The Center for Educational Improvement

Gearing Up!


In This Issue
Testing and the Common Core
 Amazing Ideas !

 Glog that book!

(from Kathy Wickline,
Tolone Illinois )

In this lesson, students review the elements of fiction.  They identify and share these components by creating unique glogs, which are interactive multimedia posters, through
Glogster EDU.. Glogging
offers an alternative to the traditional book report as well as an opportunity for students to share their glogs with their classmates.

(For more details, see the link on CEI's Library & Administrator's Corner)
Keeping the Beat

In a new Department of Education video called Keeping the Beat: A Teacher Talks About Schools, Music Education and the American Jobs
Act, Philadelphia music teacher Jason (Jay) Chuong discusses the impact of the economic downturn on the learning environment of his inner city students. As one of six "itinerant" percussion teachers in the Philadelphia school district, Jay conducts classes in seven different schools and has a budget of just $100. His solution: teaching bucket drumming, using inexpensive plastic buckets that he can purchase at the local hardware store.

(from John McGrath, Nov. 21, 2011,, also linked on CIE's Library & Administrator's Corner)


Upcoming events...

CEI is presenting with
Dr. David Silverberg at the Ohio public charter school conference,
Growing a Culture of Achievement, Dec 5-6, Columbus

CEI will exhibit at the Washington, D.C. Charter School Expo
January 7

Washington Convention Center



We hope you are enjoying our New!  Website 


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Editor: Carolyn Lieberg, M.A.


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Dear Educator,


Over the past year CEI has presented articles on using technology, integrating arts and yoga, STEM, improving writing and reading, early childhood education, differentiation, testing, the best International Practices, serving ESL students, and the Common Core. In each issue we tried to present interesting information on the issues and best practices, often with a direct link to a site that is actually implementing the practice.


All of these articles point to innovative practices that will help districts "gear up" for the future. In the same vein, with this issue, we present articles that will help administrators and schools gear up for the future--a future that involves common core assessments that have additional rigor.   


In this issue Carolyn Lieberg describes some of the features of the two national tests--Smarter Balanced and PARRC-- which are being developed. Carolyn also describes an innovative practice for using technology with students with disabilities. I end with a description of gearing up for testing AND ALSO innovative instruction.



Testing and the Common Core

by Carolyn Lieberg 


The Common Core State Standards are receiving a helping hand from the 24-state consortium, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, another multi-state consortia, will also be providing advice and aid. Both groups have received funding from the U.S. Department of Education to create assessments based on the new CCSS.  



PARCC provides assessments for grades 3-8 and high school that offer information about student progress. The group's goal is to help assure that students are well prepared either for college or the workplace. The assessments are designed to point out gaps that need to be addressed before students finish high school.


Very recently, PARCC released new Model Content Frameworks for math and language that are intended to provide assistance to states as they re-design their curricula to respond to the CCSS. The standards, on the one hand, and the assessments, on the other, will provide bookends for the states to study and use as guides while school personnel revise grade-level outcomes and objectives.


The Content Frameworks for Mathematics covers:

  • conceptual understanding
  • procedural skill and fluency
  • application and problem solving

Adjustments are made to create appropriate levels of complexity aimed toward each age group. The standards will require that students connect mathematical content to mathematical practice.   


The frameworks do not suggest a scope and sequence but rather provide linked conditions where learning one concept needs to precede learning another one. For instance,  

  • fifth grade assessments focus on arithmetic skills, including fractions and decimals;   
  • middle school assesses the transition from arithmetic to algebra, and the quantitative relationship becomes more explicit as students move along the grades from six to eight;
  • high school students use algebra, functions, geometry, and statistics as guides to an emphasis on modeling.

The Content Frameworks for English requires students to read and comprehend a range of texts, suitable for their grade level. The readings will come from:

  • science
  • ELA
  • history/social studies
  • technical subjects
  • the arts

Students will analyze texts, and they will compare and synthesize ideas across texts as well. The students will demonstrate their skills through writing activities, and they will demonstrate a range of interactive communication, including giving presentations. In addition, the students will conduct research and create reports.


The development process of the frameworks has relied heavily on educators. At least 77% of the nearly thousand comments contributed during August's review of the frameworks were offered by educators or educational administrators. Continuing with that collaborative attitude, PARCC wants the frameworks to be treated as a dynamic guideline and to undergo additional scrutiny through the fall and winter. Comments will again be solicited in the spring of 2012 to help the group further refine the frameworks.



Bookshare provides a cloud of books to students with disabilities

Less than a decade ago, fewer than five percent of all books were available in Braille or in audio formats. Then came the Silicon Valley company Benetech and its innovative program called Bookshare. The California firm, headed by James Fruchtater, did for books what Napster did for music.   

    Bookshare, however, shares books legally. The company's service is exclusively for people with print disabilities; students with severe learning disabilities rooted in physical disabilities can qualify. 

    Bookshare has opened doors to the educational world for students who used to be excluded. New York special ed teacher Christine Bevilacqua describes the change for a student named David, who went from being a non-participant in school to completing all five NY State Regents tests with 100% in US History, 98% in Global History, and 97% in English.

                            Bookshare -Raymond 

    Raymond, a student at Clairemont High school in San Diego who moved to the US from the Philippines and who is blind, uses Bookshare with his Braillenote translation device. For him, the availability of books through the Bookshare method means being able to read with ease without carrying around the large Braille books.

                      Bookshare - Tyler 

     Tyler Norwood, who uses text-to-speech software, is one of the many thousands of students who can find both textbooks and pleasure books through Bookshare. The program is free for qualified students, thanks to a 2007 grant from the Department of Education.

     Bookshare has grown beyond founder Jim Fruchterman's "wildest dreams." The company now serves 150,000 student members with more than 125,000 titles, and with the October announcement of its new award from the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Bookshare will continue to flourish and grow.

            Bookshare -- girls 



   Benetech (n.d.) Bookshare: An accessible digital library for people with print disabilities

   Benetech (n.d.) Global Giving

   San Diego Unified School District (2010, spring) Kristina King Cohen, Bookshare Education Manager, The Bookshare Bulletin Issue 6:  

    PRWeb, (2011, Oct 11) Bookshare passes 150,000 student members and 125,000 titles - wins award to extend innovative tools and content from U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education



Gearing up for Testing and Teaching

by Christine Mason 


With PARRC and Smarter Balanced, comes a demand for more rigor, better preparation for college and post-school environments, and also more formative assessment to guide instruction. However these systems will only help to improve instruction if there is an additional focus on instructional practices. 


The Institute for Educational Sciences, the What Works Clearinghouse, and other technical assistance centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education include a plethora of practices that are effective and research-based. Many schools are implementing a lot of the best practices that are described on these sites. Many schools are also following other recommendations for school improvement--including using school improvement officers, increasing their reporting and accountability, and developing and implementing merit pay systems as rewards for teaching.


However, even as schools are implementing the additional testing, they are lamenting how this extra focus on testing takes them away from instruction.


How can instruction and assessment both be on track? How can instructional improvements make an impact on both the quality of teaching and also on student performance as reflected by targeted assessments?


Authentic assessment is a very important strategy that may be overlooked with the rush for innovations in assessment. The current and proposed standardized assessments involve many questions that are computer-based, multiple-choice, or short answer. Many involve students answering questions in one setting. Under some of the best conditions, there is potential that students on days 2 and 3 of assessments will be given follow-up questions that involve more complexity and the need perhaps even for collaboration with peers for a more in-depth investigative response. This is a step in the right direction.


Consider, however, the strength of a response that is developed in 30 minutes or two hours, versus the "answer" a student can provide after a 1-2 week period of investigation, reflection and synthesis. At CEI we are suggesting that some of the best authentic assessments will result in tests that are administered outside a testing window--assessments that are based on solving real-life questions. We are recommending that teachers and schools find ways to "administer" authentic assessments that relate to cross-curricular units and to the need for students to integrate knowledge and skills in order to provide innovative solutions. For us, the gearing up involves:


   * Authentic assessments that include project-based or problem-based components.

   * Assessments that build on student interests and strengths with differentiation so that students are demonstrating their skills in areas of high interest to them.

   * Consideration for how students can portray their answers in a variety of formats (digitally, on paper, a live presentation, an exhibition, an experiment, etc.).

   * Other accommodations for students with special needs or concerns, students from ESL backgrounds, or students who struggle with reading, writing, or math. These might include additional prompts--with some system for recording how many students responded with or without prompts. It might even be that with these additional prompts the demarcation between testing and learning becomes negligible.  

   * Continued implementation of educational innovations, more use of technology in testing and teaching, and greater incorporation of best practices from an international perspective.

   * Gearing up to raise the ceiling so that students functioning at the highest levels continue to advance at accelerated paces.

   * Gearing up that is not only academically centered but also "heart centered" so that students advance emotionally and demonstrate advanced understanding across not only the academic areas, but also in terms of their compassion and their ability to demonstrate leadership in a wide array of circumstances and situations.


To be continued....




As we enter this holiday season, it is a great time to reflect on our successes and also to start planning for changes in January. Here are 2 questions for your reflection: 


*  What was my greatest success this fall? 

*  How can I increase the rigor?


For administrators here are 2 additional questions: 


* Did I complete teacher observations and needed corrective action plans this fall? 

* Did teachers have adequate opportunities for collaborative planning?


If answers are "no" what can you do about these areas? 


With regards, 

Christine Mason 
Center for Educational Improvement
This newsletter has been provided to you by the Center for Educational Improvement as per our mailing list.
Please contact Lauren Lomsdale with corrections or comments at
This newsletter has been provided to you by the Center for Educational Improvement as per our mailing list.
Please contact Lauren Lomsdale with corrections or comments at