Category Archives: Innovative Uses

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!



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!  

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!

3 Ways to Prepare Your Classroom for Success in the 2nd Quarter

While the rest of the world celebrates the arrival of fall with flannel, scarves, and pumpkin-spiced everything, teachers know that the arrival of fall actually signifies a much bigger ending in their classrooms than just summer.  October typically wraps up the first quarter in classroom cadences and with that comes a variety of processes and tasks that only a classroom teacher truly understands.  Bulletin boards are changed with the weather, units of study are often brought to a close, and the dreaded report card hustle begins. There are parent phone calls wondering why their kid is failing even though they have done zero work all quarter and this is the first time you’ve had the parent respond to any type of contact.  We are sending failure reports to admin and student concerns to guidance.  We are re-arranging seating charts based on behavior and maybe even requesting scheduling changes for those students who just need a “fresh start” in a different classroom (bye Felicia…).

With all that chaos, don’t lose sight of these three really important ways that classrooms should be growing and shifting by the end of October:

  1. Your student performance should begin to show an upward trend.  True, Little Timmy still reads three grade levels below where he is supposed to be, but student performance should at least begin to track upwards in October, even for Little Timmy.  Take a look at the results of your first benchmark assessments (probably given in September or early October sometime), but don’t stop there.  Compare those benchmarks with your student progress, either in their grades and assessment scores or in your ClassMax data – or both, if you really want to rock your world.  Who is growing?  Who is not?  Who is (gulp) regressing?  For more information on how to use data to drive rigorous instruction in your classroom, read our article, “Teacher’s Guide: Using Data to Drive Instruction.”
  2. Regroup your students.  Most of us group our kids at the beginning of the school year based on standardized test scores from the previous school year.  In a pinch, that’s a good grouping qualification, but hopefully by the end of October, you are starting to see even a small impact from your own instruction.  Take some time at the end of the first quarter to re-evaluate your student groups.  Perhaps now that you have more data (thanks to ClassMax, wink, wink…), you should be able to group in multiple ways – by performance on standards, by overall grades, by learning types, etc.  Take a look at your data and begin forming meaningful groups for your second quarter of instruction.
  3. Send home behavior reports.  While report cards are a fine mode of parent contact, if you’ve been collecting behavior data on your students, why not attach those reports to report cards as well?  And for fun, go ahead and require the behavior report be brought back in for a completion grade in the 2nd quarter.  This way, you are making meaningful parent contact and covering yourself a bit by sharing what you have seen in your classroom with parents.  (TEACHER TIP: I used to print labels that said “Parent Signature” and “Date” on them and I put those on just about anything – tests, quizzes, behavior reports, etc.  It’s an easy way to make parent contact without… you know… making parent contact…)  Are you an overachieving, going-for-gold-stars teacher?  Go ahead and print a cumulative ClassMax student report and send home EVERYTHING you’ve collected on your students.  (If your school is a PBIS school, you might be interested in our ClassMax Schools platform that tracks behavior with MaxPoints™.)

As your second quarter kicks off, save yourself some time to focus on instruction – shocking, I know – by ending the first quarter successfully.  A little upfront work can make for a much smoother quarter and a much happier teacher.

Pumpkin spiced lattes help, too.

How to Use the Notes Feature of ClassMax

If you’re anything like me, you have 10,000 sticky notes stuck to your teacher desk in your classroom.  These are usually things that pop up in the course of my school day that I intend to put into my files or record-keeping after school has ended.  Join me in ditching those sticky notes and utilize the note-taking feature of ClassMax.  Watch the video tutorial below to learn how.

How to Track Progress on ClassMax

The original purpose of ClassMax was to be able to assess all students in the classroom on multiple standards in under two minutes, without giving an assessment or having to wait for me to grade an assignment.  With the progress monitoring feature using Marzano’s four-point scales, teachers are able to do this quickly and accurately in their classrooms.  You can even upload custom tracking components, such as IEP goals, BIP goals, preschool standards, life skills, or project skills and requirements.  For more information on how to upload custom standards, click here.

Watch this quick video tutorial for how to use the progress monitoring feature of ClassMax.