September 5

What’s a PLD?

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 2.10.22 PMWelcome back! We took a hiatus on the Teacher Academy blog over the summer! We wanted to start Teacher Academy off with a bang this year, modeling teaching strategies through small group instruction. Over the course of the next week or so, we will be highlighting the theme of each group. The first theme was the Performance Level Descriptors or PLD for short. These are rubrics published recently by the ACT Aspire.




AAEAAQAAAAAAAAN7AAAAJGU4YTVkZjM2LWQ4OTUtNDFiOC1iNmI2LWY1MTNmNWUzYWMzMASummative Assessments should not be a secret. The data from Summative Assessments, when coupled with appropriate Formative Assessments, should not be a mystery or a surprise. More times than many, when students take the ACT Aspire, the data can be a surprise. This causes much frustration for teachers under this new assessment model. Each year, the ACT Aspire gives morsels of information to aid teachers and students. Some of the information given is to focus on concepts rather than procedures by using the Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Wheel (in particular Levels 2 and 3) and that writing is valued, particularly in constructed responses. Recently the ACT Aspire released the Performance Level Descriptors. You can find them here for each grade tested on the ACT Aspire.


Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 2.00.42 PMWhat are the Performance Level Descriptors? This comes straight from the ACT Aspire: Performance Level Descriptors outline the knowledge, skills, and practices that students performing at any given level achieve in each content area at each grade level. They indicate if the students are academically prepared to engage successfully in further studies in each content area, the next grade’s material and, eventually at the high school level to verify that they are college and career ready.

How does the ACT Aspire suggest to use them? This comes straight from the ACT Aspire: “PLDs are essential in setting standards. Standard setting panelists use PLDs to determine the threshold expectations for students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to attain performance levels of “In Need of Support”, “Close”, “Ready”, and “Exceeding ”. PLDs are also used to inform item development, as each test needs questions that distinguish performance all along the continuum.

We encourage the use of the PLDs for a variety of purposes, such as:

  • Differentiating instruction to maximize individual student outcomes
  • Completing assessments to help identify target performance levels for individuals or groups of students
  • Tracking student growth along the proficiency continuum as described by the PLDs.”


If you haven’t checked out the PLD’s, do! I think it is a powerful plan for students and teachers to follow. Students can view the rubrics as a way to hold themselves accountable. Teachers can use the rubrics to develop stronger formative assessments in order to match the summative assessment that students will see at the end of the year.

March 6

Data Walk!

The following post is written by Assistant Principal, @GraysonLawrence! He is paving the way in student professional development, called Student Academy!  #Exceptional job Mr. Lawrence!

“Data is not about adding more to your plate. Data is about making sure you have the right thing on your plate.” –Unknown

Growth-1Data can sometimes be a dreaded word as we discuss its relationship to teaching and learning. I must say, this year has been a fantastic year of looking at Data at WHS. Teachers are continually moving kids by creating action plans for their students and developing villages within the school to move students, or as we tend to say “move mountains.” This past Friday the faculty at WHS collaborated to discuss Data Walk Through WHS. We were excited to take pictures of Data displayed in our classrooms. We noticed that data is presented in many unique ways, but more importantly the central purpose is for growth.

IMG_0148Great discussions were cultivated from the mentor text used at the beginning of the chat. One quote that kept stopping us in our tracks was: “As long as we use assessments/data only as a means to rank schools and students, we will miss their most powerful benefits. We all agree that if we only look at data in such a way it can become frustrating. Should we be the only ones controlling and looking at this analysis? Who else can we coach in the process? Although we continually work to improve student data, another quote from our mentor text sparked more conversations. “ The largest untapped source of potential in any school is, undoubtedly, the students.” What better way to motivate student growth by simply taking time, just a little time, each day to discuss data with students, and charge them with the idea of self-monitoring for growth. We are in the very beginning stages of developing Student Academy with our students, and if proper collaboration in this process, great things can happen and even change the culture of monitoring student data in our school.

IMG_0171The purpose of Student Academy is for our students to do the following:

Student Professional Development

Student-engaged assessment

Students learn the language of standards

Students set academic goals

Students monitor progress

Students identify patterns of strengths and weakness

Students become self-advocates

Students access their own work with honesty and accuracy

This discussion is the begging of what will become future planning of how students can use their digital portfolios being created in Student Academy to be used as a central location for self-assessment and data monitoring in each class every day. We are excited to see this develop within our school culture so we continue moving mountains fostering in our students being as #exceptional as they can be.


February 28

I’m Tech Savvy….What’s Your Superpower?

unnamedBelow is a blog post by Technology Integration Specialist, Emily Nestor! Thank you, Mrs. Nestor for a great event and an #exceptional day of learning!

Digital Learning Day 2016 was a huge success at Winterboro High School! This year’s theme was “I’m Tech Savvy…What’s Your Superpower?”  Prior to Digital Learning Day, Winterboro’s Student Leadership team were assigned a new productivity themed Tech Tool that was not yet being used at WHS. The students worked in teams to create 10 minute fun, engaging, and strategic lessons that were aimed at teaching their new Tech Tool to others. The students even created “I Can” statements that they used to guide their lesson.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 6.48.34 PM During our Digital Learning Day celebration, students, teachers and even parents/visitors were invited to the school’s auditorium where they were able to rotate through the various superheroes themed booths to learn new tech tools. By visiting the Superhero Stations and actively participating, guests were able to earn stickers on their superhero card. At the end of their visit, and if they fill their superhero cards, they were able to trade in their superhero card for a superhero snack! The 12 productivity tech tools that were featured at this year’s Digital Learning Day celebration can be found on the handout below!


Click Here for the Complete List! DLD2016TechTools

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February 10

Tech Tools to Support the 4’C’s

Collaboration_Creativity_Critical-Thinking_Communication Thank you to guest blogger, Emily Nestor for our PD on the go this week for Teacher Academy!  Thank you for your #exceptional model of the 4 C’s at Winterboro High School!

In today’s 21st Century society, the ideal high school graduate is one who can effectively communicate and collaborate with their peers in order to solve problems by thinking critically and creatively. These skills – communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity – are Success Skills that all graduates need in order to be College and Career Ready. Therefore, it is our job as educators to provide students with opportunities to utilize these Success Skills within daily teaching and learning opportunities. One way in which we, as 21st Century educators, can achieve this is through incorporating a variety of technology tools that will allow students to collaborate, communicate, think critically, and be creative! And I know what you are thinking – There are SO MANY Tech Tools out there…. Where do I even start? Well have no fear – I am going to provide you with a bank of Tech Tools that can be used to allow students opportunities to utilize these Success Skills within your classroom!

Critical Thinking: Evaluating, Justifying, Analyzing

  • Coggle: Mindmapping (can be collaborative)
  • VideoANT: Annotating videos
  • Kami: Annotating text

Communication: Speaking (Orally and Written)

Collaboration: Working Together (Sharing and Listening)

  • Tozzl: Group Workspace (chat, file sharing, tasks management)
  • 81 Dash: Group Rooms with chatting and file sharing capabilities, can also be shared to GoogleClassroom with 1 click

Creativity: Brining Ideas to Reality 

  • ToonDo: Make cartoons/comics, characters, books, and also edit images
  • Pixiclip: Whiteboard that can be recorded
February 7

The Power of Time, Pace, and Scaffolding

CalcN0rUkAAVHwaThis week in Teacher Academy, we had a guest teacher, Nancy Clarke, from the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI).  Thank you so much Mrs. Clarke for coming to observe classrooms, plan PD, and highlight some best practices for us to implement and try! The framework of our discussion revolved around the power of time management, pacing students throughout a lesson, and scaffolding students. 

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The following highlights are a series of questions/statements to remember while planning future lessons:

  • We as teachers should plan with Blooms but assess with DOK (Depth of Knowledge)
  • With our DOK assessments, what type of thinking is required?
  • Tasks in the classroom should be at the DOK 3 Level because DOK 3 level incorporates DOK Levels 1 and 2.
  • As teachers, we focus on a lot of things and we try to do everything fast. The tasks we plan should have meaning and rigor.
  • Planning is extremely important. Planning should encompass areas where we anticipate we would have to scaffold.
  • We must plan where learning could possibly have a breakdown.
  • The power of time is invaluable.
  • The  use of a timer keeps us on track but also the students on track during scaffolding.  It is much easier to Close Read for 6 minutes then it is for 30 minutes.
  • If your students are having a difficult time turning in assignments, use a timer to help pace their work.  Time management for students is a necessary skill to be College and Career Ready.
  • For more information on Webb’s DOK, click here!


Just a few Teacher Takeaways

  1. Coach Strickland and Mrs. Brown said that their takeaway was starting out her small group lessons with DOK 3 questions then scaffold student learning from that point.
  2. Mr. Studdard and Mr. Gable both stated that their takeaway was the use of a timer.  This would allow them to maintain pressure throughout the lesson and help pace students toward completion of desired tasks.


Sentence Starters were also part of discussion amongst teachers.  Using sentence starters in the classroom allows students to have appropriate content dialog in the classroom. Sentences starters look different in each classroom.  There are millions of different sentence starters to use to frame productive classroom discussions. Share with everyone when you find some that best suits your classroom! Here are a few examples we can use in our classrooms:

Math:  Check Out Page 7

ELA:  Check out Page 3


Social Studies: Check Out Page 10

Career Technical Education


November 15

Why, Why, Why: Metacognition Protocol

images-2Why?  Three simple letters packed with an educational punch.  When students can tell us why they think something, or why they believe something, teachers feel as though we have reached the educational summit!  Whether right or wrong, we can diagnose misconceptions or build upon current thinking.  For today’s Teacher Academy, we had 3 Learning Targets:



  • Identify the right drivers and the wrong drivers in our classrooms.
  • Identify the importance of soliciting sophisticated responses.
  • Create a short action plan to address student deficiencies.


The 5 Why Protocol was recently used at the Key Leaders Network through the Alabama Best Practices Center. This protocol basically takes you through a series of Why’s….5 of them to be exact. You first have to identify your “right drivers” and then the “wrong drivers.”  We used 3 aspects of our school culture as a review for this protocol:  Classroom Managers, Formative Assessment, and Learning Target.  The last “Why” question that is asked, is packed with core foundations of belief.  Here are our examples:


1.  Why are classroom managers the right drivers over classroom observations?

-If the pressure in on the students, they will have higher success rates in life.

-To have students more invested, means that they have more ownership, pride, and are more engaged in class.

-There is a direct correlation between engagement and student achievement…simple!

-It is important to integrate so we can better prepare them for their future job!



2.  Why are formative assessment strategies the right drivers over accountability?

-Tailoring Formative Assessment tailors our instruction.

-Without a foundation, you can’t build more knowledge and you do not want

misconceptions to build.  You cannot build a house without a foundation.

-Formative Assessment shows student achievement, then in turn data and scores increase.  Formative Assessment shows the teacher where to go next with that child.

-Formative assessment gives them ownership, accountability, engagement in the lesson, etc.


3.  Why are learning targets the right drivers over fragmented strategies?

-It is important to connect to real world objectives for clarity and guidance.

-Students have to buy in with the lesson in order to be invested.

-We increase the rigor in our classroom lessons and this increases lesson stamina.

-It is important for everyone to go down the same path (Lifelong learning – not the exact path…we differentiate)


We also discussed the importance of using a protocol or having a system in place for student questioning and the answers we accept as teachers.  We must solicit educational responses that are of grade level quality, and beyond, not answers that are quick or sloppy.  Many questions on our summative Assessments, the ACT Aspire, require that students answer questions using grade level sophistication!  Thank you Anna Jones for your inspiration and aha moment on this issue!


We had a great day of learning and Action Plan development! You can find more about the 5 Why Protocol on the National School Reform Website:


October 18

Shifting the Role of the Media Specialist

Thank you to guest blogger Tina Wheeler (@tinatwheeler)!  It takes LEADERSHIP to say you want to shift your role into more classroom instruction!

Shifting the role of the media specialist was the main focus at this week’s teacher academy. In attempt to always do what is best for kids, I am excited about becoming more of a collaborator and coach than just the keeper of the books and the finder of information.  I discussed with the teachers the idea of what this new position will look like. Media Specialist are one of the most under utilized people in the building. We are changing that here at Winterboro. After going through my new vision, the teachers came up with their own ways as to how I can become more plugged in to their classrooms. In our brief sit down session, I gained a lot of insight on ideas and ways that I can better serve the students and teachers. From conducting small group sessions to book talks to finding resources on DiscoveryEd, I believe we are about to see a transformation in our little rock school, and I am excited to be a part of it.

September 14

SAMR Model for Technology Integration

Shout out to Technology Integration Specialist Emily Nestor for being our guest writer this week!!


With technology becoming such a staple within daily teaching and learning, it is

imperative for teachers to evaluate how they are incorporating technology. Through

this thoughtful reflection, teachers can ensure that they are providing students with

opportunities to complete task that allow them to integrate technology in a variety

of contexts. The SAMR model serves as a model for this reflection process. Through

embedding tasks that correspond to the 4 levels of the SAMR model, teachers can

enhance and transform their teaching and learning and boost student engagement

and achievement.

So, at this point I am sure you are wondering what the levels of the SAMR model are.

Below is a brief description of each level of the SAMR model.

S – Substitution Same Task, New Tech

Computer technology is used to perform the same task as was done before the use

of computers.

A – Augmentation Improve the Task by Adding New Features

Computer Technology offers an effective tool to perform the task with some

functional improvements.

Task at the Substitution and Augmentation level allow you to enhance learning

through implementing a “tech tool.”

M – Modification Change the Task

This is the level where technology is being used more effectively not to do the same

task using different tools but to redesign new parts of the task and transform

students learning.

R – Redefinition A Whole New Task

At this level, technology is used to complete a task that allows the students to do

something that was previously not possible.

Task at the Modification and Redefinition level allow you to transform learning

through implementing a “tech tool.”

Now I bet you are thinking what these levels look like in action. Below is an example

of each level of the SAMR model in action.

Topic: Geography

S: Use presentation software (like Powerpoint or Prezi) to construct a presentation

providing information about a selected locale.

A: Incorporate interactive multimedia – audio, video, hyperlinks – in the

presentation to give more depth and provide more engaging presentation.

M: Create a digital travel brochure that incorporates multimedia and student

created video.

R: Explore the locale with Google Earth; seek out and include interviews with people

who have visited the local.

Another benefit of the SAMR model is that each level is connected to a level of

Bloom’s Taxonomy. Below a graphic that shows the correlation of SARM and

Blooms. This is a great tool to help when planning for instruction because it allows

you to see which level of the SAMR model your task should fall into.

So as you can see, where your task falls on the SAMR model depends on the rigor of

your teaching and learning. It is important to remember that you aren’t always

going to be at the creating level of Blooms and having students use technology in the

redefinition lens. Sometimes a substitution task is what your students’ needs and

that’s ok! It’s not about using technology to create products that are the biggest and

the most grand – instead the focus should be on effectively using technology as a

teaching and learning tool within the classroom.

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September 13

Data…the Dreaded “D” Word

Data…the dreaded “D” word.  Why does it make teachers, students, and stakeholders shudder so much?  Data doesn’t lie?  True, but what does data tell us about our students as a person?  When we as educators begin to analyze data, we learn more about our students.  But what do we do with that information?  Do we share this information with the students?  How can students truly become more advanced by knowing data about themselves?  Do we include others on our accountability quest for achievement?

The summer was filled with time of reflection and introspection into many of these questions.  My assistant principal, @GraysonLawrence, and I met to discuss these questions and to reflect this summer on our practices as first year Principal and Assistant Principal.  The consensus was clear, something different needed to be done on our part, to lead our school into a diverse data driven culture.  Our developed vision is for all faculty AND students to be aware of the data and have an active role in the quest for achievement. After thoughtful research, we aligned our philosophy with that from the research of How Teachers Can Turn Data into Action by Daniel R. Venables. This book addressed many of our short comings as first year administrators:

  1.  We have had a two hour data meeting…Now What?
  2. We have identified student weaknesses…Now What?

We have aligned our new and improved Data Meetings much as Daniel Venables suggests. We are slowing down the process, leaving more time for teachers to research and develop an action plan, all while leaving behind “knee jerk reactions” to determining how to fill in an achievement gap.  

Friday was our first meeting!  It was short, sweet, and to the point!  Teachers met to analyze beginning of the year test data using Global Scholar for grades 9-12 and Star 360 for grades 5-8.  We have where students fall into our data continuum and what gaps each student has in that continuum. Teachers are now tasked on assembling their “village” in our school culture and giving each “village” member a specific task.  Our next meeting, we will be discussing each teachers village and the expectations of each member.  

I highly suggest this book to anyone looking to reshape how data is assessed, analyzed, and used to drive instruction in your school! 

Category: Data | LEAVE A COMMENT
May 6

Balancing the Language Arts Plate

Below is a link to the Blendspace full of all the materials presented in today’s presentation at the Literacy Summit in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The presentation was made by Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Lacey, Principal Emily Harris, and Lead Teacher Ashley Gable, along with Student Leaders,  Justus Garrett and Katelyn Shirey all from Talladega County Schools!

For anyone not present at the summit, it deals with instructional materials and strategies used to balance the Language Arts plate for your students!

Happy Learning!