#EduChat, 2013 to 2014, 4th grade, Assessment for Learning, Florida Education, Gifted Education, Teacher Evaluation, Using Data in the Classroom

No…I am, was, could be…one of the worst teachers in my state! Florida VAM #higherED Where are you?

I read Simone Ryal’s post today…http://simoneryals.blogspot.com/2014/02/im-one-of-worst-teachers-in-my-state.html

Then KAFKAteach’s post: http://kafkateach.wordpress.com/2014/03/01/gosh-damn-thats-a-bad-vam/?relatedposts_exclude=732

I know Valerie Strauss stepped up to the plate: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/25/the-most-meaningless-teacher-evaluation-exercise-ever/?wp_login_redirect=0

However, at the end of the day, the State of Florida has data that says I am not a valuable teacher. 😦  In fact, I’m pretty bad according to them.

Tuesday, after the Florida Writes, I was tired.  It is a tough writing test to work towards because 3rd grade teachers, rightly so, spend so much time hitting reading for the Reading FCAT – writing is not their focus.  So in 4th grade, we have from August to February to get students writing a solid, organized, fluent, well-developed 4 to 5 paragraph essay that ‘feels whole’ and has vivid detail.

So, it’s kind of the night that should be about kicking back and taking a deep breath.  I’m so proud of my students.  They worked hard.

But, I heard the VAM scores were out.  I looked myself up. I love teaching, I get good results, I work hard, tutor after school, help my students achieve their best…or at least try…right? How bad could it be?

I was devastated.

(In the end, the district said the data on the website below was “nothing related to reality…all over the place…and inaccurate.”)

These are my 2011 to 2012 Scores right from the site.  I was a Kindergarten through Second Grade (Year 1 to Year 3) Science Teacher (No FCAT tests in those grades) and a Gifted Pullout Teacher for 1st through 6th.  I saw the GSP students for 3 hours a week total.

My scores show I taught 41 reading and 41 math students for a combined total of 8200%.  My reading VAM was -15% and my math was -0.042  My VAM combined was -9%.  I was one of the lowest ranked teachers in my school.  I’m not sure who the students are that I received my grades from.  I was one of the lowest teachers…so it couldn’t be a grade level score or a school score.  It’s just my score.  (I don’t want to be a GSP pullout teacher again!  NO WAY!)


In 2012 to 2013, my scored looked like this…

I was a 4th grade reading teacher for 44 students.  The entire 4th grade had 87.  I only taught 44.

According to the state, I taught 81 reading students and 4100% math students for a combined total of 122!  My VAM reading was -9% (I’ll round-up) and math was -4%.

I looked up the science teacher because I taught reading to my 22 home room students and her 22 home room students.  Her VAM states that she only taught 44 students in reading and had a positive reading VAM of 10% (I’ll round-up).  Although she saw all 87 students in the 4th grade for science only…she had no math scores?

But I only taught our 44 students reading…no math…no 81 students…and not all the 87 in our grade level.

I really don’t understand.  How can she show positive reading gains on students I taught…yet I show negative reading and math gains on more that the students I taught?

And where did the math come from?

And why does it not appear across the board for our whole team of 4.


I did forward the data to my district, my boss…I was truly prepared to apologize to my students and parents….because in this age of accountability…I am terrible right?  I really intend to apologize to my family.  You know how many times I am grading or planning or researching for my classroom?  (Or buying?)  And for what?  I am significantly below the expectation for value.  I am not just maintaining the standard…I am more that 10% below expectation.  I am a “Loser” – Big ‘L’ – that was the sign for the day as we passed through the halls.

Wednesday was a dark day.

Isn’t the assumption that the State of Florida, who is going to use this data to assess me and decide any future raises…who will use this data as 50% of my teacher evaluation…isn’t there accountability for them for accuracy?  Honestly, it felt terrible…but I didn’t truly believe it was wrong.  I don’t still understand it…but I assumed the state would not give out wrong data. Right?

I am truly grateful for my administration, district accountability team…and my teammates.  Even when I was  (not am) a ‘negative’ VAM…they still encouraged and were supportive.  However, it was devastating.  I didn’t look up my teammates in my new school.  However, I guess there are quite a few that join me in the VAM ‘pit’.

I can tell you…as someone that loves teaching and that works so hard… it’s just sad.  For our whole team…it’s just sad.  As someone who has spent too much time and money on teaching and could spend more time on family and self…it feels like I made a big, long-term mistake.

In the end, the district said the data on the website was “nothing related to reality…all over the place…and inaccurate.”

According to the district, my VAM scores for the last 2 years were positive.  Marginally so… between 0 and 1.  We had VAM scores over in England and the range was between those values…so I think I’m where I need to be…but always have room to improve.  The district said I was right where I needed to be.

Ok…at least I’m not hurting the children I teach?  Because for a second there…  I want to be improving their lives…ugh.  I’m grateful for my district…but I’m at a loss for the on-line data published.

I still don’t know what to think.  However, it has really been on my mind. I need to re-group and re-focus on my students and my job. I have an observation on Tuesday…I have the FCAT reading and math in 2 months…tests that will determine the next round of scores, that I am sure, will be published.  Is this process supposed to make me better?  Because right now…it’s not.

I have 5 students with perfect scores in my class right now.  Imagine… ‘I’ have to maintain that.  I was up for the challenge and have monitored, tracked, differentiated, taught them metacognition, assessment for learning, choice, critical thinking…and hopefully, a love to learn.

I love to teach! I felt like I wanted to be an astronaut and did work in space…but this profession was just so dynamic and working with children such a joy.  Never did I ever think…I would be labeled a ‘loser’ on the world-wide web. 😦  I wanted to teach teachers…I’m not sure that’s the best option for teachers right now.

I am blessed…and I will refocus….I always do.  But there is something different this time.  I’m not sure about teaching for the first time.  I need to step back.

I do have a challenge though…

I challenge higher education to step in…true researchers and teachers…to give us researched based practices.  I challenge parents to help those who love their children.  We need education professionals, not politicians, to have a strong voice in Education.  We need people like Cambridge and Harvard, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Columbia, UCF…all these universities and more to step forward to lead us – at a national level….at a local level.  I want to hear from you!  Not Scott, Bush, and all the others benefitting from the sale of education…but true educational researchers leading us with strong, research based practices.  Isn’t that what you ask of us?

Gates Foundation…I believed it you!  Rick Stiggins, Black and Wiiam, HELP! Howard Gardner… if it’s right, if this is valuable…then so be it.  But it’s its not…please let us hear from you.  Where are all our great leaders in Education?

Also, I truly wish, these political ‘leaders’ would be required to step inside the classroom for a full FCAT cycle.  Then let’s see their VAM scores.

Higher Education….where are you?



Differentiating Homework for Gifted Students

One of my favourite bloggers…on one of my favourite topics…Gifted!

Expat Educator

Expat Educator Homework

As part of Mary St. George’s New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour, this post addresses homework for the gifted student.

Admittedly, as a classroom teacher, I avoided differentiated homework for many years. The idea of finding, assigning, grading, and following-up with multiple assignments seemed prohibitively time-consuming. Until I tried it.

This post begins with essential understandings and ends with some practical ideas.

Essential Understandings

1. Homework for gifted students should not be ‘more of the same’. If you want your class to spend their homework time reviewing the process of adding fractions, gifted students will not learn anything additional if you give them 20 computation problems while the other students do 10.

2. The homework objective should align with the class objective. Let’s say you’re studying groups of people native to your country of origin. You want the class to use a few websites or book pages to locate information…

View original post 1,158 more words


Reflections from another gifted teacher 🙂

Ramblings of a Gifted Teacher

I know this school year  over, but I still think about next year. I have a few goals that I would like to do next year. I want to list them below, and I hope to check back on this to see if I have followed through with a few of this goals.


I want to incorporate more technology into my classroom. I want to look at using cellphones in my classroom. Last year we did a unit using cell phone cameras. I think I may try poll everywhere, or text the mob  to add some variety into my classroom.

I plan on using blogs again in my classroom, and I will continue to update my own blog. I am thinking of starting my own Facebook page to share what is going on with my classes. I think this will also help with parent communication as well. I already have a Google Plus

View original post 294 more words


Gifted Phoenix Twitter Round-up Volume 8

Lovely review from @GiftedPhoenix on #gtchat twitter activity

Gifted Phoenix

Here is my eighth monthly review of @GiftedPhoenix Twitter activity, covering the period from 9 May to 7 June 2012 inclusive.

My Twitter feed is almost exclusively dedicated to gifted education, wider English education policy and associated topics. These reviews provide a fairly comprehensive record, including virtually every Tweet that contains a link to an online resource. Apologies if any of the links are broken.

It feels as though the organisation of the record is now fairly settled. I have retained three sections on:

  • Gifted Education Worldwide, with sub-sections for each of the five continents and, separately, for the UK;
  • Gifted Education: Thematic, with sub-sections for Twice-exceptional; Creativity and Innovation, Intelligence and Neuroscience; and, finally, Commentary and Research;
  • Related Educational Issues, concerned almost exclusively with developments in England and divided into several thematic subsections. There is some material of interest to gifted educators but this section also extends into wider…

View original post 5,478 more words


Week 10 “Creativity cannot be measured, and efforts to do so are not a waste of time.”

This statue is considered valued and very creative...but for the life of me I cannot figure out what the artist's message was except for something fun to hang around in...

In response to my creativity class….

“Creativity can/cannot be measured, and efforts to do so are/are not a waste of time.”

Support or refute this statement in your journal, you may write, draw, graphic organize, or respond via poetry that you create.

There are currently a range of assessments that work to measure the concept of creativity.  They look at novelty, fluency and flexibility as well as divergent thinking.  Although some assessments seem to have an acceptable amount of reliability and validity…there does not seem a consensus that any one test is the best.  In addition, creativity is cultural…the value of a something being creative will depend on the community it is presented in.

My thoughts….

Although I very much feel that creativity cannot be measured with accuracy…at the moment…I believe people understand how it can be encouraged and cultivated…and how necessary it is for our future.

Creativity seems to be a concept that can be grasped in our thinking although not defined and explained completely.  It reminds me of how people consider the ‘soul’.

We know there is an essence of life that makes us unique…more than just being ‘alive’…as humans we have an awareness, a mental capability that research can ‘see’ but not completely prove and define.  We have found no other creatures that have the ability to step outside oneself and contemplate, consider and ‘create’.

As a result…I used both parts of the quote.  I don’t think we are at a place we can measure creativity accurately.  We can sense it, ‘see’ it and experience it…but not truly limit or define it in a way to measure it.

However, I believe the search to try to measure creativity is not a waste of time.

In fact, I think it is a path that will lead to a better understanding of who we are as a race.  The more we try to understand creativity and the more it eludes us…the more we see how amazing we are, how unique life is…thinking is…creating is…our planet is…

The path to learning and uncovering more about being creative is the very direction we need to head in order to encourage and cultivate the creative ideas needed to help us navigate the challenges of this century and beyond.


Creativity Module 4: #gifted #gtie Gifted Project – Digital Poster design… linking photography to a quote to inspire

this picture was taken by the student in our school garden then edited to highlight the quote!

This past term I wanted to take look at the creativity my gifted students could unleash.

I was inspired to do this project based on an activity we were asked to do in my creativity class ~ give students an object and see the ideas they come up with regarding its use.

Well, rather than give my 6th grade an object I gave them a software project – Using PICNIK.com to design a poster to inspire people.


MUST: create using a picture with no copy right restrictions and another’s quote.
SHOULD: use another’s quote and take your own picture.
COULD: create you own quote and take you own picture.

Must: using a quote and picture from another

We discussed “inspiration” and learned how the software worked. Once that was done, they knew they had the free reign for design.”

Here are some samples.

What I noticed was that some students could design with other people’s quotes and photos but did not venture into any photo or quote creation of their own.

Even after assembling multiple posters linking pictures and quotes they found. These students were still creative in the editing process but they needed someone to set the foundation to leap off of.

Could: design using your own photo and created quote

Some students started with their own quotes and planned, then took and edited their own pictures from the moment they were free to start. These students had a knack for seeing something new without needing any stepping-stones!

should: using another's quote and their own planned photograph

And of course, some students were inspired by a quote and planned, then took their own picture…..having that foundation but being able to mold something new out of it.

A different point of view in a given entity…..

In my creativity book the author shared different theories such as the need for knowledge and skill within a discipline before creativity can emerge and that sometimes higher IQ seem to show increasing levels of creativeness.

I believe all my students felt creative. After watching the initial work of some students we reviewed some basic designs of adverts and posters around school – discussed space and coloring, impact and message. I led that more as an inquiry asking them what they noticed and how they felt about the designs and spacing, fonts and colors….the words, phrases, the photos.

I believe all of the designs you see were created prior… but there were students who the “skill and knowledge within the discipline.poster art seemed to help them finish a project started.

In the end…there were students who created numerous posters during class and at home through their own desire and there were students who used three class sessions and completed just one…working and thinking…engaged the entire sessions given.

I was fasinated….at the differences between the content of the posters, the editing, the quotes created or used

PICNIKS.com will only be available until mid April and then I am not sure what Google has planned.

This student worked on this poster over weeks...reviewing and modifying his edits until it was just so.



Module 7 Creativity – Thinking aloud on Julius Frontinius and the links of inventions to creativity in the classroom

Julius Frontinus was a Governor of Roman Britain who then became the Water Commissioner and overseer of the Aqueducts. He was quite inventive and creative with war and with waterways.

“Inventions reached their limit long ago, and I see no hope for further development.” Julius Frontinius in the 1st Century A.D.

As part of my creativity class, I was asked to watch the YOUTUBE video about Time Magazines 2009 Inventions of the Year…then consider: What parts of the video inspired you?  How does the quote tie in to this video?  How does this impact student learning in creativity?


  • The 2009 Inventions of the Year by Time Magazine were:
  • Raising blue fin tuna in tanks for more sustainable food production
  • Microsoft – body game controller to give more diversity and authentic game play
  • Phillips  – an “energy hub” that sets next to your thermostat and tells you how much energy your appliances are using and how much it is costing you.

The video itself was not inspiring, the inventions were.  I was touched by the focus on sustainability and the research that continued until scientists found a way to raise blue fin tuna in tanks.  With waters becoming polluted, having a fish source that is healthy and replenish-able will help people in the future meet their needs to food.

I wasn’t too impressed by the game controller…but glad to see children moving versus zoning out on the TV.  However, even though this technology is still available, I feel children are not using it as much as they are still using the basic game controller and sitting more than being active.

The energy hub seems sound.  I was surprised it existed and that I was not aware of it.  Researching more, Philips just recently received another award from the US Department of Energy.  So I am happy that people do not rest and continue to innovate.

I was intrigued by the quote…and researched Julius Frontinus.  The quote, as shown above, is taken out of context.

The original quote… “I also lay aside all ideas of any new works or engines of war, the invention of which long-ago reached its limit, and in which I see no hope for further improvement …”

was pulled from Julius book on War strategies and has to do with the designs of war rather than his view of invention.  In fact, the quote stands more to mean that the invention of war has reached it’s limits (of usefulness) and he feels it’s use cannot be improved.

I would agree with his view that the invention of War has run its course.  

from Google books- Julius Frontinus

Julius was a Roman…who was Governor of Britain up in the area of Wales who returned to oversee the maintenance and restoration of the Roman aqueducts.  He was actually quite an inventor – coming up with creative ways to defeat his enemies (he diverted water to create a flood) and restore the water quantity and quality going into Rome.

With that said…I think the author of the quote links strongly to invention and creativity…although his quote as stated seems to suggest otherwise.  In content, I do believe that ‘invention’ of war as opposed to conflict and strife among people and countries – as it is designed to kill, conquer or limit…is an invention that has run it’s course and has not developed beyond it’s original design.

As far as the impact for children in the classroom, his original quote would be something for students to reflect upon.  The idea that all inventions are good and useful throughout time is one that would easily be thrown out.  Maybe inventions seem wonderful and remarkable when first developed (aerosol, petrol cars…).  However, over time, there are dangers that the original inventors could not foresee or limits to the usefulness of their designs long-term.

Therefore, maybe students could look at some inventions from long ago, consider their current usefulness and either improve upon them or create a timeline measuring their impact on today’s generation and future so see if the invention is one that in fact ‘has reached it’s limit’.








Great idea #2: A process for establishing classroom or group rules #gifted #educhat

I started my 3rd gifted endorsement class today and our instructor has already shared some amazing ideas for teaching and learning!

In my gifted class today I experienced a really neat way of creating rules for a group.  Next year I am going to use it in my classroom to set the rules and then revisit in the first month, end of term and when needed.  (I want to see if the students need to change rules over time.)

How we set group rules…

  • Independently and with quiet music playing in the back ground, we wrote EXPECTATIONS we felt we needed to
    Once we worked in a small group and choose our most importance expectations for learning, we brought them together as a class by sorting them into categories set up on different tables.

    learn best on green cards.

  • Two types of expectations – for us (my peers and I) and for my teachers.
  • Then we sat in group of 3 or 4 and shared our expectations.
  • The group thought through creating 5 (could have been more) expectations on new coloured cards – pink (the colours aren’t important but each stage had different ones).
  • The group expectations were more US and for our teachers.
  • Then the instructor had tables with different categories – attitude, behavior, misc, work environment…ect.
  • We broke up and places our cards under the categories we felt they fit.
  • People volunteered to think through the cards at each category and then meet together making a set of class rules.
  • The rule group presented their decisions – with justifications – to us.

We really didn’t talk about their rules.  They seemed pretty acceptable to all of us and it appeared as I walked around placing my cards in categories that many of us had similar expectations.

A group volunteered to sort through our expectations and bring them all together and synthesize them into a small set of 'collective' classroom rules.

I felt it gave me a voice.  I liked sharing…and the outcome was acceptable.

It was also pretty quick and a good way to give students a voice in their learning environment.

What I noticed?  We, as a whole class, made very little expectations for our instructors.   I don’t know if that is because we don’t think much about having expectations for our teachers as much as we know we will have expectations of learners…if we don’t feel comfortable having expectations for our instructors…or if we just don’t have the experience (truthfully, I’ve never been asked that before.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


#gifted endorsement class 3 – Diverse populations of gifted children


I am looking forward to learning more. I have students that fall under these categories.


Great idea #1: Backchanneling by #EDUPLANET21 synthesized with Cornell Note taking – Strategies for learning success! #gifted #edchat #assessment

On Tuesday, February 28, 2012 I listened in on a webinar by EDUPLANET 21 (http://www.eduplanet21.com/) with speakers Bena Kallick, Ph.D and Jeff Colosimo.

Thank you EDUPLANET21 for a great webinar! I will blog more about what I learned this weekend!

The webinar was titled “Launching self-directed learners through social learning”.

The ideas and understand about social learning?  Well…that is a blog post in itself and it’s coming!

But one of the many things I took away from it was the term “Backchannel Learning”.   Below is some notes about back channel learning and how I integrated the concept with a strategies I’ve used before.  I integrated back channeling using the Cornell Note format.  I feel it helps me assess not only the information they took from me or what I’ve asked them to give back (as far as work)..but the side notes also give me insight in their questions and thinking about their learning.

Here is a fusion of comments from the speaker and my thoughts:

“So in chat (available with on-line learning platforms) – use the idea of being able to think about back channeling – looking at the question while someone is speaking. The learner: “I am having thoughts.”  The instructor:  “If I want you to pay attention, but I can’t monitor your mind, I ask myself…metacognitively…what is going on?”

Back channeling allows you as an instructor to capture that and turn it into a learning moment.   Back channeling is where the student is staying on task with speaker and allowed to post questions…

So the presenter can use thoughts and gain feedback (formative assessment at times) as she goes along teaching.  You can engage on the ideas and questions together!  In real-time!

Backchannel…You don’t allow for the meeting to take place AFTER the meeting…it happens during.  (You don’t let the students leave and then ask and wonder when you no longer are there…you get them to engage right then.)

The power of back channeling is AMAZING!

In short…Backchannel learning is when the learner can post questions into a Q & A zone on-line while the teacher is presenting.  EDUPLANET21’s new on-line platform provides that real-time interaction. The instructor can see the questions and comments and can adjust her presentation or answer the questions privately or during the lesson as needed.

This is multi-tasking in its most amazing domain…not only for the teacher but also for the student.

Actually, for the student I would call it multi-path learning because the student is able to gain information visually or through listening …while responding through type and gaining feedback in a ‘backchannel’ zone.


The concept of back channel wasn’t new to me in the sense that I teach my students to raise  3 fingers in the air (rather than a hand) when a question they have or thought is ‘off the topic’.  If I can fit an off the topic question in, I address it.  If I can’t, I nod ‘no’ and they write the question on their paper to ask me at the end of the lesson.  That way they don’t forget.

Well, I put that info all together today through a Cornell Note taking sheet I found on-line at:

Here is the essence of the guidance I taught my 5th and 3rd grade Gifted classes for note taking strategies.


  • The lined zone…belongs to me the teacher – in the sense that I, as the teacher, guide what goes on and in this zone.
  •  Work in here needs to be neat.
  • Work in this zone shows they gained information
  • Or…shows any information or work being asked for.

The blank zone – their BACKCHANNEL SPACE

  • The zone around the sides and at the bottom was their ‘backchannel space’.
  • This area is to write notes, ideas, thoughts, doodle (doodle has been showed to support learning).
  • This area belong to them..it didn’t have to be neat – although I suggested that after the learning they look it over and revise any writing they feel is important but can’t read well.

I also taught them some study, note taking strategies.

  • Circle ideas that were important and they might want to look up or address later.
  • Place a ? Mark over questions and thoughts they want to ask me about or look up on their own.
  • * (star) Items that are super important and might need to be done. These items they look up at the end of the lesson or day so they don’t forget.
  • At the end of the lesson, in the bottom part, write down a last thought…or reflection…what did I like, not like, think about what I just learned.  What might I do next?

Then we practiced as we considered the limits to a learning game they are developing.  I noticed some students quickly started to back channel and others not at all.  I did make a note on which students didn’t back channel to see if they do over time.

It should be interesting.  I like the concept because with gifted children their minds are fast and in a lesson,..they take off in other directions.  If they don’t write their ideas down and then tell me verbally, I miss some and we don’t end up acting on their ideas until or unless it is remembered and brought up again.  I’m interested in if this will change their learning and extending their learning.

The notes in a journal worked…but this feels more linked to their learning…at least visually.

I am using Edomodo as a way for them to share their ideas, questions and thoughts with me so I have them ‘written’ down.

Here is a gallery of some student examples…