As Dave Barry used to say, “alert readers will have noticed” that I have been MIA in my blog. I had a good excuse: my last week of work in Paris at ASP and 3 straight weeks of Summer Institutes. I finally have some down time, so before I head to the back porch with a G & T, let me make a few observations:

1. Greatest topic of interest in Summer Institutes. By far the most interest in three different Institutes this past summer was on the topic of feedback – feedback to teachers as well as feedback to students. The interest was so high I made an on-the-fly adjustment to our UbD & Common Core workshop to address the issues one morning, using videotape and exercises. While I have not written a book on feedback, I have written extensively about it over the past 30 years. Here in my blog I addressed it here, here, and here. I plan to write a short-form book on it this coming year.

2. Hattie’s work. Speaking of feedback, my blog entry on John Hattie’s meta-analysis of what works in education is far and away the most popular entry on this site. Every single day it gets hits numbering in the hundreds – even though the entry was written a few years back. The second most popular blog entries: the student surveys.

Notice a trend?

3. Best educational book I have read in the past few months? What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making, by Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton. The authors do a fabulous job of giving practical and thoughtful advice about developing close reading abilities in students – without pain and suffering! – and getting beyond the kinds of problems with the “reading strategies” that I have written about before.

4. Most depressing realization from the Summer Institutes and recent workshops? There are STILL only a too-small number of educators who have read the Common Core Standards from top to bottom, including the crucial Appendices in the ELA Standards. So, a number of people are STILL not aware, for example, of the difference between argument and persuasion – though it is crucial to understanding the Standards; or how to parse the word “understand” in the Math Standards. (I plan to blog on these two issues soon).

True story: I asked the electrician working on our house renovation two years ago how come he knew the building code so well. Psh, he said EVERYONE knows the Code – you have to for re-certification (not just to pass Inspection) every few years.

How sad it is that so few educators really seem to have closely read and understood the implications of the Common Core ‘code’ and what it demands – especially in assessment. It is especially important to get people out of just looking at grade-level standards (which are more or less arbitrary in terms of year-to-year distinctions in ELA). My advice to all SI participants? Design backward from the Anchor Standards, not the grade-level standards. It makes no sense, for example, to merely demand “opinions” from 5th graders instead of arguments that consider all the possible evidence. Backward Design from the highest level standards is critical for meeting the eventual exit standards!