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The Alabama Best Practices Center (ABPC) is a place where educators can turn for assistance, inspiration and information about teaching and student achievement.

Our purpose is to help teachers and administrators develop the competence, commitment, and courage to do whatever it takes to improve student learning.

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Take a New Look at Grading: Focus on Learning & Student Ownership
October 16, 2014
by Cathy Gassenheimer
I still remember the first time I heard someone say that in classrooms, “achievement ought to be the constant, with time being the variable.” While that comment made a lot of sense to me, I wondered where such a belief was being operationalized in a systematic way.
Years later, I heard Tom Guskey speak about grading and he addressed my wondering. In athletics, he said, the emphasis is frequently on talent development and improving skills over time, not just during “snapshot moments."
To illustrate his point, Guskey told the story of a football coach watching the development of two potential quarterbacks over spring training and into the summer. At the beginning, one quarterback was sub-par. He didn’t throw the ball well, couldn’t read the defense, and couldn’t remember play calls. If given a grade at that snapshot moment in time, the coach would give him an “F.”
The other quarterback was better than the first but, if given a grade at that same snapshot moment, he’d receive “B-.” Time advanced and during the spring and summer practice, the first quarterback vastly improved, while the other quarterback remained a solid “B-“ player.

The first quarterback’s passing accuracy went up, he effectively read defensive positions, and he had mastered the art of play calling. As a result, the coach now considered him the top choice for the position.
If, however, the coach had determined who would be the starting quarterback by averaging several months of snapshot grades, chances are that the B- player would be named the starting quarterback, even though the other quarterback was now much more effective and displayed a greater level of skill.

Moral: Grade averaging seldom singles out growth over time.
Getting smarter about grading
According to Myron Dueck, the author of Grading Smarter Not Harder: Assessment Strategies That Motivate Kids and Help Them Learn, this type of misguided grading occurs every day in most classrooms across the U.S. and Canada. Students are penalized for not effectively understanding concepts at snapshot moments, even if at the end of the course they can demonstrate complete mastery.

Dueck is a Canadian vice principal and teacher who has studied with assessment experts Ken O’Connor and Rick Stiggins. His book is designed to challenge our thinking, touch our hearts, and invite us to explore new ways of thinking about grading. His inviting writing style (he's a storyteller) helps Dueck accomplish each of these goals.
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Connected Ed - Piedmont's Story Shared Nationally
October 14, 2014
October is Connected Educator Month. So we are featuring one of the most connected districts in Alabama! Piedmont has been held up by nationally as an example of how even the most rural communities can get connected. Watch the 6-minute clip, and then read on ...

Changing a Rural Community’s Expectations Through 24/7 Learning from Digital Promise on Vimeo.

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Dispelling the Myths: The Truth about Student Engagement
September 4, 2014
by Cathy Gassenheimer
Student engagement has become an education buzzword. As important as student buy-in to the learning process is, how many teachers really grasp what engagement looks like and, most important, how we can best craft a classroom culture where engagement is the norm, not the exception.
Jennifer Fredricks, in her book Eight Myths of Student Disengagement: Creating Classrooms of Deep Learning, paints of picture of authentic student engagement by tackling many of the misconceptions that, for some educators, make student engagement elusive.

Fredericks, a professor of human development at Connecticut College, is currently working on a three year grant on student engagement in math and science classrooms, funded by the National Science Foundation.
Engagement through the eyes of six students
Throughout the book, the author tells the story of student engagement through the eyes of six different students. While these students are all created in her mind, they are based on Fredricks' experience and research.Read More
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