The other day I was perusing our Twitter feed and came across an exchange between two fellow educators. The first commented, in less than 140 characters, that BubbleScore was the worst education tool for the iPad yet. The second responded by providing this link toMasteryConnect and the additional statement of….what do you expect from MasteryConnect…sickening!” Wow, harsh words given that neither has ever used either product. Rather than get overly defensive, it caused me to reflect on just exactly what led us to create MasteryConnect and BubbleScore.

I am an educator and a parent. While I am also a runner, golfer, reader and novice fisherman, it’s those first two roles that best define me. Surprisingly, these two roles often conflict when it comes to my educational philosophy. As an educator, I know how hard teachers work. I know how much we ask of teachers every day. I know how little teachers get paid and how, over the last several months, they have become the scapegoats for those lamenting the budget shortfalls all over the country. I know the overwhelming challenges our teachers face when we expect them to differentiate curriculum, provide support for special needs students, meet the needs of ESL students and singlehandedly overcome the impact of poverty on our schools. As a parent, I just want my child to have a teacher who cares enough to meet my child’s unique academic needs! See the conflict…”cares enough”…those are fighting words for teachers. Of course they care! They must care about all 25+ students in their class, but as a parent…I am most concerned about my child. Should the parent side of me feel guilty for my selfish concerns? Should the educator side feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed by the expectations placed on our teachers?

Rather than feel guilt, the desire to address this conflict between the educator and parent role is what ultimately led to the development of MasteryConnect and BubbleScore. We had three major goals when we started developing MasteryConnect. The first was to provide a way for teachers to connect and collaborate with each other. The second was to provide a way for teachers to share formative assessments that target specific core standards. The third goal was to create a way for teachers to monitor student mastery relative to the core standards and be able to communicate student progress to parents. All of this needed to be done in a way that would require less, not more time from teachers.

Why focus on collaboration?

I like what Rick DuFour has to say about this when he talks about Professional Learning Communities and believe the concept of collaboration goes well beyond the physical walls of a school building:

The teams in a PLC engage in collective inquiry into both best practices in teaching and best practices in learning. They also inquire about their current reality—including their present practices and the levels of achievement of their students. They attempt to arrive at consensus on vital questions by building shared knowledge rather than pooling opinions. They have an acute sense of curiosity and openness to new possibilities.

Collective inquiry enables team members to develop new skills and capabilities that in turn lead to new experiences and awareness. Gradually, this heightened awareness transforms into fundamental shifts in attitudes, beliefs, and habits which, over time, transform the culture of the school.

Working together to build shared knowledge on the best way to achieve goals and meet the needs of clients is exactly what professionals in any field are expected to do, whether it is curing the patient, winning the lawsuit, or helping all students learn. Members of a professional learning community are expected to work and learn together.

 

At MasteryConnect we make this possible and we make it easy!

Why focus so much attention on formative assessments?

I love this quote from Rick Stiggens:

“There is difference between assessments of learning (summative) and assessments for learning (formative).”

Doug Reeves in his book Learning by Doing provides this list of compelling points:

  1. Common assessments are more efficient than assessments created by individual teachers. It is ineffective and inefficient for teacher to operate as independent subcontractors who are stationed in proximity to others, yet work in isolation.
  2. Common assessments are more equitable for students.
  3. Common assessments represent the most effective strategy for determining whether the guaranteed curriculum is being taught and, more importantly, learned. Doug Reeves (2004) refers to common assessments as the “gold standard” because they promote consistency in expectations and provide timely, accurate, and specific feedback to both students and teachers.
  4. Common assessments inform the practice of individual teachers. With this information, a teacher can seek assistance from teammates on areas of concern and can share strategies and ideas on skills in which his or her students excelled.
  5. Common assessments build a team’s capacity to improve its program. Collective analysis can lead to new curriculum, pacing, materials, and instructional strategies designed to strengthen the academic program offered.
  6. Common assessments facilitate a systematic, collective response to students who are experiencing difficulty. Because the students are identified at the same time and because they need help with the same specific skills that have been addressed on the common assessment, the team and school are in a position to create a timely, systematic program of intervention.

 

At MasteryConnect we make this possible and we make it easy!

 

Why focus so much attention on mastery tracking?

A quote from Carol Ann Tomlinson’s ASCD11 presentation (ASCD Community Blog) highlights this point:

“Reporting should be based on mastery performance on formative assessments, Tomlinson said, adding that a student who demonstrates mastery may not need to take every assessment.

This is the information I value the most as a parent. I want to know what my child knows and I want to know what they need to know to continue to be successful. If they are behind, I want to know which concepts or skills they are struggling to understand. How many parents have real-time access to this type of information and would it make a difference if they did? Do teachers have access to tools that will make reporting on mastery performance practical? At MasteryConnect we make this possible and we make it easy!

MasteryConnect and BubbleScore

MasteryConnect is the result of our quest to help teachers monitor student performance relative to the core, share common assessments and collaborate with colleagues all over the country. BubbleScore was created to accommodate teacher’s requests for a tool that would save time and create efficient ways to assess and record student progress. Together they are powerful tools that fulfill our goal to help teachers and parents come together in the support of all our children.

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