A new Kiddom Academy feature helps parents and guardians better understand what their children are learning at school.
What Can Technology Offer Students and Families?
Many parents believe technology in the classroom will be helpful for their children’s education — in fact, 86% do, according to a recent study by Microsoft and YouGov.
The truth is, there’s a lot of debate around the subject. One study has seen very different results for technology-enabled personalized learning (Rand), with vast gains in an earlier report (2015) but only slight gains of late (2017). In “Technology Doesn’t Drive Blended Learning … or Does It?” author Thomas Arnett visits five blended-learning schools and concludes, among other perks, that “although technology is not the driving force behind student learning at these schools, it amplifies the real driving force: high-quality teaching.”
In a study by the Christensen Institute, authors Michael B. Horn and Julia Freeland Fisher acknowledge that the current research cycle is incomplete. Their analysis is an insightful attempt to move past the what to the why. At best, they argue, integrating tech into our schools means that schools can begin to “move from a one-size-fits-all approach to a student-centered one. Teachers can gain a far more precise understanding of how individual students are progressing and provide them with just-in-time materials and supports suited to their needs and strengths.”
At Kiddom, we believe this understanding should extend to parents and guardians, which is why we are proud to announce a new feature to do just that. With Guardian Access, available exclusively to schools and districts using Kiddom Academy, parents and guardians will automatically receive a weekly update to shed light on how their child is performing in school, the skills they’re learning, and where their child needs support.
Each weekly update includes two reports: an Assignments report and a Standards report, as well as the overall achievement level in a class.
We’ll cover each report in more length below, but before we do, let’s briefly revisit the practice standards-based grading, since many parents and guardians might have children that are in schools that are new or transitioning to this instructional practice (feel free to skip the next section if you’re already familiar with standards-based grading).
What is standards-based grading and how does it impact my child?
Having technology in the classroom isn’t the end-all, be-all — you can’t expect a hammer to build a roof. However, useful technology can give parents, teachers, and students the right tools to measure a student’s progress accurately. It enables all parties involved to participate in an ongoing, active quality check of their student’s education, with the power to quickly identify a trend change in real time — and to react quickly with intervention or encouragement.
To add to this change in the way we measure, an important shift is forming in what we measure. Many modern classrooms are adopting a system called standards-based grading, or mastery-based learning. This approach is a creature of many names: you’ll hear the words skills, standards, proficiency or competency-based learning — all of these terms represent the shift towards measuring student progress according to specific, measurable skills. Students are encouraged to focus on that skill or standard until they have shown that they’ve mastered it, often with several attempts, before moving on.
Mastery-based reporting requires a different mindset (and practice) than that used with traditional grades. The goal is not to be an A-student, but to demonstrate mastery of skills, and move on when you’re ready. Most students will not reach the level called “exceeding”; if they do, this might mean that they’re not being challenged enough, and may need to move on to the next grade-level competencies. For more on this, check out this Guardian Access support article.
What this means for you and your child, and why Kiddom is useful
What this means is that the student is able to understand their own achievement in terms of what they are progressing in. As you can imagine, this new approach carries the discussion a lot further than the traditional report card, where a child and parent are offered some grade letter or percentage that doesn’t mean much more than “pass” or “fail,” and certainly doesn’t provide much in terms of actionable insight.
With Kiddom, students are always on top of, not just how they’re progressing, but which specific standards or skills they are excelling in, and which they need to improve. In short, they’re able to articulate and take ownership of their own learning, and pull their parents into the details with confidence.
As mentioned, another way technology is shaping modern parenting is the ability to access progress in real-time — you don’t need to wait around for six weeks to see a report card of grades too late to fix. Now, parents are able to stay in the know and help their children work on the areas where they need improvement, from the onset of when a student starts slipping.
At the top of both reports, you’ll get a general assessment of your students’ achievement for a given class. If your teacher uses standards based grading, you will see one of the four terms: Developing, Approaching, Mastery, or Exceeds. For more information on the breakdown of those terms, see this page. You can use this to understand you child’s development aligned to a skill.
Let’s take a look at the two types of reports available via Guardian Access:
Assignment Reports. The assignment report was designed to help parents and students with accountability. This report helps answer: What does my student need to complete? How is my child doing for their assignments?How are they doing for a particular assignment type? The focus is on how they performed for that piece of work, rather than the standard. This particular report gives you more details for the actual assignment, rather than the standards the assignment aligns to. This allows you to track what your student is doing in class, see the attached standard labels to each assignment, and note the student’s mastery level according to that particular assessment.
Standards Reports. The standard report helps answer: What is my child learning? What is their progress? You will notice that you will still see an average performance for all of the standards assessed. This is a snapshot of how your student is doing overall. Additionally, you will find details on the specific standards that your student is working on: it will show the standard label, description, and their mastery level for that particular standard.
1. The field of education is still in discovery mode to determine the best ways to use technology appropriately in the classroom, but a few proven uses are the abilities to measure progress in real-time, and to enhance the power of teachers.
2. As teachers and learners ease into more individualized, student-centric learning approaches, the role of parents and guardians is also evolving.
3. Kiddom’s new feature Guardian Access enables parents with greater access to their children’s progress, allowing them to:
A. Give students individualized feedback; congratulating them on the exact skills they’ve learned or providing support as they approach understanding of a standard.
B. Monitor student achievement in real-time, and help students take action before grades are “finalized.”
C. Allow students to take more ownership of their grades, developing self-management skills.
At Kiddom, we’re focused on delivering value to every stakeholder involved in a child’s education. As we work toward our mission, we’re excited to help even more teachers, students, parents and guardians, and schools achieve the wonderful things that were previously thought impossible.
Are you a teacher interested in using Kiddom for search-by-standard lesson planning, teacher collaboration, personalized assignments, student communication, and real-time assessment and reporting? You can still do all of these things with our free app. Sign up here.
Dig deep into student performance on individual standards
As more and more teachers across the globe manage their classrooms using Kiddom, we’ve been thinking about how our reports can be even more actionable.
Simply put: we want teachers to be able to complete the instructional cycle for every student faster. And more efficiently. To do this, we believe teachers must need to be able to (1) investigate progress already made on specific standards/skills and (2) quickly act on it.
Well, we’re thrilled to announce this is now possible. Teachers, meet your new standard mastery reports and prepare to say, “Ooh la la…” 🤗
Standard Mastery Reports
To access your standard mastery reports, visit your reports page. Click on an individual standard from your reports to view a more detailed summary of your class performance on a specific standard.
At the very top, you’ll see a more detailed description of the standard you clicked on
Use the arrows next to this card to cycle between standards
The first reporting metric, Class Average, shows your overall class average for this standard
To the right, Class Average is distributed by mastery group
Use the graph below this to track the performance of your class on this standard over time
Sort the order of students by first name, last name, or by performance (e.g. sort by “lowest grade” to display students who need the most support first)
Individual Student Progress on Standards
From your standard mastery reports, scroll down and click on any student to open up individual student progress over time on specific standards.
At the top, you’ll see a graph you can use to track the performance of this student (on this particular standard) over time
Every assignment that is aligned to this standard (and assigned to that student) can be viewed here
Clicking on an assignment will open that particular student’s submission (where you’re welcome to add additional feedback and/or comments)
Find Resources Directly From Your Reports
Remember the, “we want teachers to be able to complete the instructional cycle for every student faster” thing we mentioned?
From your standard mastery reports, clicking “Find more assignments for this standard” will instantly open your resource library.
Use our library to find and assign free teaching resources (videos, quizzes, activities, and more) based on the intelligence you obtain from your standard mastery reports
Teaching resources here are meant to supplement/enrich instruction and offer teachers additional differentiation materials
We’re building Kiddom to be a place where teachers and learners can work together effortlessly, no matter where they are. We’re going to be focusing on one particular group of patient folks next: Android users. Stay tuned…
A sense of collaboration and community is important for the success of any school. Collaborative environments allow teachers to feel appreciated and guided in their role. It’s not rocket science: when teachers collaborate and communicate effectively, they design richer learning experiences for their students. Today, we’re proud announce that collaboration tools are now available on Kiddom.
After months of researching, designing, engineering, and testing, all Kiddom users everywhere can now effectively collaborate with their colleagues. Hooray! 🎉
Here’s how collaboration works
Adding a collaborator is as simple as entering their email address.
As the class owner, you decide the type of access your collaborators gain, depending on each adult’s goals and roles (view vs. edit).
Share your classes with multiple adults — there is no limit to the number of collaborators each class can have.
Adding a collaborator that can view your class 👀
This means a collaborator may only see your class timeline and reports, without the ability to edit, add, or remove any assignments or students.
A collaborator that can view your class won’t be able to see or send comments to students on assignments.
This is best for administrators, instructional coaches, paraprofessionals, or support staff who may need access to student achievement data or assignments for their own focus areas.
Adding a collaborator that can edit your class ✍🏽
This means a collaborator gains modification privileges for assignments, grades, commenting, class settings, and rosters.
A collaborator that can edit your class has the ability to add additional collaborators.
This is best for co-teachers in special education, multi-age, or interdisciplinary classes who share the responsibility of creating and grading assignments.
Teamwork makes the dream work
The Kiddom team believes technology should enable teachers to share and learn best practices across their school communities. In fact, our pilot school communities intend to make big strides this year using Kiddom, all of which are using our collaboration features a little differently.
While we’re excited about collaboration and what it could mean for teachers and learners, we recognize there’s more work to be done. Over the next several weeks, we’re building co-planning feature sets for curriculum to accelerate our vision of building a collaborative education platform.
Update 9/19: Sharing curriculum with co-teachers is now available!
Editor’s note: You can only share personally identifiable information with other teachers and administrators at your school. Please confirm that sharing your class and student achievement data with others in your school community is allowed under your school (or district) technology policy.
Teach Like a Champion is a teacher training book written by Doug Lemov. It contains 49 teaching techniques he claims will transform inexperienced educators into “master teachers.” Since its publication in 2010, teacher prep programs, charter school networks, and public school districts have implemented TLAC into their training protocol. The administrators of these programs tout Lemov’s book as the quintessential guide to improving teacher performance, but veteran teachers express concern about its methods.
Ray Salazar of Chicago Public Schools writes that TLAC focuses too much on controlling students instead of supplying them with knowledge. Salazar’s contention holds water: one of TLAC’s six sections, “Building and Maintaining High Behavioral Expectations,” is dedicated entirely to managing student behavior. Technique 36, “100 Percent,” mandates absolute compliance from every student at all times. In perspective, 23 of TLAC’s 49 techniques focus exclusively on governing classroom conduct, while only one addresses content. Even this singular exception is authoritarian in nature: Technique 5, “No Apologies,” tells educators to never apologize for the “boring” content they teach.
Elizabeth Green of The New York Times Magazineinterviewed Doug Lemov about the process behind the creation of TLAC. She quotes him on the importance of discipline, “It doesn’t matter what questions you’re asking if the kids are running the classroom.” Lemov’s imperious worldview is further reflected in the recommended administration of the remaining tactics: in a section titled No Opt Out, Lemov advocates detaining students for recess if they fail to repeat answers as directed.
Green then describes sitting in on a teacher, Ms. Bellucci, who finds comfort in Lemov’s techniques. Green commends Bellucci for “perfectly satisfying Lemov’s ideal” after there was “not a giggle or head turned” when a student was sent to the disciplinary dean. Interestingly, Lemov once occupied the position of disciplinary dean at Pacific Rim Charter, an institution he founded after admittedly struggling to connect with students as an educator.
Another teacher, Rebecca Radding, left a New Orleans KIPP school after the administration mandated usage of TLAC in classrooms. Radding’s disliked the book’s overarching emphasis on testing.
To understand why testing is so heavily weighted, we can return to Green’s interview, where Lemov provides insight into his motives for writing TLAC. After launching the Uncommon Schools charter network, Lemov’s foremost constraint to expansion was finding high-quality teachers. In the style of Moneyball, he analyzed publicly available standardized testing data, searching for outliers — under-resourced schools whose students tested well.
These outliers were further scrutinized by subject and age. If eighth grade math students at a low-resource school performed at a disproportionately high level, Uncommon Schools offered the responsible teacher better pay. While this proved effective at identifying teachers who improved scores, there was a limited supply of undervalued educators to poach. As charters proliferated, demand for these scarce commodities increased and their costs grew.
Faced with this predicament, Lemov sought to create better teachers. He filmed a number of educators who managed the best scores with the fewest resources, reviewed the footage, and distilled their practices into the techniques found in TLAC. Lemov’s exclusive study of teachers who generated high test scores seems to validate assertions that the text is heavily slanted toward testing.
Peggy Robertson, a former teacher and current administrator of United Opt Out, calls TLAC, “shallow, uniform, and simplistic.” Regarding the text’s depth and simplicity, we’ve mentioned that none of the 49 techniques talk seriously about content. Further, many of the tactics are extraordinarily basic (e.g., Technique 8, “Post It”. Be sure your students know your objective for the day by posting it on the board). Lemov also describes Technique 17, “Ratio,” which has two parts, as “complex.” His utilization of “complex” to characterize the interplay between initiating a dialog (“increasing student participation”) and staying out of the way (“limiting teacher talk”) while students share ideas speaks volumes for the book’s substance.
Concerning TLAC’s emphasis on uniformity, two sections, “Planning that Ensures Academic Achievement” and “Structuring and Delivering Your Lessons” present lesson planning in a specific, rigid manner. Technique 28, “Entry Routine,” stresses the benefits of beginning every class identically to create time-saving patterns. Technique 9, “The Shortest Path,” declares that only direct instruction should be used to teach students, because it is the fastest method. Technique 14, “Board=Paper,” and Technique 26, “Everybody Writes,” place importance on every student writing down every word their teacher puts up for viewing.
One way we can summarize the collective complaints of Salazar, Radding, and Robertson is under the umbrella of “McDonaldization.”McDonaldization is a term coined by George Ritzer to describe the practice of taking a task (e.g., teaching), and breaking it down into smaller sub-tasks (i.e., techniques). These sub-tasks are subject to rationalization, where only the most efficient means of completing the task is utilized; others methods are abandoned for the optimized path. Efficiency is measured with quantitative metrics, production methods are organized to ensure predictability, and the environment is controlled to enhance the uniformity of products. One could readily make the case the core tenets of McDonaldization: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control, are present in TLAC’s 49 techniques.
While McDonaldization can save resources, indiscriminate application often produces poor outcomes for consumers. Consider those who wait in long lines to pay high prices for “fast” food of dubious quality. The processing required to ensure fast food’s efficiency and predictability results in a product that is less healthy and lower quality than a freshly prepared version.
In Unhappy Meals, author Michael Pollan investigates why we eat so many processed foods. In the 1980s, America allocated tremendous resources toward researching food and its essential components. The ultimate goal was to understand what parts of a food make it nutritious, so that we might more efficiently consume them. The findings of this research resulted in food producers replacing real, natural foods with less costly alternatives, fortified with “healthy” vitamins and minerals. Pollan notes that as consumption of processed and fortified products increased, America’s health worsened. Those who ate high quantities of processed foods were more likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
Pollan writes that processed foods are less healthy because food is most nutritious when the whole food is consumed. For example, eating an orange is healthier than gulping down a blend of Tang, Metamucil, and Emergen-C, even if the two have perfectly identical quantities of sugar, dietary fiber, and vitamins. The orange is healthier than the drink not because it has more nutrients, but because its pith contains amino acids that facilitate absorption of Vitamin C in the stomach. Pollan says that no matter how nutritious they claim to be, processed “food-like substances” stripped from their natural context will never be as healthy as whole foods.
Pollan offers two bits of actionable advice to those seeking to improve their eating. One is to avoid foods with packaging containing health claims. “Fat Free” items are often packed with sugar, while “Sugar Free” items are often stuffed with fat; neither is good for us. The other recommendation is to eat whole foods in their natural state. Again, this is because of the importance of how the context that food is consumed in influences the way its nutrients are absorbed.
If we consider the implications of Pollan’s recommendations, we can derive some potentially useful anecdotes to evaluate Teach Like A Champion and teacher training at large. In his recommendation that people eat whole foods, rather than their processed and fortified counterparts, we find a framework to address Teach Like A Champion’s efforts to break down education into bite-sized bits of technique. As processing healthy foods efficiently transforms them into unhealthy “food-like substances,” TLAC’s processing of teaching results in the construction of an oversimplified, “teaching-like practice.”
The text does not mention compassion, wit, intuition, determination, or improvisation in the classroom. Instead, it reduces a dynamic practice into an insultingly reductive list. This list takes teaching out of context. It fails to account for variance in teacher strengths, student learning styles, group dynamics, and classroom moods.
TLAC also avoids discussing the structural contexts that cause schools to receive different resources. Much the opposite of acknowledging the difficulties posed by such differences, Lemov tells teachers, “No matter what the circumstances you face on the job, and no matter what strategic decisions are mandated to you, you can succeed.” While the notion that every teacher can make a difference sounds beautiful, there are teachers across the country without enough textbooks for every student who would contest the conclusion that access to resources does not impact learning outcomes.
From Pollan’s recommendation to avoid foods that make health claims, we can generalize that there are limits to data. Last year, we learned that sweeteners in “diet” sodas cause glucose intolerance, a precursor to diabetes, and alter gut microbes to cause weight gain. Despite the negative health impacts of “diet” sodas, such products are marketed as “Calorie Free.”
In the instance of “diet” sodas, an arbitrary metric (i.e., calories) is used to define a product as “healthier” than its alternative, even though it still produces poor health outcomes. We should ask if the calculable measures of teaching (i.e., standardized testing) might be prone to the same problems. Testing’s potential for misrepresentation seems even greater when we consider how nebulous the process of learning is, and how many forms intelligence can take on. Making standardized test scores the singular focus of any training protocol seems questionable when considered from this view.
There are other problems with Lemov’s claims: when he touts Uncommon Schools as effectively implementing TLAC’s techniques to raise test scores, he doesn’t mention that teachers in his schools are taught TLAC tactics in conjunction with content-oriented programming. His teachers also function as student-teachers for several years before taking control of their own classrooms. Much differently, some training programs making use of TLAC are accepting students with bachelor’s degrees in fields other than education, hustling them through a five-week certificate program, and shoving them in front of classes. They’re presented with a copy of Teach Like A Champion and a reaffirmation that hard work and 49 techniques are all they need to become master teachers.
For the same reason we don’t consider everyone who learns to follow recipes a master chef, or those who learn “game” from pick-up books to be expert lovers, we shouldn’t consider any new teacher a “master,” no matter how many efficient strategies he or she implements. We should instead view the process of becoming a good teacher as one that requires practice, commitment, and dedication. To create “master teachers,” we need to evaluate the whole process of how we train and support our teachers throughout their careers.
Thank for your passion, commitment, and service to students in 2015.
Once you’re officially on winter break, I encourage you to disable your e-mail, file away student work, and push lesson planning off until the New Year. You’ve earned the right to procrastinate.
As a former high school teacher, I often caught myself grading exit tickets and rewriting curricula during the holidays. When the holidays were over, I already felt exhausted. This limited my ability to reflect and recharge.
Don’t let this happen to you. You’ve earned the right to pause, enjoy life, and rest. Celebrate this holiday season fully engaged with your friends and family.