FUSION, NWEA’s summer conference was this week. Wow! Had the opportunity to listen to and learn with amazing educators from around the world. “Celebrity” speakers were energizing. Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy talked about formative assessment and teacher learning communities. They shared the challenges to changing teacher behavior (habits), which is applicable to all habits. Guess what? It isn’t all that quick or easy. They also spoke to the need to support teachers in getting better – it has a direct effect on our kids and how they learn. Tom Guskey spoke about grading. What is our purpose in giving kids grades for everything they do? Vicky Bernhardt talked about data and school improvement. Who knew? The use of data supports school improvement. And MAK Mitchell talked about the value of consensus to a school community.
Educators shared wonderful stories…about growth in a Navajo school where school growth moved from a -5 growth index to a plus 6 (RIT scores) in one year! Or the reservation school outside Bismarck ND where a trial of mentoring a few students for a period of time resulted in 14-point RIT gain for those students…and when it was tried a second time (to prove it wasn’t a fluke) the average growth was 12 points.
Then there was Beth Cobb who was willing to talk to everyone about the magic that can happen when formative assessment becomes the way we teach in a school. Beth was a district professional development person when Keeping Learning on Track came to her district. She requested a class to teach so she could try out all the strategies and techniques the she was teaching to the teachers. She went on to be a district administrator who has taken this program to a new district. She shared experiences about students becoming advocates for their own learning; teachers supporting each other in the change process; and a climate change that moved beyond single classrooms, to encompass whole schools and the whole district.
Educators from around the world gathered to learn, share and reflect together – supporting NWEA’s mission of partnering to help all kids learn.