessments from all grades.  There are some really good ideas out there.

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