The Standards & Assessments

California Standards

The idea of standards is one that is continually evolving to fit the shape and circumstance of the schools and their demographics. This article entitled “Beyond Basic Skills: The Role of Performance Assessment in Achieving 21st Century Standards of Learning” summarizes a set of seven papers, reviewing what has been learned over several decades about the use of performance assessments for measuring higher-order thinking skills and student progress. Recommended standards at all grade levels are not mandatory but voluntary, in California. However, the state mandates that the program makes the decision of what standards or learning foundations are to be part of the local course of study. For guidance in understanding the building blocks of a kindergarten class and what standards I’ll use to monitor your child’s progress over time, you may take a look at California English Language Standards, California Math Standards, California History-Social Science Standards, and the Common Core State Standards for English Language Art and Mathematics.

Assessments Used

  • Founts & Pinnell Reading Assessments
  • Dibbles: Kindergarten Benchmark Assessment and Initial Phoneme Fluency Assessment
  • TERC Investigations Math Assessment
  • Documentation Binders: I will keep an archive of their work that shows their progress over the course of the year.

Backwards Design

I find using Wiggins & McTighe’s Backwards Design  helps me focus my units to ensure children are getting the heart of each learning experience. This type of planning centers around one main concept, which is essentially planning by using your end goal as your starting point and working backwards to figure out how to get there. We so often have wonderful intentions in the classroom, but it’s important to ask the “Why?” question. Why are we learning these math concepts at this age? Why are they playing so much? Why is it appropriate to teach about spirituality at this age? Why is understanding communities an essential piece of kindergarten curriculum? Why is it important for students to take ownership over their work and where it belongs when it’s finished? Why is it more important at this age to learn social interactions through play than to learn how to read?

When you start with the “Why?” question, I believe the curriculum is rooted in a stronger foundation of learning.

Teaching The Whole Child

We ask what this means all the time. Everyone uses this phrase like verbal currency, in most educational institutions. I define “teaching the whole child” as understanding that each lesson needs multiple access points, because each child thinks differently. The Whole Child website actually defines it as “Each child, in each school, in each of our communities deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. That’s what a whole child approach to learning, teaching, and community engagement really is.” I agree with this definition and my goal is to understand the needs of each child, and meet them in my classroom environment. The home-school partnership is a large part of this–the communication, the understanding, synthesizing school learning at home through conversation, etc.

It’s important for children to feel safe enough to take risks and face challenges head-on in the classroom. Teaching children through this lens helps me to empower them.