Modernizing student evaluation in 3 steps

The Algoma District School Board (ADSB), located in Ontario, Canada, serves a diverse group of 9,400 students across 39 elementary and 10 secondary schools. Through our strategic priorities of achievement, well-being and engagement, we seek to graduate confident learners, caring citizens.

For the past number of years, our district has focused on diagnostic and formative assessment, and how to plan curriculum that implements deeper learning, while ensuring that teachers are equipped with the resources they need to assist every student.

Related content: How we built an immersive learning environment

Our district uses the School Effectiveness Framework (SEF), a tool that is based on best practices, to help us effectively monitor, reflect and gather teacher data throughout our system. In October 2017, we conducted a district-wide (SEF) survey among teachers, and results found that the most urgent learning need was support on assessments.


How we turned around our disciplinary infraction rate


Cordata Elementary School is a 400-student public school serving grades PreK-5 in the Bellingham School District in Washington. The school has the highest percentage of English Language Learners in the district at 33 percent; and 68 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced-priced lunch.

Biggest Challenges

A few years ago, Cordata Elementary School was experiencing a high number of disciplinary referrals. Our school was also ranked the highest-need school in the district based on students’ scores on early childhood assessments. The assessments measured areas such as social-emotional learning, language, numeracy, and large motor skills. We knew that in order to help our students achieve academically and reduce discipline rates; we needed to find a way to address students’ non-academic needs.

Related content: How SEL inspired a transformation in my school


Our solution was to develop an intensive intervention model centered around social-emotional learning (SEL) that would allow us to intervene early with students who needed targeted social-emotional support and monitor their progress over time. The initiative included multiple components including adding staff, implementing training programs, adopting an SEL assessment and using a team approach.


3 ways to combine trauma-informed teaching with SEL

When trauma goes unacknowledged by caring adults, students can feel suffocated by the burden of their experience. Research shows that traumatic experiences can drastically hinder students’ academic development, and that “children who have three or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are three times more likely to experience academic failure, five times more likely to have attendance problems, and six times more likely to have behavioral problems than those with no ACEs.“

These findings, coupled with the fact that almost half of the students in the U.S. have experienced at least one or more traumatic experiences presents a significant barrier to academic success for a large population of students.

Related content: 3 ways our school is fighting back against trauma

As educators, we work with a diverse group of students, not only in the range of their academic abilities, but also in their various experiences and social-emotional needs. The goal of trauma-informed teaching is to help all students feel known and supported. And the good news is that today, we know that using trauma-informed teaching strategies can benefit all students, regardless of their experiences.


5 evidence-based literacy strategies for bilingual learners

The opportunity of bilingualism is an important gift to give to our students. The cognitive, cultural, and professional benefits of bilingualism have the potential to broaden learners’ experiences in their careers and academics.

In a recent edWebinar, Maya Goodall, senior director of EL Curriculum at Lexia Learning, highlighted that 10 percent of all students in U.S. public schools are emerging bilingual learners and emerging multilinguals.

Related content: How we turned around our English learner program

Formerly called English Language Learners, students who speak more than one language have demonstrated advantages and awareness of languages, communication skills, memory, decision making, and analytical skills.

According to applied linguistics, in order to learn a language, it is critical to speak a language. If the learner doesn’t have the skill of language, they will struggle with reading comprehension.


5 steps to closing the homework gap

Schools are facing new challenges now that most learning involves the web—chiefly, the ability to do work at home or anywhere away from school grounds. While many are looking for ways to provide all students with a device, just having the device does not mean equitable learning–especially when it comes to closing the homework gap.

All students need to have the same access to WiFi, and thus the ability to use the device, whether they are at school or not.

Related content: Here’s how districts are closing the homework gap

In the edWebinar “Closing the Homework Gap: Digital Equity for All Students,” the presenters talked about the challenges and potential solutions to fulfill the promise of anytime, anywhere learning.


The push to put robotics in rural schools

Rural schools in the United States face challenges many of their suburban counterparts couldn’t fathom. For example, access to challenging and engaging STEM courses such as robotics and coding is not as prevalent in rural schools as it is in larger districts. But one district is aiming to make it easier for students to access robotics in rural schools.

Out of the Loop,” a 2018 report from The National School Boards Association Center for Public Education, notes that “rural students have significantly less access to STEM-focused AP courses” and that gaps such as this “may indicate that rural students have limited access to academically rigorous programs.”

Related content: The coolest robotics programs we saw at ISTE

One rural district in North Dakota is fighting this statistic with a K-12 STEAM program that prepares students for the future by teaching 21st-century skills necessary in today’s–and tomorrow’s–workforce.

Alexander, North Dakota, epitomizes small-town America. A 2017 estimate puts the population at 308, and the Alexander Public School serves around 260 K-12 students. Seeing a need to instill future workforce skills in their students, the district implemented their K-12 STEAM program, which includes coding and robotics, about five years ago. Superintendent Leslie Bieber attended a conference and had the opportunity to learn to program robots. When she returned, she worked with former robotics team coach Alexandria Brummond, who at the time was the school’s second-grade teacher. “The program developed over the years,” says Bieber, eventually including a TETRIX class, which then became a FIRST Tech Challenge class and team.


The coolest K-12 robotics programs we saw at ISTE

Efforts to get kids coding have exploded in recent years, but sometimes kids need a push to discover the “why” behind learning how to code. At ISTE 2019, that push to learn coding was clear as new K-12 robotics solutions emerged.

Aside from the cool factor K-12 robotics offers, students who learn to program through robotics learn a number of skills they’ll take with them well into adulthood, including creativity, problem solving, and the ability to fail without quitting.

We’ve rounded up some of the best K-12 robotics solutions and programs we saw during the conference. Share your favorite K-12 robotics programs with us on Twitter @eschoolnews.

Related content: Designing a K-5 robotics class from the ground up

1. KinderLab Robotics started shipping KIBO‘s newest product, the Advanced Coding Extension Set, and an accompanying curriculum guide, Ask and Imagine. The Advanced Coding Extension Set supports children who are experienced with KIBO’s core concepts and offers them the next step along their computer science pathways. The Advanced Coding Extension Set creates a bridge between KIBO’s core pre-K to 2nd-grade curriculum and the computer science and engineering work students will do in upper elementary and beyond. Children can explore advanced computer science concepts such as subroutines, randomness, and conditionals, while staying rooted in KIBO’s screen-free, hands-on coding environment.


6 tips to host high-impact district tours for VIP guests

As the director of communications for northwest New York’s East Irondequoit Central School District, I am proud to play a central role in sharing with various stakeholders the story of the tremendous positive impact the school system is having on the community.

My team and I use many tools to communicate school activities to our local community stakeholders. Through our online newsroom, social media channels, and a number of other mediums, East Irondequoit’s award-winning communication team is providing members of our community a window into the many great things happening in our district.

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While technology has given my team and I a number of great avenues through which we can communicate with stakeholders, the in-person classroom tour is still one of the best ways to showcase a district classroom initiative to VIPs. In particular, we’ve found the classroom tour is one of the best tools we can use to explain to visitors the impact our digital conversion is having on teaching and learning within the school system.


5 ways our centralized LMS supports UDL

Applicable to every student in every classroom, the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles of offering multiple means of representation, action and expression, and engagement help teachers leverage every child’s strengths while supporting a very personalized learning path based on student choice. When your LMS supports UDL, students reap the benefits.

Unlike pedagogies that attempt to teach to a broader group of students with a broad brush, UDL encompasses a wide swath of learning content—lectures, lessons, videos, audio recordings, group projects, individual projects, etc.—to help the modern-day student reach his or her fullest potential.

Related content: 5 ways to leverage UDL for student inclusivity

As we’ve all come to learn, managing digital content along with making it available to the people who need it isn’t easy. Enabling access for students and parents is equally as challenging, as is providing ongoing professional development for teachers who are using UDL every day in their K-12 classrooms.

5 ways our LMS supports UDL

When we kicked off a new initiative focused on student-centered learning, our district started looking for an all-in-one learning management system (LMS) that would serve as a staging area for our UDL and project-based teaching models. Not only would it give teachers and students the freedom to select their preferred tools, but it would also integrate with Google, keep everything in a centralized place, and enable high-quality professional development for teachers.


5 ways to stay connected with your teachers this summer

Teachers are dedicated, passionate people, so as a principal I encourage my teachers to recharge their batteries over the summer. At the same time, I try to stay connected enough to them that they’ll come back in late July feeling excited and knowing how much I value them. Here are five ways I use the summer to set the stage for the fall and stay connected with your teachers.

1) Handwritten thank-you notes

Once I get everything settled down from the end of the school year, I hand-write a personal note to every teacher and mail it. Email or text might be quicker, but there’s something so powerful about getting a note from your principal in the mailbox. Starting in mid-June, I write five to seven notes every night until I’ve sent a thank-you note to each of my teachers.

Related content: 4 fun ways principals can boost self-care

This year my notes will all relate to our mindset of the year, “We Are Connected.” These notes don’t have to be long. I just tell each teacher how grateful I am for them, and include one personal thing such as, “I know this year was hard because you had a baby and you were learning to balance, but you rocked it. I just wanted you to know how proud I am of you for that.” Or, “Hey, you ended your first year! Take a deep breath. Enjoy the summer and know that you’re appreciated.”