A Window Into the Classroom

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Many times, grading papers and student projects is something a teacher does in isolation.  In other words, no one other than the teacher sees the student’s work.  What if analyzing student work became a collaborative process in your school?  How would looking at student work provide a clear window into the classroom?  As we transition to more rigorous standards in my state, we have been collecting student outcomes to analyze the quality of lessons and units intended to address these new standards and expectations.

After our first semester of collecting and analyzing student outcomes, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • Teachers are spending more time planning and preparing each lesson.
  • Teachers are hoping to learn about the effectiveness of their own instruction.
  • Teachers are gaining a better understanding of how students learn.
  • Teachers are developing more effective assessment types that also measure application and conceptual understanding.
  • Teachers who assign the highest quality work get it from their students.
  • The amount of trust is increasing among teachers and school leaders.

Principals play a critical role in setting the expectation and must monitor the process and most importantly, recognize a successful student outcome when they see it.  The questions you must prepare yourself to address include:

  • How often do you expect these teams of teachers to collaboratively plan and examine evidence of student learning?
  • What do you want the end product(s) to look like?  How do you communicate this to teachers?
  • How can teachers demonstrate that they have used this information to make the kinds of instructional decisions that would result in improved student achievement?

Viewing teacher lesson plans provide teacher intentions, however, analyzing student work will unveil what was actually learned.  This is one of the first steps in shifting the focus from teaching to a focus on learning.

We are using the Tri-State/EQuIP Rubric to evaluate the quality of lessons and units intended to address the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and ELA/Literacy.


  1. Hi Sean, This post spoke to me. This year our ELA curriculum director, Karyn Saxon, has facilitated a similar effort. With the help of Leslie Laud, an ELA consultant, the fourth grade teachers have met to study standards-based writing approaches in depth utilizing the SRSD approach. Then after pre-assessment and post-assessments we’ve met during the school day to analyze and score student results. This approach has focused our collaborative efforts with greater direction, share, and student engagement/success. As you suggest, when we turn our attention to student learning, everyone benefits. Once again, thank you for the inspiration.

    January 3, 2014

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