Excellence in Education Blog
• ### Assessing How We Grade Assessments

Posted February 14, 2020

By Dean Ballard, Director of Mathematics, CORE

When I started teaching math 35 years ago, chapter tests were easy to grade. Typically, a test had 20–25 problems and I simply made each problem worth four or five points, whatever was needed to make the total 100 points. In many math curricula today, there may be only 5–10 problems total on a chapter, module, or unit assessment. Suppose I have a test with nine problems. If I assign equal weight to each of these problems, and a student gets six out of nine problems correct, this student would have a score of 67% correct. This often translates into a grade of D. Yet six out of nine correct may warrant a better grade when we consider the actual knowledge displayed by correctly answering those six problems.

Many teachers use a standard percent to grade relationship when determining grades for students: 90–100% is an A, 80–89% is a B, 70–79% is a C, 60–69% is a D, and below 60% is an F. Ten years into my teaching career two parts of this grading system started to strike me as questionable. First, even if a student correctly answers 59% of the problems deemed appropriate to include on the assessment, that student is considered failing. Second, since I’m the one determining the weight of each problem on an assessment, what does the percent correct, or percent of total points, really mean? READ MORE

• ### Lucy Calkins’ Criticism of Reading First is Misinformed

Posted January 15, 2020

By Dr. Dale Webster, Chief Academic Officer, CORE

Recently, there have been many responses to Lucy Calkins’ essay ”No One Gets to Own the Term, Science of Reading.” Many have responded with strong disagreement to her point of view. Two of the responses are very informative and can be found here and here. More disputes to her essay can be found here. Interestingly, none of the responses that I have seen to date address Calkins’ inaccurate attack on the Reading First initiative, which was the academic cornerstone of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). While there are criticisms of the NCLB Act, in fact, many educators and those directly involved with Reading First have argued that the Reading First Initiative was one of the strongest components of NCLB.

Instead, the experiment involved tens of millions of kids. It was called Reading First, the reading instructional program for K-3 mandated in schools funded by No Child Left Behind….involved a set of top-down mandates for intensive phonics instruction that resembled what the science of reading people today are supporting. The mandates included not only intensive systematic phonics based on “the science of reading” but also an unbalanced reliance on highly decodable texts, to the exclusion of trade books…The results of Reading First were not good…the problem with Reading First was not that it taught phonics, but that phonics was largely all it taught.

Calkins makes several factual errors in her statements above which are largely based on anecdotal musings from many who didn’t like Reading First.

• ### Call for First Year Survival Guide for Implementation of New Curriculum

Posted December 18, 2019

By Dean Ballard, Director of Mathematics, CORE

Implementing a new curriculum is a daunting task. Often the organization, layout, and even the instructional approach can be drastically different than the previously used curriculum. Change takes time, especially if that change includes learning new instructional approaches. Therefore, the first year or two of implementing a new curriculum may be focused on changing instructional practices and deepening the knowledge base of teachers and instructional leaders. Taguma and Barrera (2019) cite teacher commitment, beliefs, and content and pedagogical understanding of the new curriculum as key factors that either facilitate or impede successful curriculum implementation. For example, if teachers do not know some of the new pedagogy that is embedded within the new curriculum, they will need more professional learning and support.

Posted December 3, 2019

By Dr. Steven Dykstra, reprinted with permission

Don Meichenbaum, one of the world’s leading experts on trauma and violence, and one of the most influential mental health professionals of the last century, said one thing is more important to traumatized children than anything else. More important than therapy, more important than social programs, more important than anything else. The research shows that the single most powerful predictor of their ability to overcome the trauma and survive their circumstances is the ability to read. If they can read, they have a chance to find success in school and overcome all those terrible things in their lives. If they can’t, school will only be another source of pain and failure added to all the other sources of pain and failure.  If they can read, they can benefit from therapy and everything else we may try to do for them. If they can’t read, all of that is a waste of time.

• ### Lucy Calkins on the “Science of Reading.” Seriously.

Posted November 25, 2019

by Claude Goldenberg, Nomellini & Olivier Professor of Education, emeritus, Stanford University

I left graduate school fully convinced that this was axiomatic: The road to reading is paved on a foundation of meaning. Fortunately, I spent the first years after my degree as a first grade teacher in a bilingual school, teaching, or at least trying to teach, reading in English and in Spanish. I learned from the children and colleagues at my school that this is not axiomatic; it is just wrong.

But my learning was not without a struggle. Axiomatic convictions don’t go away without a fight. And I fought mightily. But in the end, the evidence won out. And by evidence I don’t just mean what researchers and others publish in their articles and professors say or don’t say to their students and anyone who will listen. I also mean what I was seeing before my very eyes. As both a teacher and a beginning researcher, my convictions were put to the test, and some didn’t pan out.