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Excellence for All

October 2008 | Volume 66 | Number 2
Expecting Excellence Pages 14-19 Excellence for All Robert J. Sternberg There's more to excellence than reading, writing, and arithmetic. What does it mean for a school to be “excellent”? Is it excellent if no one fails but no one does terrifically well either? Is it excellent if the best, but only the best, do superbly? This question is important because the way we define excellence dictates the way we achieve it.
Common Models of Excellence Let's look at four models of excellence that operate in our schools today. The following portraits are based on real schools that I have observed, although the names are pseudonyms.
Looking Only at the Bottom Administrators at Shadyside School know which side their bread is buttered on. The district's rewards go to the schools that best meet the mandates of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). So Shadyside has put its resources into ensuring that it looks as good as possible under NCL…

Knowing Your Learning Target

March 2011 | Volume 68 | Number 6
What Students Need to Learn Pages 66-69 Knowing Your Learning Target Connie M. Moss, Susan M. Brookhart and Beverly A. Long The first thing students need to learn is what they're supposed to be learning. One of Toni Taladay's students walked into Lenape Elementary School wearing a colorful tie-dyed shirt with a tiny bull's-eye shape in the lower front corner. That small design caught the eye of his classmate, who exclaimed, "Look, Joey, you're wearing a learning target!" In the Armstrong School District in southwestern Pennsylvania, learning targets are everywhere: in lesson plans, on bulletin boards, in hallways—and as this story illustrates—firmly on students' minds.
What Is a Shared Learning Target? If you own a global positioning system (GPS), you probably can't imagine taking a trip without it. Unlike a printed map, a GPS provides up-to-the-minute information about where you are, the distanc…

How Classroom Assessments Improve Learning

February 2003 | Volume 60 | Number 5
Using Data to Improve Student Achievement Pages 6-11 How Classroom Assessments Improve Learning Thomas R. Guskey Teachers who develop useful assessments, provide corrective instruction, and give students second chances to demonstrate success can improve their instruction and help students learn. Large-scale assessments, like all assessments, are designed for a specific purpose. Those used in most states today are designed to rank-order schools and students for the purposes of accountability—and some do so fairly well. But assessments designed for ranking are generally not good instruments for helping teachers improve their instruction or modify their approach to individual students. First, students take them at the end of the school year, when most instructional activities are near completion. Second, teachers don't receive the results until two or three months later, by which time their students have usually moved on t…

Nine Ways to Catch Kids Up

Summer 2008 | Volume 65
Best of Educational Leadership 2007–2008 Pages 16-21 Nine Ways to Catch Kids Up Marilyn Burns How do we help floundering students who lack basic math concepts? Paul, a 4th grader, was struggling to learn multiplication. Paul's teacher was concerned that he typically worked very slowly in math and “didn't get much done.” I agreed to see whether I could figure out the nature of Paul's difficulty. Here's how our conversation began:
Marilyn: Can you tell me something you know about multiplication? Paul: [Thinks, then responds] 6 × 8 is 48. Marilyn: Do you know how much 6 × 9 is? Paul: I don't know that one. I didn't learn it yet. Marilyn: Can you figure it out some way? Paul: [Sits silently for a moment and then shakes his head.] Marilyn: How did you learn 6 × 8? Paul: [Brightens and grins] It's easy—goin' fishing, got no bait, 6 × 8 is 48. As I talked with Paul, I found out that multiplication was a mystery to him…

The Flexible Teacher

December 2010/January 2011 | Volume68| Number4
The Effective EducatorPages 46-50 The Flexible Teacher Leila Christenbury Good teaching comes not from following a recipe, but from consistently putting student needs first. After almost 35 years in secondary and university classrooms, I know something about effective teaching. I have certainly seen inspiring examples from other teachers; I have written and reflected extensively on the topic; and occasionally in my own practice I exemplify effective teaching myself. I also have a modest reputation in my part of the academic world for exploringineffectiveteaching— and the source of my most telling examples is still, embarrassingly, myself. In articles and books throughout my career, I have felt compelled to detail my recurring instructional struggles and failures (Christenbury, 1996, 2005, 2007) to serve as a cautionary tale. This article stems directly from my years of experience and reflection and from my stubborn and consistent aspirati…