Newsletter by Hope Katz Gibbs with Peter Noonan
Design by Michael Gibbs
Fairfax County Public Schools
Summer 2008: AHEAD OF THE CURVE
This newsletter is a quarterly publication for Peter Noonan, assistant superintendent of instructional services at Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). Its mission is to share thoughts and ideas about curriculum and assessment that are fundamental to the work that principals and teachers are doing to improve student achievement.
This first issue, entitled “Staying Ahead of the Curve,” was published in the summer of 2008. It focused on how three FCPS principals adopted strategies from the cutting-edge book on assessment (by the same name) edited by education expert Douglas Reeves.
“The 268-page hardback, published last year by Solution Tree, features essays by a dozen authors who I consider to be the greatest minds in assessment,” says Noonan, who selected three chapters to have his principals focus on.
• From the chapter entitled Assessment for Learning: An essential foundation of productive instruction, by Rick Stiggins — FCPS principal of Westlawn Elementary School Kim Dockery said: “Stiggins explains that students who believe they are capable learners experience greater success in school than students who have lost faith in themselves. I agree, and have made it a goal to replace fear with an eagerness for learning.
• From the chapter Content then Process: Teacher learning communities in the service of formative assessment, by Dylan Wiliam — Madison High School principal Mark Merrell said: William has figured out that the best way to get teachers to be more effective is to ‘love the one you’re with.’ That’s right on, because the reality is that we can talk about educational change until we’re blue in the face, but the only real way to get kids to love to learn is to have the teachers working in our buildings grow as professionals and become the very best teachers they can be.”
• From the chapter entitled Common Formative Assessments: The centerpiece of an integrated standards-based assessment system, by Larry Ainsworth — Rocky Run Middle School Principal Dan Parris says that to keep teachers and administrators aligned, he asks four questions: What do you want all kids to know and do? How will you know when they are able to do it? What will you do if they don’t know? When you have a group of students that has already masters the information, how will you help them go deeper?
“These three examples illustrate that we are going to do whatever it takes to have all students achieve their full academic potential,” Noonan concludes. “The philosophies outlined in Reeves’ book, simply show us the way.”