A Clearinghouse for Martensdale-St. Marys Community Schools Professional Development

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Whatever It Takes, Chapter 1

Good afternoon!

First of all, thank your for your contributions to the previous posting. Your comments were concise yet indicative of good discussions among your team members. If you have not done so already, I would encourage you to read other groups' comments before beginning the next chapter. I look forward to even more in-depth and insightful commentary on Whatever It Takes as the year progresses. Keep an open mind as we continue reading and discussing these issues and ideas. Nothing ever changed by staying the same.

The following questions should be used as a starting point for your discussions over chapter one. You and your group may elect to simply answer the questions as they are posed, or you can put your responses in paragraph/essay form. Do what works for you, and enjoy the process!

1. Do you agree with the assertion in this chapter that “contemporary public
schools in the United States are now being called upon to achieve a
standard that goes far beyond the goals of any previous generation—high
levels of learning for all students?” If this represents a new goal, what
were the goals of schooling in the past?

2. This chapter introduces three critical questions the authors maintain
schools must consider if they are to fulfill their stated mission of “high
levels of learning for all.” Do you agree with that assertion? Do you feel
any of the questions are not “critical,” and that a school could help all
students learn at high levels without the collective consideration of that
question? Are there other questions you feel should be added to the list?

3. This chapter introduces the topic of formative versus summative
assessments—a topic that will be referenced repeatedly throughout the
book. What is the distinction between the two?


  1. Joe Franey, Jan Devore, Jodi Noga, Sara Kuhns, Melissa Schad

    1. We agree that it is a new goal of high levels of learning for all students. The goal of schooling in the past was to educate those who could afford it and those who had high ability based on high IQ scores. They believe kids were born with a high IQ, it wasn't something that they achieved through school.

    2. Yes they are critical questions. Another question we might add...How do you measure what they've learned? This will not mean a "one size fits all" testing. Testing should be differentiated among individual students.

    3. Formative is on-going, done regularly and then instructional decisions are made. Summative is after the fact to see what they have learned by a certain timeframe.

  2. Terah Henson, Rana Webster, Kim Burns and Brian Spanhut
    1. The new goal is that every student succeeds. In 1912 the perception was that all students do not need the same education. Mission statements were changed but policies and procedures were largely unchanged. The goals previous were to educate all with certain classes, but only continuing ed with those who were capable, both of paying and of completing the coursework.

    2. All students need to learn and need to be challenged, but at their own level, differentiated lessons. We agree with the three questions. In order to assure everyone is learning, assessment and curriculum must be aligned. They must be aligned by a staff that has a focus across the PK-12 and beyond landscape. How can students be assessed on an individual basis if their national results are the accountability basis? More teacher accountability, but in a different way. Fear cannot be a great way to motivate, how can we best change the culture to make everyone more accountable?

    3. Physical exam versus the autopsy. Both are needed. It is great to know if what you teaching is being learned, so assessing as you go is key, so that you can see what is going well or needs adjustment. That way when the summative assessment is given, the variables are limited.

  3. PLC Group #1: Caleb, Don, Paula, Noel

    1. We definitely think that schools have been called upon to achieve higher standards than ever before. These goals have definitely changed. At one time a main focus of school was for students to merely attend and complete work. At one time mainstreaming immigrants into our society was also a goal. The focus was typically on reading, writing, and common arithmetic.

    2. All 3 questions are important when considering our goal is for all students to learn at high levels. While needing to know when the student has acquired the essential knowledge and skills is important, we feel with standardized testing as it is and being important indicators, they don't always give an accurate representation of that knowledge for the individual student. There are some smaller questions you could possibly ask, but these 3 questions are a good base to start from. An example of a smaller question would be how far do you go motivate the unmotivated student with the resources we have at our disposal.

    3. Formative assessments focus more on ongoing assessments to determine whether the student is learning and what you need to do for the students who aren't. Summative assessments focus more on if the students have learned specific information and skills by a specific time.

  4. Sara F., Jen P., Amanda P., Dianne R., Mollie S.

    1. We agree that higher achievement levels are expected in the United States more now than ever before. We are being compared on a global level, which puts more pressure on the USA to increase scores in all areas to be competitive in the job market and world politics.

    2. a.We agree that all kids should be thinking at the highest level possible, based on each individual's academic abilities, which leads to our differentiatied instructional strategies.
    b. We feel that all questions are essential, but more questions could be added under each critical question.
    c. Are we teaching to the goal we are trying to achieve? How quickly to we expect students to grasp these skills / concepts?
    How are we going to assess students to find their authentic knowledge?
    What other methods can we use to teach the students that aren't learning? Where do we go for help (resources?)

    3. Formative assessments are ongoing daily / weekly assessments to gauge our students' knowledge / abilities. Formative assessments diagnose and prescribe appropriate interventions.
    Summative assessments are cumulative assessments that give an overall view of student progress.

  5. Question 1:
    Yes and no. Schools have always wanted kids to learn but whether or not ALL students had equal opportunity learning is debatable. With the approach discussed, it does seem to be going beyond the previous norms. Ideally, we should be looking at all kids individually to see how they learn rather than the group as a whole.

    Question 2:
    All three questions are important. But generally speaking, how can one state they want high levels of learning when they don’t consider everyone involved? As it is now with us, when is there time to teach to the moment? How do we get everything done in the day with the curriculum we have? Although we differentiate, sometimes it’s hard to hit every child every day. Therefore, basically, we agree with the questions, but where do we find the time?

    Question 3:
    Summative assessment is after instruction and formative is during instruction and is on an on-going basis. Formative monitors individual students and is a foundation for future instruction.

    In our overall discussion, we felt that environment is important to learning too. You can have a great learning environment at school but a student’s home life could be one where no one cares. If schools don’t have a supportive learning environment at home, it’s much more difficult to ensure kids are getting everything they need.

    - Amanda Skellenger, Kara Burns, Kate Dykstra, Barb Meier, Tish O’Mara

  6. Interesting observation about the chapter is that school recieve no credit in good times and face the blame in the bad times.
    1. Early American education system was designed to weed out the lesser able over a period of time. Horace Mann contended that free public education for grade school. Further education optional.
    2. We think that all three question are vital to help students learn. We think that the third question is ignored by some districts. Larger districts use systemic mechanisms to "hide" students that don't learn.
    3.Formative assessments are recommended for use by PLC's to identify if students are learning and summative assessments are used to identify what they have learned.

  7. #1
    It definitely exceeds past expectations. The new NCLB and even previous moves to reform education have changed us to supposed "higher levels of learning for all." Schooling in the past was obviously tracked for many individuals. Home support has gotten worse in many cases which is overlooked as a possible problem with education. Our expectations are higher where we want all kids to be college bound so that is another change. "prepare the few men and let the others fight it out" was kind of the way it was until nearly the 1900s.

    We agree with the 3 questions that are being asked but the approach to accomplishing each one is debatable. We questioned whether the standardized test are the end all be all when it comes to deciding what students know. We questioned how we work with the students that have not learned. What ways can we get to all of those students that have not learned? Could there be a systematic approach to reach those students that have not learned?

    Formative assessment is during the learning process. It is ongoing so it could be more valuable. It doesnt have to be written. It is for the teachers benefit as well so we can evaluate our instruction. It can assess a variety of things.

    Summative is at the end. It is over a accumulation of material ie unit, chapter....

  8. 1. Previous generations only taught to “intelligent” or wealthy children. We experienced success at that time because we were a highly industrial country that needed the laborers. Jobs are now going overseas and we don’t need the labor force we needed in the past. We are teaching higher level thinking skills for a new work force and can’t assume all students are able to/interested in higher level thinking skills.
    2. A comment was made that a student in Iowa may need different knowledge than a student in New York. We realize that “one size does not fit all”. We would like to utilize our strengths as a state and a region to educate students on relevant knowledge. We also think our small district should have different goals than larger schools in other areas. Goals should be suited for the state and the region. Critical thinking is a broad concept. How do you define critical thinking and how do you accurately measure critical thinking? Every school is different; every class is different; every teacher is different.
    3. Formative is used to see if you need to re-teach. Summative assigns a grade.