Thinking About Assessment and Evaluation at #AssessSym2017

Post #1- August 15, 2017

This week I am taking part in some deeper learning about Assessment and Evaluation at the #AssessSym2017 conference at Georgian College in Barrie.  We have a team of five educators here and have met colleagues from across the entire province. The conversations have been rich. As part of our learning this week we have been asked to keep a digital portfolio, so knowing that I have been avoiding coming back to my blog seemed like an invitation to revisit some of my thinking from the past and to add to it with my new learning from this week.

We have been invited to transform our thinking about assessment.  Transform means “to make a thorough or dramatic change”.  This morning we were presented with some Big Ideas around assessment.  Have a look at the powerpoint below that outlines the four Big Ideas we wrestled with.   Transforming Assessment

The first Big Idea that resonated with me was: “Assessment plays a critical role in teaching and learning.”  This is key.  I come back to the question I often ask- Why this learning for this child at this time?  This has me asking so many more questions- What is your process for planning?  How do you ensure that you have thought through the assessment cycle during your planning process?   This also has me thinking a lot about our NTIP teachers.  How can we better support our beginning teachers to plan their teaching and learning cycle while considering our assessment and evaluation practices?

The time to think deeply about Assessment and Evaluation over a four day period is a gift.  We are thinking, reading, viewing, conversing and questioning everything we know and don’t know about the topic and as we do that we are transforming our thinking about Assessment and Evaluation on a summer day in August.  Pretty inspiring!

Post #2- August 16, 2017

Today at the #AssessSym2017 symposium, I engaged in learning about- Learning Goals & Success Criteria, IEPs and reporting and the new Initial Observation report card for Kindergarten.  This room is full of dedicated professional who knew a lot about assessment and evaluation before they got here – check out the pre-assessment that they did with us…

Our learning this week has been framed around 4 Themes:

  1.  Knowing the Learner
  2. Making Learning Visible Through the Assessment Process
  3. Evaluation and Professional Judgement
  4. Reporting and Communication

Each day we have gone deeper into discussions around topics related to these four themes.  Today’s conversations took us deeper into Learning Goals and Descriptive Feedback.

Our group decided to wrestle with creating a Learning Goal (LG) and Success Criteria (SC)  for an overall expectation from the Kindergarten Program.  We chose the Overall Expectation 3- Identify and use social skills in play and other contexts.  Our first step was to decide what our students needed to Know and Do.  We identified that our students would need to know: -that words and actions impact others and that people can have different points of view.  They would also be able to: – help someone, use kind words, help my friends, give compliments, use an appropriate tone when talking, and taking turns.

After much discussions we landed on the Learning Goal- We are learning to play with others

The Success Criteria would be:  I am able to- take turns, share with others, listen to others.

This process was powerful for our group.  Because of the unique learning environment in Kindergarten, our discussion about assessment practices took us from LG and SC to Notice and name.  What became key to us is the role of the educator with the student in making the learning visible.  This group conversation was powerful for all of us.  Funnily enough, we then went back into the Kindergarten document to see what there was to say about LG/SC at the K level ( see page 43).  I think we are really starting to understand.

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One Word- LEARN

It has been a challenging Fall in education.  My main job as Superintendent of Early Learning and Elementary School Improvement is to plan responsive professional learning for educator teams in our board.  Well, this fall there was no professional learning due to the Work to Rule situation.

So, I’m sure you’ve been wondering what I have been doing?  I’ve been learning in many different ways.  I’ve been in many schools; listening, observing, watching, feeling the tone, the mood.  I’ve done yard duty and I’ve listened and watched.  I’ve read books and I’ve synthesized and made connections to the work and learning happening across our system.  I talked to teachers and listened.  I’ve talked to administrators and listened.  I’ve talked to Instructional Leads (ILs), Teacher Researchers and consultants and I’ve listened.

And now I’m ready to learn.  Learn is my ONE WORD that is going to keep me focused for the remainder of the school year.

We engaged in an opportunity with our ILs recently and we invited each person to identify their one word to focus their work for the year.

Some of our teams words were:

Impact  Passionate  Listen  Uniqueness (yes that is a word)  Connecting  Deliberate  Intrepid  Balance  Flexibility  Gratitude  Possibility  Ignite  Serve  Thrive  Appreciate  Why  Simplify

These words filled me with great hope and optimism.  As we start to plan and think about professional learning that is responsive to our system I want to think and remember these words.

I would invite educators to give us feedback about the type of professional learning that works best for them.  We are listening.  We want to hear from you.  We need your voice to ensure that our learning meets the needs of everyone in our system.

So, let’s learn together.  Let’s listen to one another.

Let the learning begin.


A Little Funeral Humor: A Slice of Life Story

This did really happen. I am glad my sister wrote about this funny weekend moment.



After my father’s funeral on Saturday, most people were going back to my eldest sister’s house for a reception. I drove there with my twin sister, her husband and my mother, who wanted to stop at her place on the way home so she could change clothes and drop off the flowers and urn.

When we got to her apartment building, we dropped Mom at the front door so we could park, telling her we’d carry everything in. After parking my brother-in-law, Tom, took the flowers, my sister, Andrea, took purses because she had a key to Mom’s building, and I carried the urn. Once in the building, we pushed the button for the elevator and got on as soon as the doors opened. We didn’t realize it was going down until it started. No matter. It was only one floor down.

When the elevator doors opened in the basement, a…

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What I’ve been learning about math

I’ve had a wonderful last two days visiting some of my schools and engaging in conversations with students, educators and administrators about what they are learning about math.  I’ve used an organizer to gather my learning and thoughts with 4 simple questions:

1)  What are your students learning in math?

2) What are your teachers learning in math?

3)  What are you, as a leader, learning in math?

4) How have you modified your leadership practices to impact what you are learning?

What I’ve seen and heard have me believing that we are making steady progress in mathematics.  Our board math goal is focused on supporting and improving student thinking in Number Sense.  In support of this goal, many of our schools have been using Number Talks with their students.  In a Number Talk, based on the book by Sherry Parish,  children are asked to communicate their mathematical thinking when presenting and justifying solutions  to problems they solve mentally.  These exchanges lead to the development of more accurate, efficient and flexible strategies.  Across the 8 classrooms I visited, I saw consistent processes and procedures used: an intentional use of wait time for students to think about more than one strategy, a gesture used by students to demonstrate to the teacher the number of strategies they have used and  a visual recording of a series of Number Talk threads.  What really struck me was the labelling and naming of strategies for students.  What we label and name gets noticed.  See the tweet below:

One school has even invited parents into the learning they are doing about Number Talks:

So I’m feeling optimistic about math in board.  I commend our students, educators and administrators for the hard work, dedication and focus they are giving to math and the math goal in their classrooms and schools.

If you want to learn more about Number Talks, check out this article:

Click to access numbertalks_sparrish.pdf

Happy Math-ing!




Remembering…Christmas in the Trenches

Nothing can bring me to tears like a Remembrance Day ceremony in a school.  Students so solemnly welcoming veterans into their gymnasium and learning spaces.  The students are so respecful and in awe of our veterans who are so proud to be sharing the day with our students.

About 5 years ago, a group of students from Pine Glen, with teacher Jeninfer Clark, told a story of WW1,  the story of the Christmas Truce. Done in tableu style, the haunting music and the story the students brought to life left not a dry eye in the house.

Here is John McDermott’s version…almost as good as the grade 6’s at Pine Glen from a few years ago.

I hope you are able to remember this week.  And I hope you are able to find a ceremony at a school where you can see students and veterans sharing a moment.  It will give you hope.  It does for me every year.