March 18, 2015 13:35 Age: 3 yrs

Raising the Bar: Encouraging Students to Complete Top Quality Work

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Doug McCurry is the co-CEO and superintendent of Achievement First.

At Amistad Academy Elementary and Elm City College Prep Elementary, teachers have teamed up to focus on top quality work. They co-designed professional development and coaching follow-up revolving around this cycle:

1.       Visual anchors should be posted on chart paper at the front of class and include actual "student" work and clear criteria. To do this, share exemplars and create your own for upcoming lessons to meet the criteria you’ve established.

                ELA example                             Math Example            


2.       Teachers need to refer to the visual anchor and name their work quality expectations before sending students off to work.

a.       Refer to the most important criteria – the one thing you are going to go after.

b.       Use a strong voice.

c.       Challenge students to complete top quality work.

d.       Do a – c fast. This will yield more student work than teacher talk.

3.       Circulate with pen and lesson plan/packet in hand and prompt students, insist they make corrections, and collect quick data (. Based on what you are “seeing,” you  can:

a.       Prompt a student to fix work and come back later to check

b.       Prompt for quick partner work to have students hold each other accountable

c.        Quickly show a student example whole class then bring students back to work

d.        Pull students who have the same error for a quick intervention group


To support #3, teachers created a bank of prompts they used to address student work:

  • GENERAL (What did you do? How do you know that? Why is that? Why did you do that? Explain your thinking.)

  • SLOPPY (Does your neatness quality match mine? Why?  … I'll be back. It is too sloppy, you can fix it.)

  • WRONG OPERATION (Read the question to me. What are you trying to find out? What do you know? So what operation? Why is this addition/subtraction? What does combine mean? Wrong operation. Why?)

  • COMPUTATION ERROR (Check your work - w or w/o point to place. You made a computation error. Find it. What's wrong here? Where did that 10 come from?)

  • SET UP / WORK ORGANIZATION (Can you organize your paper. Can you label each section. Circle your answer. What's missing (feet, inches). Does your work match my Visual Anchor?)

4.       Show call student work, asking students how the work did, or did not, meet the criteria.


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