Making a difference by Douglas Reeves.

I was fortunate to hear Douglas Reeves for the second time at the recent ACEL conference in Melbourne. He is the founder and chief executive officer of the Center for Performance Assessment, an organization dedicated to improving student achievement and educational equity.

In his address and subsequent workshop he made many points that really resonate with me:

  • change is difficult for some people who even after open heart surgery will not alter their diet or increase the amount of exercise and consequently die shortly there after. He said change is like death – the issue is how quickly you go through the stages of dealing with it. He cited that despite the evidence against corporal punishment in schools in 1961 it was still permitted in 21 states in America – and after a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald in some independent schools in South Australia. However quick changes are possible e.g. cited the community attitude to smoking.
  • that we are over tested and under assessed. He points out that most standardised testing scores do not provide timely information in ways that can enhance learning: He argued that testing without immediate feedback is an “academic autopsy,” asking the audience if they’d ever seen an autopsy patient get better. He said that testing should be a way of improving performance immediately, providing feedback for learning.
  • never set more goals than you can monitor on a very frequent basis. Unless you monitor something frequently you are really saying it doesn’t matter. He argued that strategic plans should be 1 page documents.
  • non fiction writing [describes, explains, analyses, reflects] should dominate our curriculum
  • leadership matters, can be learnt and is broader than a title – one of the greater influences on teacher professional learning is advice from colleagues they observe or who coach them.
  • time matters: meetings should have a no announcement rule, should focus on the collaborative scoring of CATS, uninterrupted instruction time, literacy time is sacred,
  • high teacher expectations whilst not winning popularity contests with students has 5 times a greater impact on student learning.
  • real networks can support cultural change so one must find the Jill [one who people go to to ask questions] and weed out the toxic superhub or jerk- reinforce the norms of behaviour everywhere.
  • experiment with “what good reading instruction looks like”.  

He finished with some comments on his 90/90/90 schools research saying what worked was:

  • teachers collaborated on what goood looks like
  • non fiction writing
  • providing multiple opportunities for practice
  • laser like focus on achievement [samples of good student work everywhere – includes data walls

What do I take away from this right now – what am I frequently monitoring?  Can I put the goals down on 1 page and am I displaying student assessments so we know what good looks like? Can we increase the amount of non fiction writing across the curriculum?

I’d be interested in hearing from others who have effectively used data walls?