Chris Colwell is a deputy superintendent at Volusia County schools in Florida, which includes the Daytona beach area. He’s also a soft-spoken hero in the struggle to make American education relevant, rigorous, and effective. I recently attended his session at ASCD in New Orleans.
Some of the key take-aways from his talk:
- Struggling kids? “Acceleration is the best form of remediation.”
- “Forget about assessments and high stakes tests. Teach to the standards.”
- District leadership needs to be clear, consistent, have high expectations, be ruthlessly prioritized, and provide support, support, support.
Volusia County has created a very deliberate approach to instructional design. They begin with the education standards – the state standards. Then they’ve designed the assessment that would measure performance on those standards. Then, and only then, do they create the lessons that would teach what students need to know in order to perform well on the assessments. They find that this saves a ton of instructional time, because teachers tend to teach their favorite topics, which may or may not correspond with standards and what kids actually need to know. They focus on the critical, not the peripheral. The College Board has helped them create this curriculum.
Volusia also uses a lot of formative assessment – checking during learning that kids are learning what they’re supposed to be learning. This prepares students well for the summative assessment … which often comes in the form of standardized high-stakes tests.
All in all, very impressive!