It’s Benchmark Season!

September 26th, 2018

Here at MasteryConnect, we want to make sure you have a great benchmark season. To help you be successful, we have rounded up our best resources to ensure benchmarks are smooth sailing.

Step-by-Step Articles in the MC Help Center
Take a peek at our best benchmarking articles from our Help Center. Each one gives you step-by-step instructions during every part of the process.

Online PD Benchmarking Course
For a more thorough overview, visit Online PD for our course on all things Benchmarking. There are 5 short videos—three minute or less—that will walk you through building, scheduling, and administering Benchmarks at the school and district level. Log into your MC account and launch online PD from app launcher next to your name.

Need More Help?
Want your own Benchmarking PD Session from a MasteryConnect specialist? Request more information from your Regional Education Consultant or fill out this form.

Have a different benchmarking question for us? You can always log in to submit a ticket to our talented support specialists here.


 

As Anthony Rivera approached the building of his new school, students were chucking textbooks from the second story to the sidewalk of Wallace Avenue below. As founding principal of Pelham Academy in the Bronx, he had no doubt that he was walking into a daunting challenge. But Rivera had a special connection to the community; he grew up in the neighborhood, and he was committed to providing the students there with the best education possible.

Teachers and administrators at Pelham agreed that they wanted to collect as much data as possible in order to identify student mastery levels, but they were initially overwhelmed with the process. In order to get on the fast track to data-driven instruction, Pelham Academy partnered with Teaching Matters, a NYC-based organization dedicated to developing and retaining great teachers, and measurably increasing their ability to give students in urban public schools an excellent education.

Through their work with Teaching Matters, the Pelham team began using MasteryConnect to efficiently collect and analyze student data in real time, using iPads to view data in real time as they moved around the classroom. Then, meeting together as formal collaborative teams with Teaching Matters Consultant Jelbin DeLaCruz, they sat down regularly together to look at data in order to identify gaps and develop strategies to target deficiencies. Their hard work is already showing great results in moving Pelham students forward.

“Earlier this year we began looking at and tracking cohort data,” explains Principal Rivera. “We compared how they performed three years ago to how they performed just this past spring, and what we saw was a 159% increase in student proficiency over that time.”

This impressive growth keeps the educators there inspired to continue the work, and Principal Rivera believes that Teaching Matters and MasteryConnect are making a difference for both students and teachers.

“It was humbling and it was also validating because it provided us with the evidence that we needed to help us see that the decisions that we were making, and the tools that we were using, and the structures that we had in place were all impactful,” he says. “We saw that in the student results.”

Although Pelham Academy is a great success story on its own, it serves as an example of the positive gains made when educators work together to share best practices and instructional strategies with peers in their school and beyond.

“The expertise to solve some of the most vexing problems in schools lies in the schools, and it’s obviously in that school’s interest to share that across the school,” says Teaching Matters Lead Consultant Nick Siewert. “We feel that it is also essential to share with other schools.”

Watch the profile below to see how the educators at Pelham Academy are using real-time data to improve learning for every student in their building and, by doing so, how they are investing in their city.

Free Webinar

 

Thursday, July 27th
11AM (MDT)

——

Learn how to use research-based principles to understand and gain actionable information from your formative data. We will identify must-have reports, and we will introduce an instructional strategy that uses higher order thinking as part of the formative assessment process.

You’ll hear

  • The defining features of formative assessment and the formative assessment cycle
  • The garden analogy and why we should think of our students as plants
  • Indicators of what works best in raising student achievement
  • How to make sure teachers are using assessment data

 

Sign up at masteryconnect.com/kdswebinar

back to school with MCThe support team always looks forward to the back to school season. Maybe it’s the crisp fall air or the happy faces walking to school each morning. More likely, it’s when we get to help educators tackle another awesome year!

Read on for a step-by-step overview of the new support ticketing process and a few back-to-school tips to ensure smooth sailin’ with MasteryConnect.


How to Submit Support Tickets

Our team loves to interact with each of you, that’s why we’re excited to offer slick improvements to how you communicate with us. We’ve added the ability to manage your open support tickets from within the Help Center (no more trying to keep an eye on an email thread!).

The new support ticket process allows you to easily

  • See your open tickets in a single view
  • Make comments to your tickets
  • Add screenshots
  • View additional ticket details like status and assignee

Submit a support ticket by following these steps: 

1. After you login to MasteryConnect, click Help below the main navigation bar. Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.31.55 AM

2. The Help Center will open in a separate browser. Click on your name again and select My Requests. Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.32.08 AM 

3. From this page, you’ll be able to manage any submitted tickets. At a glance, you can see when the ticket was created, the last time there was any activity on it, and the current status. 

4. Click the subject line of the ticket to open it.Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.35.52 AM


5. Here, you can see your original request and all communication concerning it. If the ticket has been assigned, you’ll also see the name of the support team member who’s handling it.Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.36.42 AM

6. When you’re done, click the MasteryConnect logo to return to the Help Center, or close the browser window to continue working.


Firewalls Fixes

Sometimes a super strict firewall can wreak havoc on the MasteryConnect experience. Please ensure your IT Wizards double-check that the websites listed in this help article are allowed free passage through your network.

GradeCam Plugin

GradeCam is magical—no question. But that magic is all made possible by the GradeCam plugin.

We always recommend you keep your GradeCam plugin updated to ensure optimal performance. To grab the latest plugin and test your GradeCam settings, visit: https://downloads.gradecam.com/

The Best Browsers

We always test our site using the latest versions of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Whenever possible, we recommend keeping your browser version updated. Full details about our supported browsers and hardware specs can be found here.

Here’s to another successful school year and plenty of mastery tracking!


MasteryConnect helps over 2.5 million educators around the world with formative assessment, standards-based grading, data-driven instruction, and teacher collaboration. Take an on-demand demo to see how  MasteryConnect may help at your school or district.

PowerOfPriorityStandards

As part of our Client Success series, this is the second of a two-part guide to unpacking and prioritizing standards like a pro. 

In our last article, we shared our tips for unpacking standards, including the process of determining big ideas and writing essential questions. This week we tackle the tricky question: How do you fit everything in?

Regardless of which set of standards you use in your classroom, the sheer volume of material can become daunting. And we’ve all heard the pitfalls of mile-wide-and-inch-deep instruction, which neither saves time nor impacts learning in a meaningful way.

Identifying priority or “power” standards is a process you can use to prioritize the content and skills you’ll need to address with your students. But this process is not about deciding what can be eliminated; rather, it’s designed to help you manage instructional time and determine a clear path for student learning. This prioritization process also brings us full circle back to the need for Big Ideas.

Let’s take a look at the two types of standards we’ll be working with: priority and supporting.

Priority standards are a carefully selected subset of the larger list of standards to be covered in a specific grade level or course that students must know and be able to demonstrate understanding of by the end of the grade-level or course in order to be prepared for the next grade-level or course.
Supporting standards are those standards that support, connect to, or enhance the priority standards. They are taught within the context of the priority standards, but do not receive the same degree of emphasis.

How to Identify Power Standards

Just as you followed a process to unpack standards, you should follow one when selecting priority or power standards. It’s best to prioritize collaboratively to ensure priority standards are identified across the team, so students move onto the next grade-level/course with consistent understanding of content.

Important note: Again, it is critical to remember that prioritizing standards has nothing to do with elimination; it has everything to do with degree of focus placed on standards.

When reviewing each standard you are targeting for instruction, consider the criteria and questions below. If the answers are “yes” for a particular standard, it should be labeled a priority/power standard.

ENDURANCE
Does this standard provide students with knowledge that will benefit them beyond the present?
Will proficiency of this standard help my students gain skills needed in the next grade-level/course or even in real-life situations?

LEVERAGE
Does this standard provide students with knowledge and/or skills that benefit them in other learning situations within the current grade level or course?
Does it have cross-curricular benefit?

READINESS
Does this standard provide students with knowledge and/or skills that are prerequisite concepts and skills needed to be successful in the next grade-level/course?

EXTERNAL EXAMS
Does this standard provide students with knowledge and/or skills that they are most likely to encounter on local, state, and/or national assessments?

Standards you have not identified as priority/power standards may be supporting standards. These standards often scaffold under a priority standard, much as a sub-standard (content or skill) would serve as a stepping stone to the overarching standard.

Start Prioritizing with “I Can” Statements

Once you have identified your priority standards and determined the supporting standards for each, you can begin designing your assessment and instruction. Also, you should now be more prepared to communicate clear learning objectives or targets to your students.

Many schools and districts use “I can” statements to clearly communicate learning objectives developed from priority standards, written in student-friendly language. When used consistently, “I can” statements have a profound effect on the learning of students, because students understand why they are learning the material.

“I can” statements help students:

  • take a more active role in their learning
  • become more reflective of their own work
  • feel more responsible for their learning

Let’s go through this exercise with the standard we unpacked in the last article.

Step 1. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY – RI.6.8
Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

Let’s say we identified it as a priority standard based on the criteria above, and now we can create “I can” statements to more specifically convey the knowledge and skills tied to this standard.

Priority Standard I Can Statement
Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.
  • I can define argument, claim, and evidence.
  • I can distinguish between supported and unsupported claims.
  • I can trace an argument in a text.

Priority standard identified? Check! Standard clearly communicated to students? Check! You now have a road map for instructional change! You can identify clear targets and enduring understanding, as well as effectively communicate the learning outcomes to students. It’s time to start planning lessons and gathering resources to make a difference in your classroom!


For MasteryConnect Educators

To help you get started with this work in MasteryConnect, we’ve pulled together some resources that will provide detailed instruction on how to add your unpacked standards and “I can” statements into your curriculum maps and trackers and how to flag priority standards.

The resources we’ve provided are for both curriculum maps and trackers. However, if you’re working with a collaborative school or district team, we highly suggest doing this work in curriculum maps, then creating your trackers from the maps.

Help Center Articles
Add Sub-Standards to a Curriculum Map
View and Customize Standards in a Curriculum Map
Set a Power Standards in a Curriculum Map
Add Sub-Standard to a Tracker
Customize or Reword Standards
Set a Power Standard in a Tracker

       Web Professional Development

Mindful Introduction Module: Tracker Basics

For on-site professional development on using curriculum maps for unpacking standards, contact your Client Success Manager. And be sure to check back for the next article in our Client Success Series!


MasteryConnect has Over 1 Million Standards!

Looking for solutions that support state or Common Core standards? Check out our FREE apps for educators or take a tour of the full MasteryConnect platform for school and district-level features.

cx-series-unpacking

As part of our Client Success series, this is the first of a two-part guide to unpacking and prioritizing standards like a pro. 

Have you ever looked at a standard—local, state, or national—and wondered, “What is this? And how am I going to teach it?” If so, you’re not alone!

In the ever-changing world of which standards are we using this year?!, the work of learning and implementing new standards must often happen quickly. Implementing standards effectively requires teachers to dive deep into the standards to fully understand expectations and make them clear to students.

Why “Unpack” Standards?

Because standards are sometimes written as overarching—and often complex—statements that can be interpreted in different ways, it’s important that teachers share a common understanding about the goals and targets of a standard. (You’ve probably been in a PLC conversation and thought, “I had no idea that’s what that standard meant!” or “Whoa, we’re reading the same book, but we’re not on the same page.”)

“Unpacking” is a technique teachers can use to make sense of standards, and then create focused learning targets to make them actionable. This process, also called “deconstructing” or “unwrapping” standards, fosters a collaborative dialogue that supports growth and effectiveness.

Once you have unpacked standards to identify what students should know and be able to do, you can do three important things:

  • Craft your vision of mastery for specific standards.
  • Align lesson plans and accompanying resources to that vision.
  • As you teach and report progress, create student-friendly learning objectives to better communicate required skills to students and community stakeholders.

So what does unpacking look like? Read on as we break down the unpacking process and go through a couple examples to help get you started.

The Unpacking Process

There are four key steps to unpacking standards:

STEP 1: IDENTIFY KEY CONCEPTS & SKILLS

Identify what students need to know and what they need to do. We like to highlight nouns (content) in blue and verbs (skills) in green.

STEP 2: IDENTIFY LEARNING TARGET TYPES

Next, you’ll determine which concepts are content/knowledge targets, reasoning/cognitive targets, skill/performance targets, and product targets.

STEP 3: DETERMINE BIG IDEAS

The next step is to list the conceptual understandings that students discover during the learning process (the ah-ha! moments).

STEP 4: WRITE ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS

To focus and guide classroom instruction and assessment, write open-ended questions to help stimulate student interest and make new connections.

Think of this unpacking process as a journey with a destination in mind. The journey will include packing and preparation, travel arrangements, perhaps some new experiences, and ultimately an endpoint (student learning), which may very well begin a new journey.

An Unpacking Example

With the journey theme in mind, let’s use the analogy of planning a destination trip to help illustrate the process (it’s summertime, after all!). We’ll start with the learning target and break it down with Steps 1 and 2.

DESTINATION TRIP 101.1

Organize and plan for a trip to the beach.

What should I know?

  • Lodging availability
  • Location of area restaurants
  • Day/night temperature at location

What should I be able to do?

  • Swim
  • Locate the surf shop
  • Apply sunscreen evenly

What should I understand?

  • Recognize changes in tide
  • Assess surroundings for safety
  • Devise a plan if stranded at sea on catamaran

This breakdown of the familiar process of planning a trip makes sense: It provides clearly outlined steps and a better vision of the target after unpacking the original standard.

Example 2: Unpacking a Complex Standard

Now let’s take a closer look at examples of Steps 1 through 4 with a more complex, real-world standard. For this demonstration, we’ll use a sixth grade English Language Arts national/state standard.

STEP 1: IDENTIFY KEY CONCEPTS & SKILLS

We’ll start by highlighting the nouns (concepts) in green and the verbs (skills) in blue, just like we did in the destination trip example.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY – RI.6.8

Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

STEP 2: IDENTIFY LEARNING TARGET TYPES

Next, we’ll identify the types of targets the standard represents. You may benefit by using a graphic organizer like the one below.

Knowledge Targets Reasoning Targets
Define argument

Define claim

Define evidence

Evaluate an argument

Distinguish between supported and unsupported claims

Skill/Performance Targets Product Targets
Trace an argument in a text Not applicable for this standard

Identifying specific targets within a standard provides clear direction for instructional planning. It helps to not only focus on important content students should know, but also what skills they should develop. This is a critical balance that can easily get a little lopsided if there’s too much on content and not enough the skills.

STEP 3: DETERMINE BIG IDEAS

You’re halfway there! Determining Big Ideas is next, and it’s one of the most important parts of the learning process. This is where we help students to make connections and attach relevance to new information.

We want student thinking to extend beyond fact retention, because, let’s face it, facts alone aren’t going to get you where you need to go unless you’re a contestant on Jeopardy!

Below are some examples of Big Ideas for our standard:

  • Presenting an argument with evidence is more persuasive than sharing an opinion.
  • Unsupported claims can lead to an invalid argument.
  • Identifying a claim supported with evidence is a skill applicable to all areas of life.

These Big Ideas go beyond one standard, unit of study, or even a class. They are the key learnings that move with students to new targets, new applications, and new connections.

STEP 4

In our opinion, the real fun begins in Step 4. As teachers, our favorite moments were those that allowed us to watch a student learn, grow in understanding, or have an ah-ha! Moment. Essential Questions can get you there every time!

These questions are open-ended opportunities to stimulate interest, stretch thinking, make connections that haven’t been made before, and much more. They can be used at the beginning of the instruction on a learning target or during instruction to advance the thinking process.

Examples of Essential Questions for our standard include:

  • Why is evidence important?
  • Why do we need to be able to recognize an argument that has support versus one that does not?
  • When do we use argumentation in daily life?

One important point to remember when using Essential Questions is to keep them truly open-ended. Craft questions to have more than one possible response or to generate discussion when different or conflicting ideas are presented. As teachers, our role in this process is to facilitate thinking and discussion, not to validate. Be wary of responding with, “I agree with you” or “That’s correct”; other students may not speak up if their thinking is different than the answer you’ve identified as “right”.

Get Unpacking!

Congrats! You’ve now gone through the unpacking process. By unpacking this standard, you now have a clear path forward. This process will enable you to plan effectively and ultimately save you time to focus on your students. Not only will you have a deeper understanding of the standards you teach, but your students will be more engaged in their learning. Sounds like a win-win for everyone!

Be sure to check back in a few weeks for Part 2 of Unpacking Standards – Moving from Content Standards to Student-Friendly Learning Targets. We’ll explore priority standards and student-friendly “I Can” statements.


MasteryConnect has Every Standard for Every State!

Looking for solutions that support state or Common Core standards? Check out our FREE apps for educators or take a tour of the full MasteryConnect platform for school and district-level features.