Monday Messenger

August 18, 2013 Volume I, Issue I

Pretty Work

Be a Team

The leaders on our administrative team (Kathleen, Jim, Jessica, Ginnifer) have much flexibility in their jobs and with that comes choices every day. I am delighted that they choose to spend much of their time with and among the students. Their connection to students sends a strong message and represents what we are about at ARS!

Common Ground

Some of our staff were involved in a potentially volatile EC meeting last week involving a new student. And although the staff members had concerns about or ability to provide services to the student, they conducted the meeting in a positive manner and were ultimately able to find common ground with the parent. Their willingness to put the child’s needs front and center and to work with the parent in a

positive manner resulted in a positive outcome for the child.

Classroom Impossible?

In an effort to be more present with my family when I am home, I make it a point to hang out with them while they enjoy some of their favorite shows at night, many from the Food Network. While watching a recent episode of “Restaurant Impossible” it occurred to me that restaurants struggle or fail almost always to the negative behaviors and poor efforts of the staff. The same is true with struggling or failing schools, I believe.

However, at ARS, we have a dedicated and talented staff who work to ensure that their classrooms and our school are never in need of rescue!

Kind and Caring

A big shout out to all of the staff who went out of your way this past week to make our students feel

welcome and at ease at
ARS, especially the kindergarten student. One of our staff members spent each morning in a K teacher’s classroom helping a new EC kindergarten
student transition into his new classroom and his new school.

I’ll Do It…

I have been amazed thus far observing how our staff are willing to go our of their way to meet the needs of students. One of our new staff members has agreed to serve as the check-in person for a special needs student, even though her plate is already very full. Apparently she has caught on very quickly to the fact that this is the way we do things at ARS.


At ARS we are committed to providing students with a well-rounded experience including a focus on the arts. Our enhancement teachers not only enhance the learning experience for our students, but also enhance the human element by helping our students feel at ease and providing any additional support needed.

Sugar or Salt?

Some of our teachers recognize the importance of establishing positive relations and communications with parents and students from day one. They make positive contacts with parents early on, making it much easier to engage in conversations later on when students need corrective actions.

Need some advice?

One of the indicators of great middle schools is an effective advisor/ advisee program. ARS is in the process of developing such a program; however, such programs don’t happen by accident. Instead, they require quality planning and effort, especially in the developmental phases. Fortunately, ARS has a middle school teacher who has enthusiastically accepted the challenge and who has worked hard to lead this effort.

What do you Need?

At the middle school, staff willingly take on extra tasks and responsibilities and do so without complaint. Such was the case recently when there was a need for someone to coordinate the ICU schedule, an effort to provide students with additional time and support as needed.

Unmaking the Mundane

Such processes as going over the student handbook can be painful and boring for teachers and students. However, some teachers have found creative ways to engage students in these discussions and turn a painful experience into a fund a positive learning activity.

They are all Our Kids

It is very encouraging to see staff go out of their way to help students, even students who “don’t belong” to them. Our staff recognizes that many students, not just new students, need special attention and support at the beginning of the school year and respond accordingly.

Go-To Guy

Great sports teams have that one person who can play several positions and do whatever is needed to help the team win. We have those folks at ARS, folks who might be employed as a TA, but who seek opportunities to assist anyone in any way needed in the classroom and beyond.

What’s Mine is Yours

Teachers are notorious for being territorial and possessive, and who can blame the during these times of decreased resources and increased expectations. This is not the case at ARS. Our staff are willing to share in any way that supports teaching and learning, including sharing materials such as Touch Math and other resources. It takes a village.
ARS is a supportive village of
professionals dedicated to the
success of every child.

But it’s the


Some of our teachers don’t seem to understand that educators don’t work on the weekend. For instance, one of our elementary teachers decided it was a good idea to be up early on a Saturday morning to do a power source module. She is an example of the willingness our staff has to go above and beyond to continue to improve as professionals in support of teaching and learning.

A Good Walk Spoiled

Mark Twain supposedly described golf as a “good walk ruined.” That may be the case in some instances, but this past Saturday at the ARS golf tournament, nothing could be further from the truth. Those of us who participated in the tournament had a great time (some more than others). In a short time, I have been made to feel at home at ARS both at school and in the community. I look forward to continuing the walk with you and enjoying the hard work of folks like Coach Davis in efforts to provide the best opportunities for our students in the classroom and in athletics.

Focus On Learning

Assessment for

Learning (Formative


Assessment for Learning (Formative Assessment) is a process used by teachers and students as part of instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students’ achievement of core content. As assessment for learning, formative assessment practices provide students with clear learning targets, examples and models of strong and weak work, regular descriptive feedback, and the ability to self- assess, track learning, and set goals.

(Adapted from Council of Chief State School Officers, FAST SCASS)

Intended Purpose

Assessment for Learning Examples

To increase students’ learning

Non-graded quizzes, pretests, minute papers, exit tickets, written assignments, concept maps, interviews, progress monitoring, performance assessment scoring guides, weekly reports, focused questions, journals, learning logs, learning probes, checklists, surveys, and item analyses of summative assessments

To adjust instruction

To diagnose student needs

To improve the instructional program

Proven Results

Research has shown that effective assessment for learning practices have the potential to greatly increase both student achievement and motivation. (See Assessment for Learning Resources) Black and Wiliams (1998) identify the key classroom assessment features that result in these large achievement gains as:

  • Assessments that result in accurate information
  • Descriptive rather than evaluative feedback to students
  • Student involvement in assessmentFor classroom formative assessment practices to both motivate students and increase student achievement, students need to know the learning target, know where they are at in regards to the learning target, and know what they can do to close the gap. In Classroom Assessment for Student Learning, Richard J. Stiggins lists 7 strategies of assessment for learning. They are as follows:
    1. 1)  Provide a clear and understandable vision of the learning targets.
    2. 2)  Use examples and models of strong and weak work.
  1. 3)  Offer regular descriptive feedback.
  2. 4)  Teach students to self- assess and set goals.
  3. 5)  Design lessons to focus on one aspect of quality at a time.
  4. 6)  Teach students focused revision.
  5. 7)  Engage students in self- reflection, and let them keep track of and share their learning.

Assessment For

Learning Professional


The Iowa Department of Education has developed seven online modules for collaborative learning teams. They may be used as part of a building’s professional development plan for implementing the Iowa Core, as part of a course syllabus, or independently by a team of 3 to 10 educators to deepen their understanding of formative assessment. They do not require that the team have an expert in formative assessment as a facilitator, but presume the team or facilitator has some experience in collaborative learning.

These modules illustrate the process of assessment for learning and incorporate the following six attributes identified by Iowa educators: learning progressions; clear learning goals and success

criteria; modifying instruction based on elicited evidence; providing descriptive feedback; self- and peer-assessment; and creating a collaborative classroom climate. Each module was developed to follow the Iowa Professional Development Model and to include opportunities for understanding theory, engaging with a demonstration, practicing in the classroom, and peer coaching.

The seven modules are:
1) Foundation
2) Learning Intentions 3) Eliciting Evidence/

Instructional Modifications

4) Descriptive Feedback

5) Self-and Peer-assessment

6) Collaborative Classroom Climate

7) Putting It Into Practice

To access the modules go to http:// Follow the directions on the page to set up an account. Go toAssessment and then Assessment for Learning. The modules require an enrollment key of AfL_2011.