2 Student Beliefs That Relate to High Engagement and Achievement

2 Student Beliefs That Can Change Everything

by Grant Wiggins

A recent Gallup Poll revealed that “among the 600,000 students who took the poll in 2013, those who strongly agreed with two simple statements were 30 times as likely as those who strongly disagreed with both to be emotionally engaged at school. Those two statements were:

1. My school is committed to building the strengths of each student.

2. I have at least one teacher who makes me excited about the future.”

Mel Riddile‘s insight:

Key points for school leaders:

  • Student engagement correlates highly with achievement!
  • A one-percentage-point increase in a school’s student engagement was associated with a six-point increase in reading achievement and an eight-point increase in math achievement scores.
  • Schools in which students were in the top quartile of average engagement results were 50% more likely to be above average in statewide reading achievement scores than schools in which students were in the bottom quartile of Gallup’s engagement database.
  • “The more you can do your work and gain helpful feedback on your work the more engaged you will be.”
  • “Motivation is at its highest when students are competent, have sufficient autonomy, set worthwhile goals, get feedback, and are affirmed by others.” – John Hattie, Visible Learning
  • “eight in 10 students who strongly agree that their school is committed to building the strengths of each student are engaged in school.”
  • the only hope for significant advancement of engagement and thus performance is to spend each day in a joyful, focused, and collaborative school.”
The Bottom Line
there are fundamental strategies schools can focus on to dramatically raise the likelihood that students will be emotionally engaged in the classroom on any given day.”

Wiggins asks, “Instructional leaders, do you get this? Or is a lack of imagination and leadership causing you to passively accept a culture of impersonal “coverage” and test-prep paranoia instead of a culture devoted to engaged learning at worthy and personalized work?

See on www.teachthought.com

“No correlation between the homework time and math scores.”

A preliminary analysis suggests that U.S. parents help more with 4th grade homework even though their children get less of it.

“A study led Sakiko Ikoma of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, drew upon newly available data from the 2011 TIMSS, which included 608,641 students and 49,429 teachers in 63 countries.”

Mel Riddile‘s insight:

Key Points for School Leaders:

  • more affluent parents were slightly more likely to help their children with homework
  • no correlation between teachers’ years of experience and the amount of homework they assigned
  • no correlation between the homework time and math scores
  • “In the United States, 4th grade teachers who participated in the study reported that they assigned an average of 19 minutes of math homework per night. By contrast, grade 4 teachers in other countries typically assigned 25 minutes of math homework per night.”
  • 79 percent of U.S. 4th graders said their parents made sure that they set aside time for homework on a daily basis as compared to 70 percent of students worldwide. It is unclear why this was the case.

See on blogs.edweek.org

Bad Weather is Bad News


By Stuart A. Singer, The Teacher Leader

Her one word response said it all.

I had just returned from a district math department chair meeting and was relating the angst of the County Math Coordinator. He had told us, “I am very troubled by the decline in the Algebra 1 SOL (state barrier exams) scores last year. What was particularly troubling was the fact that it was so uniformly across the board. Everyone’s were down”. The intensity of his concern indicated that this issue was being seriously discussed at levels well above his in the school hierarchy.

That afternoon I raised that question with my best Algebra 1 teacher. Her succinct answer was “snow”. The previous winter had been brutal with snow days and delayed openings piling up at an unprecedented rate. She then elaborated. “Here’s how I can quantify that answer. I always reserved the two weeks prior to the testing for review. That review is crucial for my students especially at that level. Last year I finished the curriculum on the day before the exams. The review period was gone due to the snow days and the scores suffered as a result.”

No one messes with Mother Nature

That awful winter has been replicated in 2013-14. All across the country snow and ice has played havoc with school calendars. In my old district ten days have been cancelled and more than a half-dozen have been truncated. The damage that such disruptions cause is far more than just a finite number of missed classes. One of the most important components of a successful classroom is momentum and nothing stops that more than weather problems. As an illustration due to snow and ice students at my former school had a five-day weekend followed by two days of classes followed by a four-day weekend caused by teacher workdays. After three more days of school another five day weekend followed because of the white stuff. The official count was five snow days (one of the days was a holiday) but the reality count of the losses would be more like three weeks.

The district’s response has been as follows. The President’s Day holiday in February and a teacher workday in April are now school days. Two additional days will be added to the end of the year in June. No other classes will be rescheduled. While on paper such a plan may sound bad, in the classroom it is much worse. Two school days in June (adding to the insanity is that they are a Monday and Tuesday) will do nothing to improve test scores in May. The earlier make-up days will suffer as well. They were originally parts of three-day weekends for students and many families will have planned to use them for travel, doctor appointments, etc. Absenteeism will be disproportionally higher for both students and staff.

And it is inevitable that next year someone will be asking the question as to why scores have gone down.

There are few good options

It would be nice to be able to list some suggestions that would make this dilemma disappear. Years ago (that should probably read “decades ago”) Spring Break and even Saturdays were utilized for making up snow days. Those options do not happen much anymore. Plus local school administrators have no real-time input into make-up day decisions. But there are steps that can be taken to recognize and help mitigate the problems.

Share strategies. Have teachers meet to brainstorm ways to cover the necessary material in reduced time. Often half of the solution is the mere recognition that there is a problem and the other half is to find creative ways to deal with them.

Eliminate disruptions. Any activity that will take students out of classrooms needs to be cancelled. Pep rallies, most field trips, senior pictures, etc. are now a luxury that cannot be sustained. Consider delaying the start of after-school activities to allow more time for extra help sessions. If the student body is given an explanation of why this is being done, they may be more likely to take advantage of it.

Be proactive. While this winter may be an anomaly, weather disruptions will occur in the future. School administrators need to share with district policy makers that the current system is hurting student academic performance. Do not wait until the scores are in to answer the questions as to why they dropped. Let the public know while the memory of all of those missed days is still fresh that end-of-course, AP and IB exams will all suffer when huge expanses of class time is lost and not recovered.

Less than great solutions are better than none.

New figures show proportion of adults with degrees is up


The Lumina Foundation reports that “the proportion of Americans with college and university degrees continues to rise slowly.”

However, other countries continue to outdo the United States in educational attainment.

The United States still ranks 11th in postsecondary attainment among its global competitors, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Facts About College Completion
  • 39.4 percent of Americans aged 25 to 64 have a postsecondary degree, which includes completion from both two- and four-year schools.
  • The proportion of adults aged 25 to 34 with college and university degrees is now almost 41 percent.
  • The Lumina Foundation is pushing for 60 percent of Americans to have postsecondary credentials by 2025. That represents a 50% increase over current figures.
  • Racial DivideFewer than 20 percent of Hispanics have degrees, just under 28 percent of blacks, about 44 percent of whites, and more than 59 percent of Asians.
  • Economic DivideMore than 80 percent of students in the top third of the income scale go to college, compared to less than 54 percent in the bottom third.

See on hechingerreport.org

New Common Core tests may overwhelm some students, seriously challenge others, the CGCS predicts

Excerpted from an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer by Patrick O’Donnell on April 17, 2014

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The new Common Coretests coming to Ohio next year will force students to answer questions in ways they have never faced before on state tests.

Thoughts for Principals:

“A lot of people don’t understand how fundamentally different the work is that these standards require,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the organization representing the country’s largest urban districts. “It appears that a lot of our kids are not adequately prepared for the kinds of complex problem-solving response that they’re being asked for.”

 “We will have do to a great deal in changing how we think about instruction in the classroom.” – Eric Gordon, CEO, Cleveland Schools

Two areas of concern:

  1. Students not knowing how to solve problems involving multiple steps,
  2. students not knowing how to cite evidence from readings to support answers.

Everyone will feel the effects of these new assessments!

even highly-rated suburban schools report students are experiencing new challenges with them.



See on www.cleveland.com

A Dress Code We Can All Live With


by Mel Riddile

As Spring finally arrives, school dress codes are once again front page news. Last year it was “yoga pants.” This year, the controversy revolves around a middle school principal for restricting the wearing of leggings — “popular fashion items that are tight-fitting pants to some, and glorified tights to others”.

No one is immune from the criticisms leveled by the so-called fashion police. Even First Lady, Michelle Obama, has been chastised by the likes of the Washington Post fashion writers, who reminded readers that “none of them (previous first ladies) revealed as much leg as the current first lady.” And that “avoiding the appearance of queenly behavior is politically wise. But it does American culture no favors if a first lady tries so hard to be average that she winds up looking common.”

Some ask “Where Should Schools Set Limits?” In fact, that is the question that many principals are asking. School principals are not fashion experts. They are educators. However, many principals will be forced to become experts on fashion and to enforce student dress code policies, many of which are unenforceable.

Believe me, as a high school principal, the last thing that I wanted to do was worry about dress code policies. The reality of life is that some students will push the envelope and dress so provocatively or inappropriately, often without parent knowledge or approval, that they distract their peers to the point that they disrupt the educational process.

I can remember a prominent legislator confronting me because I had the audacity to send his daughter home to change from her pajamas and slippers into appropriate school attire. I reminded him that, not only did I not discipline his daughter, but that I had personally warned his daughter and her friends not to wear pajamas to school for an upcoming school event.

There are those who argue that the best way to handle the dress code dilemma is to mandate uniforms, such as the blue pants and white shirts worn by Chicago Public Schools students.

Some school systems make a difficult and unpleasant task doable by having policies that are specific enough to be enforceable. In Fairfax County Public Schools (Virginia) student services representatives annually meet with principals and ask for feedback on the current policy. The policy is kept up-to-date, and principals have specific, identifiable behaviors to enforce. The Fairfax County policy is clear and reasonable.

“FCPS respects students’ right to express themselves in the way they dress.  It is important,
however, that their appearance is tasteful and appropriate for a K
12 school setting. 

Clothing and accessories should not:

  Display vulgar, discriminatory, or obscene

language or images

  Promote illegal or violent conduct

  Contain threats or gang symbols

  Promote the unlawful use of weapons,

alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or drug


  Expose cleavage, private parts, the midriff,

or undergarments, and in the case of pants

the waistband should not fall below the


  Contain studs

  Be seethrough or sexually provocative

  Include caps or other head coverings unless

required for religious or medical reasons.”

Other school systems take the easy way out and leave the dress code issue totally up to the principal’s judgment. Instead of taking a position, they put the principal on the chopping block. For example, one school system’s policy stated,

“A student’s dress and appearance shall not cause disruption, distract others from the educational process or create a health or safety problem. Students must comply with specific building dress regulations of which students will be given prior notice.”

Upon reading this, I concluded that the local school board was taking the easy way out by passing the buck to the school principal. In addiont, given some of the current attitudes about dress, a student would literally have to run through the hallways naked to cause the kind of disruption that would warrant action by the principal under this policy. Perhaps I am overstating the issue, but there is simply too much subjectivity in the application of this policy to ensure consistent and fair enforcement. In other words, the policy is unenforceable.

That wouldn’t stop a school board member from calling me to complain that my alleged students, who were walking down the street in the middle of the day, were dressed inappropriately. Nor would it stop another official from calling to complain that a constituent objected to the principal’s interpretation of the dress code. Caught in the middle again!

It is the responsibility of the building principal to create a context or culture in which teaching and learning can best take place. A safe, orderly, and organized school environment is minimum expectation. It is essential that the learning environment be free of distractions and disruptions to the learning process and that everyone has a consistent, clear set of expectations regarding appropriate decorum so that teachers can move beyond behavior to a focus on learning.

What feedback is and isn’t

The following is excerpted from an article by Grant Wiggins:

“The research is clear: good feedback is essential to learning at high levels.”

“Feedback is useful information about the effects of an action in light of a goal.”

  1. Feedback is Not praise and Not advice
  2. Feedback focuses corrective measures and specific actions that the learner can take.
  3. The purpose or what is expected is clear. Clarity promotes self-regulation.
  4. Exemplars and models of both excellent and subpar work are provided. 
  5. The feedback is timely
Wiggins points out that, on standardized tests and final exams: there is NO feedback.

See on grantwiggins.wordpress.com

3 Steps For Creating A Culture Of Learning

3 Steps For Creating A Culture Of Learning

See on www.teachthought.com

The Opt-Out Outrage: Is it legal to opt your child out of state tests? Should it be legal?

The following is excerpted from an article By Chester E. Finn in Education Next

April 14, 2014

“The opt-out-of-state-testing movement has notched more wins lately. “Thousands,” we read, are refusing to take the tests in New York alone. And tons more interest and attention are being devoted to this topic in states and communities far and wide.”

Key points on opting-out:

“In the months ahead, states will have to clarify what is and isn’t required and how test participation is to be enforced.”

“…when they (parents) expect the state to educate their children at public expense, the public has a right to know whether those children are learning anything.”

“Our schools need to become more effective and our children need to learn more. Test results advance the public interest.”

“Better tests are coming, but that doesn’t excuse “opting out” now. It’s not a legitimate form of civil disobedience. And it’s probably not legal, either.”

“If you really find state tests odious, put your money and time where your mouth is—and stop asking taxpayers to educate your children.”

My Thoughts

The opt-out movement is unnecessarily placing building principals in the middle of a conflict between parents and the state. States must clarify exactly what is and what is not required and make it easy for local school boards and district leaders to enforce that policy. Without a clear, enforceable policy on testing and opting-out, principals and teachers cannot be held accountable for student test scores.


See on educationnext.org

Practice Retrieval and the Testing Effect: Should the quiz match the test? Assessment for Learning

Instructional leaders need to differentiate between “assessment of learning” and “assessment for learning.

Assessment of learning helps us decide ‘do students know it?’

Assessment for learning informs future instruction, focuses review, and targets remediation efforts.

Testing (assessment) for learning works and improves long-term retention of knowledge.

Key Point:

This study reveals that the format of the quiz need not match the format of the test.


See on psycnet.apa.org

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