Author Archives: Katie

Dive In: Student Groupings

As we enter July (WHAT?!), many of us are dusting off our teacher hats as we prepare for the coming school year. I don’t want anyone to panic, but my local Target already has their “Back to School” bins out…

While we haven’t put our umbrella drinks down just yet, there are a few things you can dive into this summer from the comfort of your beach chair. Today, we’re exploring setting up student groups in ClassMax during the summer and how they can help you save time during the school year.

Student groups can be used for all kinds of things throughout the school year. Some of my critical groups that I always have each year are:

  • ESE students (I include 504’s in this group because they receive accommodations, too, but you could easily have 504’s in a separate group.)
  • ELL students
  • Leveled groups (Level One, Level Two, etc. These might alternatively be labeled “Below Grade Level,” “At Grade Level,” and “Above Grade Level,” depending on how your district levels students.)
  • Table Groups (Table A, Table B, Table C, etc.)

To create groups in your ClassMax account, follow these quick and easy steps.

  1. Put your umbrella drink down for just a quick minute. I promise this won’t take long!
  2. From your dashboard, select the small Grouping icon from the bottom right corner.

3. Select the small plus sign icon from the bottom right corner.

4. Type in your group name. For example, “ESE” or “Level One.” NOTE: If you haven’t gotten your rosters for 2019-2020 yet, you can still create the groups. You’ll need to create one demo student that you can use to temporarily hold the group. To add a new student, go back to your main dashboard and select the plus sign in the bottom right corner that lets you add/import a student.

5. Pick up your umbrella drink. You’ve earned it, teacher friend!

Creating groups now is a simple step towards a smooth start to the new school year. When you have rosters, simply attach students to your pre-created groups and you are ready to go!

Groupings during the school year are helpful because you can assign standards progress, accommodations, and/or behavior through groups instead of having to input each student individually. Additionally, you can run reports on groupings so that you can track data for a particular subset of students easily.

So, what are you waiting for?! Dive into student groupings today and you’ll thank yourself tomorrow!

Parent Signatures on ClassMax Reports

This time of year is a good time to do a check in with parents to make sure they are aware of where their children are performing. With standardized testing in full swing and the end of the school year just around the corner, nothing can be trickier to navigate as a teacher than having a parent suddenly irate over student performance that they weren’t expecting.

Sending home grade and performance reports are a good way to keep parents in the loop and cover all your bases as a teacher.

Whether it is a ClassMax progress report, behavior report, or other, sending home information to parents is a great way to make parent contact. Print your individual student reports from the ClassMax report menu and simply attach a mailing label for a parent signature to the bottom of the form. Parents sign and students return them to class.

For a more complete report going home, use our Student Progress Tracking form and have your students analyze their progress before sending home to parents. You can either send this report home for a signature or you can attach it to a ClassMax progress report and put a label on the top of the packet for a signature.

However you choose to do it, sending reports home for a parent signature is a good idea this time of the school year. Keeping parents involved and aware of their student’s performance can help diffuse potential challenges down the road with parents.

Using ClassMax to Prepare for State Testing

For many of us, spring break has passed and the only major obstacle in the way before Glorious Summer (that absolutely deserved to be capitalized) is state standardized testing. The time of year when our students demonstrate all the goodness that we have jammed into their heads for the past six months. The time of year when our effectiveness as a teacher often rests in the minds of children. The time of year when most of us begin drinking heavily.

Testing season is a necessary evil in education, so instead of fighting it, we might as well try to find a way to beat it into submission. And the biggest bat a teacher can use for that is ClassMax data.

All year, you have collected data on student mastery of standards using ClassMax. Now, it’s time to make that data work for you. Here are a few ways you can use ClassMax to prepare your students for state testing:

  1. Student Tracking and Self-Reflection: Print a cumulative report of standards tracked for each student. If you are in a digital school, save them as PDF’s and share them digitally with individual students. Have students complete our Progress Tracking with ClassMax document. It is recommended that these be done with your students in either a small group or an individual data chat.

2. Differentiated Small Groups – Go to Reporting on the sidebar. Make sure “All Students” is selected. Select the date range for your monitoring (usually the most recent quarter is the most accurate). In the “Filter Standards” dropdown menu, select only the standards that will be accessed on your state exam. Finally, click the PDF icon and print your report. This gives you a list of where your students are averaging on this standard. You can use this to form groups for differentiated test prep activities or targeted instruction.

3. Pinpoint the most effective whole class content: From your main reports page, make sure “All Students” is selected and that your date range is appropriate. Filter the standards to show only the tested standards. This line graph will show you what areas of whole class instruction may be valuable to your students. For example, in the picture below, standard RL.1 shows 55% of students are performing in below grade level, so this might be a standard that is reviewed through whole group instruction. Run your report by class period if you want to tailor your whole group lessons by class period mastery.

While testing season is stressful and hectic, your data management and personalized instruction doesn’t have to be. Let ClassMax help maximize testing success for you and your students!

How to Make Groups from Reports with ClassMax

We are continually updating ClassMax based on feedback from our awesome users, but this last update really made me wish I had this feature last year when I was still in the classroom!  Users told us that creating groups was simple with ClassMax, but that it would be so much faster if they could have auto-generated groups from the reporting page.  You asked and we delivered, teacher friends!

To generate automatic groupings based on learning levels, you first need to go into the reporting menu on the left sidebar of the main teacher dashboard.

From here, select your date range for reporting on standards-based progress and then drop down the standard that you want to report on.  You should notice that when you hover over a learning level now, you are given the option to create a group.  Select this and simply name the group straight from the reporting menu.

When you move over to view your groups now, you should see the group that you created from the reports menu.

Another new feature with our reports and groups is that you can now run reports by groups of students.  This is helpful if you are tracking progress of a specific group of students.  For example, let’s say I needed to report on how my ESE students are doing on specific standards.  I would simply go to the reports menu, select my date range and my ESE group.  From here, I can run the report just on these students alone.  This makes it easy to desegregate your data during data chats with administration.

Suggested groups might include by ethnicity, gender, economic background, language learners, or targeted students defined by your school or district.

For more information on how to use our standard grouping function, check out this blog post.

Change Out Your Assessments for Something More Engaging

There is no question that assessments hold a valid and required place in the classroom.  Without the ability to assess a student’s progress, teachers aren’t able to adjust instruction to meet learning needs, correct errors in reasoning, or truly know when mastery is taking place.  But for many teachers, the weekly quiz grades are being replaced instead with standards progress monitoring in more unique and creative formats.  This week, why not trade out those traditional assessments for something different?  Here are a few of our favorite alternative assessments and ways ClassMax can help you collect the data.

Individualized Station Rotations – While station rotations are nothing new in the world of learning, allowing students to rotate at their own pace through a specific set of prescribed stations just for them can seem like a logistical nightmare for teachers.  In my own classroom, I collected most of my ClassMax data during station rotations.  Students were not permitted to move stations until I came over and assessed their work using the progress monitoring component of ClassMax.  This also meant I had reduced grading because I was assessing them on the spot with the ClassMax progress monitor instead of grading a pile of work later.  When it came time to put a grade in, I ran the report by standard and date and used that data from ClassMax as my grade.  It also helped students work towards mastery because I wouldn’t let them move on until they showed mastery at either a 3 or 4 on my ClassMax scale.

 

PBL (Project Based Learning) – In the past few years, PBL has become a popular and innovative way of assessing student mastery on specific skill as they apply to real world examples.  If you haven’t dabbled in PBL, it can seem a bit overwhelming.  The word “project” can often insight fear and loathing in a teacher…  But, fear not!  At their core, PBL assignments are nothing more than a series of assessments that all lead towards solving a problem.  A great place to start for PBL tasks is TeachersPayTeachers.  A quick search for your subject, grade level, and even specific standards will return already compiled units that make for great ongoing learning and assessing throughout the year.  For braver teachers, try DefinedStem for PBL tasks and documents, including rubrics and exemplars.  Use ClassMax on your PBL days to collect data on standards-based progress as they work on their projects in team.  If they are working in project groups, create a group in ClassMax and track progress for several students at one time.

One-on-One Conferencing –  One of the most effective ways to accurately assess student learning is through one-on-one conversation and interaction with a student about a specific standards, skill, or task.  You might have an advanced or gifted student who can not only show demonstration of mastery of a skill, but can explain their thought process orally.  Or, perhaps a student can show mastery, but struggles to explain.  Or, they might even be able to explain theoretically, but have trouble demonstrating.  Before beginning your conversations with students, set your scale of understanding with your PLC so that you are sure to be assessing students equally, across the grade level.  Have a list of questions that you ask all students and assess on the ClassMax four-point scale based on their proficiency.  Use the notes out to the side of the progress entry to write down things about their responses that you want to remember later.

Role-Playing or Dramatic Interpretation – (Personally, I have to give myself a minute to take a deep breath and get over my middle school fears of role playing in front of a classroom of kids… Okay, I think I’m better now…)  Putting aside my own childhood fears of public performance, role-playing or dramatic interpretation is another great tool for assessing student learning.  Keep in mind that not all of your students will be excited about acting out scenes or ideas in front of their peers, so it might be helpful to have an alternative assignment or assessment for those who don’t wish to participate.  But for those students who have a flair for the dramatic, role-playing can be an innovative, active way to have students express their understanding.  One of the most engaging lessons I have ever seen was a middle school math teacher who used role play for geometry formulas.  Students had to use groups and role play to explain a specific formula using metaphors or similes.  Talk about engaging and complex learning!  When teachers think outside the box, so do students!  Use your ClassMax progress-monitoring to assess students as they perform.  Be sure to give them a rubric ahead of time so they know what will constitute a 4, 3, 2, or 1 and how these will correlate to a grade.  Try uploading our custom standards on group work or projects to assess students on these skills.

Assessing students is necessary in a classroom, but that doesn’t mean it has to necessarily be pencils, paper, and bubble sheets.  Stretch the limits of assessing in your classroom and watch your students stretch the limits of their learning!

 

 

A Look Inside ClassMax Schools

In the 2017-2018, we launched ClassMax for individual teacher accounts.  When this became successful, we started having schools asking if there was a way for administrators to access data that their teachers were collecting.  This led to the launch of ClassMax Schools this school year.  With a ClassMax Schools account, all teachers within the school receive a ClassMax account and up to ten administrators receive admin accounts.  Additionally, ClassMax Schools receive additional features such as our PBIS tracker called “MaxPoints,” the ability to share student information between teachers, the ability to assign data to any student in the school, admin access to reporting, and more.

Today, we are going to take a look at the admin platform and a few of the features it offers school administrators.  Let’s start with the administrator dashboard:

A ClassMax School administrator accesses a completely different dashboard than the teachers within the school.  The admin dashboard is designed to be a quick glance at what is happening live within the school.  Let’s take a look at the individual parts of the admin dashboard…

First up is the row of brightly colored boxes at the top of the dashboard.  This is an at-a-glance view of how much data has been collected that day in the school.  As you can see in this screenshot, today this school’s teachers have collected information on standards-based progress 28 times, behavior 42 times, accommodations 56 times, and hall passes 3 times.

The box underneath the header to the right is the live Hall Pass Feed.  This lets any administrator know who is out in the hallways during school.  It shows the student’s name, the teacher who sent them, the place the student is going, and the time they have been gone from class.  Not only is this a security measure for school administrators, but it lets them know at a glance who should be out in the hallways (and maybe who SHOULDN’T!).

At a glance information is critical to a school administrator, but what if they need to know more?  There are several ways the data can be sorted and filtered on the admin dashboard.  First, the administrator can filter by selecting any of the colored boxes at the top of the dashboard.  This generates a filtered list showing all the data collected in that particular element.  Additionally, the administrator may prefer the School Activity Feed, which shows a live feed of what is being recorded in the school.  This School Activity Feed can be sorted using the icons at the top of the feed.

For more detailed, historical information, an administrator would need to access ClassMax Reporting in their left sidebar.  By dropping down this menu, and administrator may choose what types of reports to run based on the needs at that time.  If an ESE coordinator was given an administrator account, they could run accommodations reports from this menu.  If a dean was given an administrator account, they could run behavior reports from this menu.  If instructional coaches were given administrator accounts, they could access teacher data on standards.  The uses of reporting for all types of key entities within a school are wide-ranging.

You will notice that the first report option is for MaxPoints.  Let’s take a few minutes to look at our innovative, digital PBIS tracking system.  To start, we will need to look at the difference between an individual teacher account and a ClassMax Schools teacher account.  For an individual account, teachers can assign positive and negative behaviors, along with consequences.  For a ClassMax Schools teacher account, administrators are able to assign a points value to specific behaviors, which collects as a running points total for students.

When selecting a student and then behaviors, a ClassMax Schools teacher can see a points bank at the top under the student’s name.  This shows how many points they still have to spend, how many points they have already spent, and how many points they have earned collectively all year.

You will also notice that there are blue boxes on the behavior screen for ClassMax Schools teachers.  These are incentives that have been set by the administrators that students can spend their points on.  When these are selected, the points deduct from the student’s total points bank.

With MaxPoints, teachers can assign behavior points to any student in the school, too.  Not just their own students.  They access a school-wide search for students in their left sidebar, under the heading “MaxPoints.”  From here, they type in a student’s name and the list of all students in the school will filter down, allowing them to assign MaxPoints to any student, on the spot.

So, how does an administrator get access to this?  Through their reporting menu.  From the ClassMax reporting menu, administrators can access points assigned and then sort that information by date, behavior, incentive, student, or teacher.

That is a very simple overview of our ClassMax Schools administrator dashboard.  For more information, you can see this video demonstration of the platform.

If you would like to schedule a call to discuss implementing ClassMax Schools at your school, jump on over to our Schools and Districts page and fill out the form at the bottom.  One of our sales reps will be in touch with you shortly.

We have seen great success in schools where ClassMax is utilized regularly across all teachers and we are excited to see what it can do for your school!

Upload Our Custom Rubrics or Make Your Own!

While there is no argument that tracking progress on standards should be the primary role of data collection in the classroom, any teacher can tell you that there is often much more to asses than standards.  With our Custom Standards Uploading, teachers can upload anything they need to track on a four-point scale.

But today, we make that even easier in a few simple steps!

STEP ONE: Download the rubric(s) you would like from the following links to your desktop.  Once you have downloaded these templates, feel free to edit or make changes to help them best meet the needs of your classroom.

STEP TWO:  Open Settings in your ClassMax dashboard and select Standards.

STEP THREE:  Drag and drop the downloaded rubrics to gray upload box.

And you’re done!  To assess your students on these standards, you’ll select them from the Standards icon in the sidebar on the dashboard.  They will appear under “Custom Standards.”

If you want to make your own rubrics in ClassMax, you can download a blank template and fill in any rubric you would like to score on a four-point scale.  Click here for information on how to create these spreadsheets.

Track on, teacher friends!  

Become a ClassMax Ambassador and Earn $ for Your Classroom!

At ClassMax, we pride ourselves on being a teacher-driven product, which is why we are turning to teachers to help us get the word out about our ClassMax Schools platform.

In a ClassMax School, not only do all teacher have accounts, but administrators have accounts, as well.  The administrator dashboard allows an administrator to see exactly what is going on in their school in real time, at a quick glance.  From here, administrators can run reports by standard, teacher, student, date, tracking element – and so much more!

In addition to the administrator dashboard, our ClassMax Schools have a few added features, such as the ability for a teacher to assign information to any student in the school.  This is especially helpful for push-in teachers who work with many different students, in many different classes.

But perhaps our most popular school feature is our PBIS tracking program, MaxPoints.  In a ClassMax School, teachers are able to give positive behavior points to any student in the school, to groups within their own classes, or to their entire class at one time.  These points accumulate into a student bank of credits, which can then be spent on incentives.

If you think that ClassMax Schools would be something your administration would be interested in hearing more about, become a ClassMax Ambassador!  Set up a meeting with your administrator and one of our team members for a quick virtual demonstration of the entire ClassMax Schools platform.  If your school purchases, you receive $500 for classroom supplies as our way of saying thank you for spreading the word!  But we won’t stop there!  For every school you bring on as a ClassMax School, you’ll receive an additional $250 for your classroom.  So, spread the words, teacher friends, and earn some cool stuff for your own classrooms, too!

To schedule a demo for your school, email katie@classmaxapp.com.

Why is ClassMax Different?

With so many digital tools out there for teachers to use, why use ClassMax?  Let’s find out…

First, ClassMax is the only CMS (classroom management system) that turns teacher observations into tangible data.  Administrators want data to drive instruction, which means there is added step of collecting the data.  Be it from a test, a quiz, a formative assessment, an activity in class, or an exit slip, there has to be something that a child submits and a teacher processes or grades in order to gather data.  With ClassMax, that step can often be eliminated because data is input based on teacher observations.  So, instead of having groups submit their assignments and the teacher having to grade them all (when she probably already knows on her own who is struggling and who is mastering…), ClassMax teachers can input the data based on what they see kids doing in class, as they are working.  Did Abigail ask a low level question?  Did Michael lead his group using academic vocabulary and complex understanding of the standard?  Teachers don’t always need to give an assessment to know how their students are doing.  With ClassMax, those observations are quickly input on our four-point learning scale and they become data that is as effective as those formative assessments you were about to spend three hours grading.  Not only does this save instructional time, but it also gives professional control back to the professional educator (imagine that!).

The second major difference that ClassMax provides is the ability to track just about anything that happens on a daily basis in a classroom in the same place.  Raise your hands, teacher friends, if you have more than three websites used to collect student information, more than three spreadsheets holding data from your students, and more than 10,000 Post-It Notes stuck to your desk with random things you need to remember to log somewhere.  (Raising my hand!)  Data collection is one of those hot issues right now in education and so the solution for many schools has been to COLLECT ALL THE DATA!  But what that translates to in a classroom teacher’s day is pieces of student information in lots of different places.  It makes utilizing data difficult, cumbersome, and time-consuming, which is why so many of us, ultimately, decide it isn’t worth the effort.  With ClassMax, all of your information is stored in one place – ESE accommodations, IEP goals, behavior, attendance, seating charts, hall passes, standards-based progress, and so much more!  With the use of our custom standards upload, teachers can load in any element they want to track on a four-point scale.  Assessing performance within a group?  Looking for research skills in addition to the paper they have to submit?  These are skills that should be assessed, even if they aren’t standards-based.  Using our custom standards uploader, teachers can assess on these skills quickly and efficiently.  The only other tool you should need is your school or district grade book program and you are ready to roll.

Lastly, ClassMax is different because of the structure of our company.  We were founded and created by an 8th grade language arts teacher who needed a tool that collected everything she was required to track in one place and that actually saved her time.  This means that our product is teacher-centric, while so many other CMS platforms are student or district focused.  Our platform uses simple lines, bright colors, and easy to see buttons so that busy teachers can use it quickly on the go.  Along those same lines, ClassMax was originally distributed and sold directly to the classroom teacher at a price point that teachers could afford.  Most CMS programs are marketed and sold to districts or school administrators, which often means that by the time it gets into the hands of the teacher, it is no longer teacher friendly.  Our first and most important customers are teachers.  Always and forever, amen.  While we have ClassMax Schools, the product itself continues to be driven and developed by teachers, making it easy to use on the go and as adaptable and fast-paced as your classroom has to be.

Admittedly, ClassMax isn’t for everyone – no product is.  It works best in a classroom where a teacher has a laptop, tablet, or phone with wifi.  A desktop computer can be difficult to get back and forth to – though we’ve see it done by some of our superusers!  It works best on Chrome or Firefox (or really anything other than Internet Explorer).  It works best with teachers who are self-driven and motivated to improve learning outcomes in their classrooms or by struggling teachers who need some guidance in their classroom management.  But if you can make ClassMax a regular, consistent part of your teaching day, we know that you, too, will understand why ClassMax is different and will see the difference in your own classroom.

Personalized Learning, Standards-Based Grading, and ClassMax

Over the past three to five years, the shift in education towards student-centered and personalized learning has rocked the world of teaching.  I don’t think any good teacher would argue with the concept that giving students the freedom and ownership to express their proficiency in a method of their choosing can be a powerful tool in measuring the outcomes of student learning.  If you haven’t seen this done (or, more importantly, done well), watch the video below on how students in the Pathways program at Kettle Moraine High School in Wales, Wisconsin, are assessed on their learning.

I watch this video and two thoughts immediately come to mind.  “That’s so awesome for those kids!” and “What a nightmare for that teacher!”  (Don’t tell me you didn’t have the same thoughts…)  While assessing students on individualized assessment models is no doubt best practice in this age of education, it often leaves a classroom teacher scratching her head as to how in the world they are going to grade such wide ranging assessments.  Because the truth is that if you tried using your traditional grading methods to grade these very untraditional assessments, you’ll end up frustrated with inaccurate scores.  

So, if traditional grading is out the window, what is the alternative?  To come up with an individual rubric for each individualized assessment?  AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!  And not only do we not have time for that, but it really isn’t a fair process for assessing.  No matter the choice of output, the metric of assessing by the teacher should be the same, and that is why standards-based grading is critical to the success of students and the accuracy of educators.  

When I first began looking at standards-based grading in my classroom, I had quite a few challenges to overcome.  Most importantly, my district, school, and the community I taught in were not even really discussing standards-based grading yet.  If I sent home a grade of “3.6 on RL.2,” I cannot even IMAGINE the kind of parent response I would have gotten.  But I truly believed in the value of standards-based grading for my students and so, like many teachers, I began utilizing a scale of student learning.  It is important to note that some education theories and scholars will advocate not having a 0 on the scale.  But I live in a real world with real students and we all know that there are those sweet angels in our desks that refuse to submit, demonstrate, or produce anything related to their learning.  Because of this, I did use a 0 on my standard-based grading charts.  But, to each their own…

When I first began using standards-based grading, I didn’t use it for every assignment.  I started with only on summative assessments because it was clear – the child either mastered the standard or they didn’t.  Then, I became braver and started using it on formative assessments.  Usually, these were activities done in class and not worksheets or homework that were more traditional in nature.  As my students worked in groups on standards-aligned activities, I assessed them not with a percentage, but with a scale score tied to a specific standard.

Before I developed ClassMax, this scale score was done on a clipboard using a blank excel sheet that I printed out for each class period.  But as I started forming ideas for what a teacher-friendly classroom management tool might look like, my goal was to eliminate any clipboards I was carrying around and replace them with ONE digital tool that could track everything in one place – and I started with my standards-based grading.

With ClassMax, dipping your toe into the standards-based grading pool is a little less intimidating and a whole lot more time efficient.  I didn’t need all these rubrics and matrixes for assessing.  I needed a deconstructed standard and a clear understanding of what I would expect to see at each level of the proficiency scale.  This is where the work of my PLC really became invaluable.  Together with my team, we broke down our most commonly state-assessed standards into proficiency scales, showing what skills we expected to see at each level on the standard and even what language we expected to hear in our students at each level.  Not only did this normalize our assessing across our grade level, but it gave me more confidence in my ability to assess on standards mastery.

(TEACHER TIP:  Got a sucky PLC?  Join someone else’s!  You don’t have to teach the same grade level or even the same subject area to get a wealth of knowledge out of a PLC.  Ask a teacher friend if you can sit in on their PLC meetings, either to soak up information or to participate.)

On assessment days, I would load the standards I was assessing into my ClassMax dashboard and then – armed with my tablet, laptop, or phone – I would begin circling the room as my students worked, marking progress as I cruised.

When it came time to put grades into my grade book, I ran the report on the student and put in the corresponding grade.  I tended to go high on my standards-based grading (mostly to keep parents off my back, if I’m honest…), so if a student scored a 4, I put in a 100%.  If they scored a 3, I put in a 90%… and so on.

With standards-based grading, the rubric is simply the standard language itself.  So, no matter how your students choose to demonstrate their understanding, they are all assessed by the same metric – to what extent have they shown mastery of the standard?

Standards-based grading isn’t for everyone.  But if you’ve been considering it, I encourage you to give it a try.  It gives your students a more personalized learning experience and it expresses a very clear depiction of student learning.  Add with that the ease of collecting scores and data with ClassMax, and you’ve created a classroom environment that encourages students learning through engagement and doesn’t overwork the teacher in the process.  Everybody wins!