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Formative Assessment-Friendly Scheduling

The Oregonian provides a glimpse into a school district that has instituted a late-start for students on Wednesday mornings so that teachers can get together for mandatory data-team meetings.

The consistent schedule replaced sporadic early-release and professional development days, according to the article. Teachers gather student data throughout the week, then, in the Wednesday meetings, discuss their findings and swap learning strategies to address individual problems.

"It's gotten us away from meetings that are nuts-and-bolts scheduling things that can be done electronically," said Derek Garrison, principal of Dexter McCarty Middle School. "We know more about the kids way earlier in the year, we're pre-assessing (students) better, we're looking at data more closely, we're changing what we're doing (to be more effective) sooner."

A 20-year veteran teacher at Garrison's school noted that he'd "never known more about" his students in September than he had since starting the meetings.

While weekly embedded PD is not a novel idea, the Gresham-Barlow model is interesting because of its focus on short-term data collection. In fact, it's a potentially powerful method for encouraging the "feedback, feed forward" loop that Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey recommend. In their vision for formative assessment, teachers not only collect frequent data, but use that data to inform and modify their instruction.

Having a solid hour a week for the specific purpose of figuring out how to do that seems like a good start.

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