The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
Henry David Thoreau
One of the best things to happen in my little corner of the world a few years ago was the opening of a small, locally owned grocery store just a few miles from my home. It’s only a few aisles, but it has everything. I can get fresh vegetables and deli meats with a quick drive from my house in the country, instead of traveling 30 minutes to the nearest chain grocery store.
Everyone who works at my neighborhood store knows the names of regular customers. Tim always asks me how my husband’s fishing is going, and Gloria and I lament mud season together every spring. I try to frequent the store as often as possible, in hopes it can stay in business over the long haul. And nothing beats being greeted by name with a smile when I walk through the door. Prices aren’t the lowest, but they are fair. And honestly, I don’t even care.
At least I thought I didn’t care, until a small all-organic grocery store opened about a half hour from my home. I was charmed by the story of the couple who opened it, and our family eats as much organic food as possible, so I planned to shop there often. But I’ve visited only twice. The prices are more than double what I’d pay for the same organic vegetables at other stores just down the road.
The experience made me realize I am more price-sensitive than I thought. I’m happy to pay more to support local businesses, but I carry an unconscious calculator in my head that’s set off when a price gets outside an acceptable range.
This winter when Tim at my neighborhood grocery store picked up a head of lettuce to scan, he paused and said, “Get ready for some sticker shock.You are not going to believe the crazy lettuce prices since all romaine was pulled off the market last week.” And sure enough, the price was more than double what I’d paid a couple weeks before. But I’d been warned, and I knew why the price was high.
I think a similar situation exists in schools when it comes to test scores. We’ve been conditioned to think they are important in assessing the quality of a school. But community members judge their local schools on much more than test scores. They know and usually love their local school because of the teachers and staff in them, regardless of some fluctuations up and down annually with test scores. A community becomes score-sensitive only when a shockingly low score comes in.
Where I live in rural Maine, many of the schools are small, which means the sample sizes for different populations like special-needs students or English language learners can be tiny. An entire fourth grade in a town may have only 12 students in it. This can lead to wild swings in scores from one year to the next simply due to the performance of a handful of students. We’ve also been through a decade of upheaval with new statewide assessments being piloted and discarded.
A little preparation goes a long way in helping a community deal with the inevitable sticker shock when test scores come in low one year. Very few in the community care that much about test scores, until they come in outside whatever the range of normal is for expectations. That’s why it’s helpful to explain in advance about sample sizes, a new state exam being tried, or a change over to a new system of computers over pencil and paper. It’s the pause that refreshes before ringing in that $4 head of iceberg lettuce.
This week we look at creative ways to release responsibility to students for teaching and learning. Enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
Katherine Sokolowski is discouraged when she observes that some students are off-task during literacy workshops. She decides a reflection sheet will be a useful weekly scaffold to support independent monitoring of behavior.
When it comes to producing independent readers and writers in classrooms, it’s all about the language we use. Debbie Miller has practical suggestions for bringing out the best in children.
Pernille Ripp sets aside a few minutes a day to confer individually with a small number of students who struggle to engage with books in any meaningful way, helping them to develop action plans.
Close out your coaching year by getting organized for the next one in our Getting Organized for Literacy Coaching online course starting on May 12. Ruth Ayres offers lots of strategies for everything from setting up a calendar to putting your best foot forward in initial meetings. Members receive discounts of 20-40% on course fees, and nonmembers receive three-month trial memberships to the website.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
An enthusiastic student response to an author visit inspires Christy Rush Levine to revamp her upcoming unit on craft moves to foster more student ownership.
In this week’s video, Katie presents a student-led minilesson in Franki Sibberson’s fifth-grade class on organizing and planning nonfiction writing.
Mark Levine releases responsibility for teaching and assessment to students late in the school year, and hears echoes of learning from previous units.
In an encore video from Linda Karamatic’s second-grade classroom, Charlie shares his punctuation “find” of asterisks with his classmates.
Lead Literacy now has a new home as the Leaders Lounge at Choice Literacy. We’ll be posting the new content updates here in the Leaders Lounge section of the Big Fresh newsletter.
Cathy Mere helps a study group of elementary teachers think through how to nurture more ownership of student writing.
Matt Renwick considers how assumptions about teachers and students can stymie leaders and learning in schools.
In this video, Heather Fisher leads a first-grade team monthly meeting where everyone shares strategies they are trying for fostering more student engagement.
When things are starting to feel out of control, the “Grace Trail” can help you slow down, ask crucial questions, and develop a plan of action.
To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.
That’s all for this week!