Conferences & Professional Learning

Conference Takeaways: Prioritizing Remediation Time

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CNN: Collaboration Needed Now!

Holy smokes. It’s been an intense three days of learning. I attended Solution Tree’s PLC At Work Institute this week, and I’ve got to say, it was the some of the best PD I’ve attended, particularly considering it was not grade or content-specific (hello, SCOLT and FLAG, you will always be my #1 for PD! 😘).

PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) encompass a lot of big educational ideas: differentiated instruction, standards based/mastery grading, common formative assessments, and data-driven teaching. A PLC must identify the essential learning outcomes, develop common assessments, and then analyze the assessment data as a team. Assessment data informs and drives assessment; if students have not mastered the essential content, they need to be re-taught and re-assessed.

I attended a fantastic session with Michelle Marrillia titled, Do Your Common Formative Assessments Really Change Your Practice? Turning Data Into Successful Secondary Classroom Instruction that gave me some practical ideas for how to integrate remediation into regular class time. She talked about the importance of guaranteed recovery systems – tutoring before or after school is not a guaranteed option, because not all students have transportation to attend tutoring outside of regular school hours. In my school’s case, remediation during our study hall time is not guaranteed either, because many of our students attend the career academy for half the day, and travel between the campuses during study hall. In order for the recovery system to be truly guaranteed, it has to be integrated as a regular in-class routine.

Option 1: Pull students for short & sweet recovery sessions several times a week. Identify the students needing remediation based on your common formative assessment (CFA) data, and pull them for some small group or one on one instruction during independent work time. I’ve done this before with quiz corrections: I give the class an assignment to work on independently (or in partners, or in groups – something they don’t need help/guidance from me on) and I call up everyone to look at their grade and make corrections. We talk about what they missed, I give them a remediation assignment to work on, and we schedule a retake. Michelle suggests giving CFAs weekly (formative assessment should be frequent with data used immediately to inform instruction), with the retake for the previous week’s assessment copied on the back of this week’s CFA.

Option 2: Schedule a longer slot of time for remediation once a week

Michelle suggested reserving one day a week as a “no new information” day for remediation and extension. Some teachers at her school use a red-yellow-green color coding system, with red meaning not mastered, yellow meaning approaching mastery, and green meaning mastered. On the remediation day, students get a sticker corresponding to how they did on the formative assessment and are assigned to a group according to their needs. The following points surprised and intrigued me:

  • The color coding system sounds like tracking. However, at her school, she found students didn’t get their feelings hurt by being in the red group, as it meant they would get the instruction they needed to meet the standard AND a chance to improve their assessment grade. She also shared hearing comments like, “I am NOT going to be red next week!” I think the key here is ensuring that you actually follow through with the remediation in a timely manner and truly provide a path to mastery.
  • The year this system was implemented, standardized test scores went up at her school. I would like to see more research on this point – does less content deeper result in higher scores on state tests? This does kind of make sense – particularly in subjects where success in Unit 3 depends on building on the skills learned in Units 1 and 2, ensuring that students master half the content will show up as growth on the end of the year tests, even if you don’t even skim over the rest of the standards.

I teach on a block schedule, and while I don’t see myself devoting 20% of my class time to remediation every week, my classes are long enough I could reserve half a class period for recovery, particularly if it’s not every week.

Takeaway: I need to prioritize grading CFAs quickly and using that data to provide remediation for students who are red on essential standards. Remediation/enrichment time needs to be a regularly scheduled activity.

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