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Learning is everyone's job!

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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Using Data Notebooks for Student-Engaged Assessment
December 17, 2014
Amy Donnelly is the Instructional Coach for Weeden Elementary School in Florence, Alabama.

by Amy Donnelly
I became interested in data notebooks after I read Ron Berger’s Leaders of Their Own Learning (2014). I had worked with the teachers in our school to look at, analyze, and formulate goals for their classroom data but realized (thanks to Berger) that we'd left out a very important element in this process – our students.

Our teachers and school leaders held the learning secrets but we were not sharing them with our learners the way we should. This had to change!

The formative assessment process described in Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom (Moss and Brookhart, 2009) poses three core questions: Where am I going? Where am I now? What strategy or strategies will help me get to where I need to go?

These were critical questions that our students needed to consider and integrate into their learning. Could data notebooks help us provide the answers to these questions?

The notebooks might also provide the interest and motivation that we were often lacking. Children are fascinated by themselves, so wouldn’t a book all about them and their learning motivate and excite them? I wanted to see.
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Piedmont City Schools Lead the Nation in Tech Access to Rural Students
December 17, 2014
"Can a School's Tech Program Take a Rural Town Out of Poverty?" That's the eye-catching headline on a major news story at The Atlantic magazine website, describing the ongoing saga of Piedmont City Schools, where Superintendent Matt Akins and his school board continue their efforts to power up learning across the entire community via a fully integrated digital network.
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Tom Guskey: How to Assess the Quality of Your Professional Learning
December 14, 2014
Cathy Gassenheimer spent a week listening and learning at the annual Learning Forward conference in Nashville earlier this month. Here is the second in her two reports on a day-long presentation by University of Kentucky professor Thomas Guskey, a leading expert on evaluation of teacher professional learning experiences.

The longer I interacted with Dr. Tom Guskey, the more I began to understand that, like most things, evaluating professional learning isn’t simple.

But when we think about the investment of school resources – including valuable teacher and leadership time – and the potential positive impact for students if we do professional learning "right", then there can be little doubt that evaluation is critical.
Before sharing the nuts and bolts of his findings about effective PD assessment, Guskey took the time to outline 10 factors that ensure professional learning is effective:
Begin with the end in mind: What is it you want participants to learn and be able to do as a result of the professional learning? Guskey added an important vignette when recapping backward planning.
He suggested a strategy for use by principals and instructional coaches when a teacher requests a specific professional learning to ensure that it is effective. First, ask “How does this activity relate to the school mission?” Next, ask “What are the intended student learning outcomes?” Finally, ask “What evidence best reflects those outcomes?”Read More
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