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As school districts all over the world begin to resume, Covid-19 has made business anything but usual. While students traditionally head back to an on-campus learning environment, a new normal has pushed educators to rewrite the rules this year. The results caused some schools to reopen fall semester virtually, while others have taken a cautious hybrid approach. Whatever the decision, the foreseeable future is unknown. The resounding questions in the minds of so many are: What now? What next?


In the midst of safety protocols, face masks, and double the amount of hand sanitizer, we have seen educators grab their masks, collect their resources, and set instructional goals to ensure learning continues for all students. When asked what the priorities for school restart would be, educators stated things like helping students feel safe, recovering and learning skills, supporting parents with students learning virtually, and much more. As a fellow educator, I understand the priority to give students and families what they need to feel supported. But what I have learned is that if teachers have the tools and resources they need to help support instruction, they also feel supported. That’s exactly the purpose of our instructional connections.

What are instructional connections?
NWEA collaborates with an extensive array of instructional partners to help schools and districts get more from tools they’re already using. Instructional leaders like National Geographic, Edmentum, Learning A–Z, and many others help connect assessment data to instruction, providing next steps and instructional support for teachers while allowing students to have a personalized learning experience. Instructional connections create ease of use, save teachers time, and support students at all levels of learning.


New instructional connection announcement

We are happy to announce our newest connection, Teacher Advisor, which targets math students in grades 3–8. Teacher Advisor is a free, online instructional planning tool that connects teachers with high-quality, standards-aligned lessons and differentiated grade-level content. Teacher Advisor gives teachers instructional guidance while supporting student personalization, all in just three clicks.


Check out all the instructional connections from NWEA, including Teacher Advisor.


If your school is a partner with any of the connections, or you’re looking to partner with them in the future, let us know!

As we continue to shift to accommodate a new normal, teachers are at the forefront, facilitating learning opportunities that fit the needs of all students.


Thank you for your dedication and continued hard work. From one educator to another, we appreciate you.



Misty Hodge is a former classroom teacher and instructional coach. She is currently a Product Marketing Manager with NWEA. 

Formative assessment—involving teacher-led formal and informal check-ins during the learning process to measure understanding and make in-the-moment instructional decisions—becomes a more fundamental part of learning each day. As students and teachers adapt to learning in new circumstances, it may be more important than ever.

I sat down with Erin Beard, MEd, EdD, a content designer for the Professional Learning team and formative expert at NWEA, to discuss the role of formative assessment in the classroom, how to make the best use of it in remote and hybrid classrooms, and a new resource from NWEA that teachers can use to get started. Erin’s responses have been edited for length and clarity.


Thanks for speaking with me! Let’s start with the basics: What do you do in your role as a content designer on the Professional Learning team?

I get to work on our assessment literacy and formative assessment projects! We're trying, as an organization, to do a better job of (a) connecting to the bigger picture of how to use assessment processes as tools for learning and (b) highlighting the power of using assessments as part of a process for learning rather than a periodic event.


I’m pretty passionate about making sure we use assessments in the context of partnership, too, and to me that means remembering that assessment isn’t something that we do to other people, but with them.


The ultimate aim of adopting a formative assessment approach is to make students agents of their own learning. So really, it’s about building in the metacognition—helping students see themselves taking ownership, which gradually shifts responsibility from teachers. That can also take pressure off teachers and put it back into the students' hands, but in an empowering way. That's the goal. It's easier said than done, but that's the goal.


How has your role changed since teaching and learning went online last spring?

I started full-time at NWEA in July 2020, and I came from the classroom; most recently, eighth-grade social studies. And in my classroom, even when we were face-to-face, I leveraged digital tools. I’m a big believer in digital tools, not as entertainment or busywork, but as supports for learning. So I’ve been taking some of my experiences with digital tools in the classroom and sharing them internally with colleagues and externally with partners.


For example, I use several free tools that can operate as formative assessment checks for understanding, like Socrative. I brought that to my team to explore how we might leverage it, and I’m also asking them to bring new ideas. As they're talking to partners, as they're looking at their social media feeds, what do they notice that people aren't using or what are they using? What are teachers already using for formative checks that we might adopt?


Of course, it’s 2020, so we all have to be more nimble, but that’s been an opportunity to try new digital tools and cool solutions. On my team, we're swapping ideas partially for ourselves as designers and facilitators, and we also have the opportunity to find new ways to make sure we’re designing our professional learning workshops that “walk the walk” of formative practices.


The Professional Learning team is doing a lot around formative assessment this fall. Can you tell me more about that?

A lot of the work we do is around the idea of helping educators create a balanced assessment system for their districts. And that means we—educators and the partners who support them—understand that different assessments have different purposes, and it’s critical to choose the proper process for the task at hand.


For example, there's definitely a time and place for summative assessments—the kinds of processes that certify student understanding—and that can be in smaller contexts, like at the end of the unit, or it can be in bigger contexts, like the end of a grade band. But if we misuse them, that's a problem. In a balanced assessment system, summative assessments are used in coordination with, and complemented by, other assessments.


So really what we're trying to do is work with school districts to rebalance, and in this case it means trusting that if we invest in solid formative processes, summative will take care of itself—that is, get used for its intended purpose. That way, we’re not devoting as much energy to large-scale assessments, but instead we’re focusing on the day-to-day classroom needs, because the smaller processes are far more responsive to immediate teacher and student needs.


For classroom teachers ready to focus on that rebalance, how would you suggest they begin, especially with the added challenge of remote or hybrid learning?

I know it's exciting and terrifying all at the same time, especially for educators who maybe didn't dabble in lots of digital tools before. (AUTHOR’S NOTE: Check out this article from Teach. Learn. Grow. all about tools and tricks for adapting formative practices in remote classrooms.) What I've heard and what I've felt is teachers have had to shift and adjust so they’re focused and clear on:

1. What the learning goal is
2. Which tool is going to get them there (or get them there the fastest)


Not everything needs to be done fast, but moving quickly helps so we don't lose engagement and attention. In the classroom you might have the luxury of zigging and zagging; with remote, not so much—because sometimes just trying to get students into a remote situation is harder. So being very clear about the learning goal (How am I going to get them there? Which tool is going to work the best?) is a focus that’s really working for our partner teachers.

That’s been helpful for me, because starting with those questions lets me take action right away.


The Professional Learning team just released a free eBook all about leveraging formative assessment to supercharge instruction. Can you tell me more about your article?

The piece I got to work on is something I feel passionate about. My angle was all about looking at the intersection of solid, healthy assessment practices with trauma and stress-informed practices—and making the point that those aren’t two separate things.


If we invest in formative assessment that's responsive to our learners with a goal of releasing responsibility to them, we are also doing trauma-informed practices. Providing clear goals, clear structures to hit those goals, and knowing our students well enough to be able to help make those decisions—that all intersects. It's the same work, which for me is really when it feels like, “Oh, okay, I'm not a therapist. I have not been trained to be a clinician. But I know my kids are hurting. And especially this year, they experienced a lot. Where do I start?” Okay. Well, if I do my job really well, I actually am helping them, and it's all aligned.

Special thanks to Erin Beard for taking the time to share her insights with Show of Hands. For additional resources or support with formative assessment, visit the NWEA Resource Center or our Teach. Learn. Grow. blog.

Fostering an inclusive, anti-racist classroom isn’t just a one-time event. It requires deliberate, consistent practice. Whether you’re teaching and learning remotely, on-site, or in a hybrid model, there are always opportunities to include perspectives and ideas from traditionally marginalized groups.

September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. To mark this annual celebration of the culture and contribution of Americans with Hispanic and Latinx ancestry, we’ve curated a collection of quotations from authors, thinkers, policymakers, artists, and more. Use these wise words to adorn bulletin boards, message boards, virtual classrooms, assignment sheets, or anywhere else students may need an inspirational boost. They also make great icebreakers to promote thoughtful discussions, this month and beyond.

1. “The point is not to pay back kindness, but to pass it on.”—Julia Alvarez, poet, novelist


2. "I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn't that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark."—Elizabeth Acevedo, from the young adult novel The Poet X


3. “Everything good that’s ever happened to me came out of helping others.”—Danny Trejo, actor, entrepreneur


4. “In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don’t always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor.”—Julián Castro, 2020 presidential candidate, former secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development


5. “In every position that I’ve been in, there have been naysayers who don’t believe I’m qualified or who don’t believe I can do the work. And I feel a special responsibility to prove them wrong.”—Sonia Sotomayor, associate justice of the US Supreme Court


6. "Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures."—Cesar Chavez, Labor leader, organizer


7. "Raise a glass to freedom/Something they can never take away/No matter what they tell you."—Lin-Manuel Miranda from the musical Hamilton.


8. “We are always going to have prejudices … I don’t think we can change society. You can only change individual by individual. And you can change yourself.”—Esmeralda Santiago, author, actress


9. "I tell students that the opportunities I had were a result of having a good educational background. Education is what allows you to stand out."—Ellen Ochoa, astronaut, engineer


10. "You are not lucky to be here. The world needs your perspective. They are lucky to have you."—Antonio Tijerino, president & CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation


11. “You owe it to yourself to figure out who you are, but you don’t owe it to anyone else to explain or defend it.”—Soledad O’Brien, journalist, producer


12. “If you have a chance to accomplish something that will make things better for people coming behind you, and you don’t do that, you are wasting your time on this earth.”—Roberto Clemente, baseball player, philanthropist

Have a quotation that didn’t make this list? Share it with us in the comments.

Did you miss the previous issue of Show of Hands? Check out the archives for articles on anti-racism resources, our free Professional Learning video series, tips from teachers on how to build relationships in the remote classroom, and even a playing card for smart restart bingo.


Dive in and share with a colleague or planning partner who could use a bonus-issue boost!

As we enter a fall school term like no other, there is little doubt that teachers across the country and around the world are needing support and resources to keep learning on track. Over the summer, our team at NWEA focused on building out the best resources we could to support you. We are excited to share the new Teacher Toolkit! We hope this bank of resources will help you help your students and work alongside families. Here are just a few highlights of what you can find:


  • A space created to support teachers using MAP Growth or MAP Reading Fluency in a remote testing environment.
  • Guidance and resources to help you support your students after they have tested. Here you’ll find tools for setting goals, along with guidance on reports, using the data, and connecting students to online instructional resources.
  • Quick access links to key resources and support including the help center, reports logins, RIT reference charts, and product updates.
  • Support for communicating with families, including resources for helping families understand MAP Growth and access to examples of parent communications. You can also leverage the new Family/Teacher Planning tool, designed with Learning Heroes, to bring teachers and families together in support of students.
  • Videos and information to illustrate the student experience.


We also improved our Family Toolkit, so you can direct families to resources designed to assist them in understanding MAP, preparing to test at home, or just supporting their learners.

In the Show of Hands newsletter, we will continue to seek out and bring you timely, relevant, and actionable information, as well as (hopefully) some inspiration, tips to help you stay sane, and maybe a chuckle or two. Because we probably could all use a bit more laughter and inspiration in our days about now.

Teachers: we believe in you. Year after year we see your resilience, your courage, and your passion. We know you’re being asked to tap into it like never before and we want you to know we stand with you. You keep all of us inspired. We are incredibly proud to partner with you. Thank you, thank you for all you do.

This summer, NWEA released the MAP Growth Goal Explorer, a free online tool to help students, teachers, and families simplify the goal-setting process. Show of Hands sat down with Dr. Nate Jensen, director of the Center for School and Student Progress at NWEA and one of the architects behind this new solution. Nate’s responses have been edited for length and clarity


Why is goal setting so important for students, teachers, and families?

We know that the expectations we should have for kids differ, depending on their achievement level. We can have different expectations for our highest achievers than we do for our lowest achievers. To put it differently, average growth for some kids might be fine and for others, it's not enough. Kids who make average growth are just going to stay on about the same achievement level. So if you've got a 30th-percentile kid, below average, who makes typical growth, they're going to stay about the 30th percentile. That's not good, right? We want to accelerate those kids, especially now, in a world where we think kids are likely going to have taken a step backwards after [COVID closures]. What kind of steps are needed to get every kid to the places they need to go?


What is MAP Growth Goal Explorer, and how can it support goal setting?

MAP Growth Goal Explorer is an online tool to help generate goals based on a student’s grade level and RIT scores. We built this tool because goal setting can be very amorphous. We want to balance what is meaningful with what is realistic.

So the goal of the Goal Explorer is really twofold:

1. To help parents, families, teachers, and students really evaluate what goals would be meaningful for them.

2. And then give them information in plain language, focusing on qualitative rather than quantitative information.



How do you envision teachers and families using this tool?

Given that we're starting the year in a largely virtual way—students aren't going to know the teacher, the teacher isn't going to know the student, the teacher isn't going to know the families, etc.—we viewed this as a starting point for a conversation.

A teacher could enter a student's information into this tool and have a conversation with the student about their achievement and their goals. More importantly, teachers will be able to print, save a copy, and share with a parent.

It’s freely available—any partner, any parent, or anybody who's not a partner can access it. We want to help start a conversation about where students are starting the year and where we're trying to get them by the end of the year. It’s all about setting rigorous expectations without setting kids up to fail.




Creating this tool was a cross-team effort. Can you share more about some of the research and collaboration that went into this project?

With MAP Growth Goal Explorer, we situate growth relative to average achievement for that grade and subject, based on the 2020 norms; to state proficiency cut scores, leveraging our linking studies; and to college readiness, which is leveraging ACT data. So we're leveraging a lot of our research within this tool.

But one of the things I'm most pleased with is that we didn't just build a research tool, we went out to our Professional Learning team and got their perspective. We also connected with our Partner Experience team and engaged with external consultants to make sure everything we were doing was with usability in mind.

The MAP Growth Goal Explorer is available now. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below. The team is excited to make updates and developments as they receive feedback from teachers and families.



Erin Ryan joined NWEA as senior writer in 2018. A former teacher and student of education policy, she enjoys sharing stories and new ideas to support student learning.

When school restarts in the coming weeks, teaching and learning will take on a different look than ever before. Depending on the district or state, schools may completely reopen for instruction, resume teaching and learning at home, or some a combination of the two. With uncertainty around a resurgence of the virus, educators are essentially tasked with making plans out of sand, unsure of when a tide of potential closures could wash in.


But this hasn’t stopped teachers from preparing for the school year. With school ending abruptly in spring and some students not starting fall classes in person, the primary challenges may include establishing relationships and fostering school and classroom community. How do you accomplish that from behind a screen, or with just two or three days a week in a classroom?


I reached out to teachers from across the country to hear their ideas and share some of my favorites with Show of Hands readers.


At press time, Jane S.V., a second-grade teacher in Minnesota, is unsure whether or not she’ll be at her school or teaching remotely this fall. Either way, she’ll lean on diverse literature to help students feel welcome in her classroom and the community.


“Living in Minneapolis, diversity in our literature is huge this year,” she says. With picture books like Jacqueline Woodson’s The Day You Begin, “We can have a shared reading experience, make connections to the text, and get to know each other.”


Cindy B., a veteran middle school teacher in Wisconsin, is prioritizing routine and structure to give kids the boundaries they need (even if they push back).


“[Safety and predictability] are two things kids will really need, and this is one way I can give it to them as there are so many factors I cannot control in terms of the safety and predictability of the world.”


To foster that feeling of safety, especially in the wake of COVID-19 and state violence against Black and Brown people, Cindy plans to give students the additional time and space to process big feelings and current events.


“As a history teacher, I always tell my students that they are creating history every day, and that one of the key reasons for learning history is so that we learn from it and hopefully don't repeat history's mistakes,” she says. “I will give them guiding questions but also allow for open-ended writing.”


She hopes the activity will inspire reflection and give students the opportunity to share what they need from her, too.


For high school earth science teacher Annie P., building relationships is more of an art.


“Many of my students told me straight up that they only did my work because we were ‘cool.’” Annie says.


To create those relationships in a remote environment, she plans on doing warm-up free-writing questions that help her get to know her students better—nothing related to science or what’s happening in the textbook. She also invites students to share on what she calls Fun Fact Friday, with questions like: What was your best Halloween costume?


“They all say they hate [it] but get mad if we forget or interrupt [it.]” Annie says. “Non-academic stuff really hooks my students.”


The transition to middle school is challenging even without the backdrop of a pandemic. That’s why Amanda P., a sixth-grade teacher in Washington, D.C., begins building community ahead of the school year.


“[The] sixth-grade team [is] setting up 15-minute virtual sessions for parents/students to sign up for so we can get to know each other prior to the school year and properly welcome them to middle school,” she says.


They’re also sending cards signed by the teachers to each student, and dropping off treat bags with their teacher’s favorite candy, a pencil, and the grade-level motto. The community building continues throughout the early weeks of school with Joy Week, an entire week of sessions focused on happiness with small-group activities, icebreakers, and get-to-know-you activities prior to launching a curriculum. Students will also use digital discussion boards to share photos and videos of summer activities and their home workspaces to help get to know each other.


Heather B., a high school Spanish teacher in Nebraska, leverages digital tools to connect with her students. From a get-to-know-you survey about how students learn best in “normal times” to using breakout rooms on video meeting platforms like Zoom and assigning each group specific tasks. And because keeping it personal is always a hit, she had Bring Your Dog to School Day, a feat that’s much easier when school is at the couch or kitchen table.


Georgia W., dean of curriculum for a Florida charter school, learned a lot from her teachers and colleagues during the spring shutdown, especially when it came to community building.


“The most successes I saw in virtual learning came from the deep relationships teachers formed with one another and families,” Georgia says. “Home visits with social distancing often helped our kids more than any lesson. We must not forget the social aspect of school if we go back to virtual. This goes for adults and kids.”


To continue to foster school community at home, teachers joined in on each other’s lessons to help with moral support and online classroom management. They also kept students engaged with socially distanced fun, including pep rallies, dance parties, and online movie nights.


“We even had our end-of-year ceremonies, which meant so much to kids and teachers,” Georgia says. “This year this must be a focus in order to keep the love going.”


And that’s the whole ball game, isn’t it? There’s no telling how the school year will unfold, but if it can begin with a foundation of caring, welcoming, and joy, there’s a good chance the kids will be alright.




Erin Ryan joined NWEA as senior writer in 2018. A former teacher and student of education policy, she enjoys sharing stories and new ideas to support student learning.

With an abrupt end to on-site teaching and learning in the spring, how will teachers solve for the interrupted and unfinished learning needs of their students?


Presented by NWEA Strategic Content Design Coordinator Brooke Mabry, this edWebinar offers educators ideas for developing plans and processes to prioritize missed or interrupted standards. Brooke will also cover how to leverage the formative assessment cycle to guide instructional planning.

Recorded in June, this free session is available now on demand.

This spring, NWEA Professional Learning introduced a free video series, Empowering Students as Independent Learners. Designed with school closures and remote learning in mind, this series explores strategies to encourage self-direction and supportive self-management, along with formative instructional practices. Hosted by Strategic Content Design Coordinator Brooke Mabry, these 20–30-minute video sessions provide resources, research-based ideas, and frameworks for teachers to support and empower student learning.


Curious what you’ll learn from each video? Get a sneak peek below before checking out the entire series on YouTube.

Trying on the Six Thinking Hats

In this session, Brooke details the Six Thinking Hats, a formative instructional practice to engage multiple types of thinking. Viewers will learn how to use this strategy, and how to empower their own students to be nimble in their thinking to creatively make decisions and solve problems.


Engaging students in goal setting and monitoring progress

No matter where instruction happens, teachers should continue to empower students to work toward individual and class-wide goals. This session, Brooke shares concrete steps for engaging students in developing and tracking their own goals. She even welcomes a special guest, her own fourth-grader, to help model a coaching conversation. Links to student-friendly goal-setting templates are available as a free download to use, modify, and share.


Pause, think, act

It turns out the old adage “think before you speak” was only the beginning. Brooke takes a deep dive into strategies for developing students’ mindfulness and metacognition in this session, and she shares a straightforward process for fostering student development of cognition to improve self-management and self-direction. Brooke also shares specific strategies for building on these skills in the remote classroom.


Embracing a growth mindset

Brooke goes beyond the buzzword to take a closer look at growth mindset, explaining how to support and cultivate it in remote and on-site classrooms.


These videos are designed with you in mind. Start and stop as your time allows, download the additional printable guides and materials, and share with your colleagues and planning partners. Tell us in the comments what resonates with you and what you’d like to see more of. Our professional learning consultants are here to help you support the next generation of doers, thinkers, and dreamers.



Erin Ryan joined NWEA as senior writer in 2018. A former teacher and student of education policy, she enjoys sharing stories and new ideas to support student learning.

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky sparked protests across the United States and around the globe, as people united across race and ethnicity to stand up for Black lives in the wake of state violence.


All of us have learning and unlearning to do to dismantle the stranglehold white supremacy has on our institutions. As leaders in the classroom and the community, teachers at every level have been called to do their part to make their school community welcoming, inclusive, and anti-racist. Why aren’t the first two enough? Because racism and white supremacy are deeply ingrained in our schools, our legal system, housing, medical care, and environmental policy. As much as we want it to, love and positive thinking can’t undo that. Only deliberate steps to educate and change policy and practice are going to have the impact we need. So let’s start there.

Earlier this summer, I wrote a piece for Teach. Learn. Grow., the NWEA education blog, about the books educators should consider adding to their personal reading syllabus. Today, I want to share some ideas and resources you can use in your classroom.


The Empathy Lab

Poetry and literature can help students make connections to the new concepts and the world around them. As we foster an anti-racist school community, understanding and making considerations for others is central, but it’s a skill that must be practiced. The Empathy Lab is a UK-based non-profit working to “build children’s empathy, literacy and social activism through a systematic use of high-quality literature.” The organization publishes annual Read for Empathy book collections grouped by age that celebrate and highlight different cultures and lived experiences. Here’s the list for students ages four to 11, and the list for students 11 to 16.


Let’s Talk! Facilitating Critical Conversations with Students
As much as we want to do better for our students and communities, some of these issues—police violence, mass incarceration, white privilege—can be really difficult to talk about. This free, downloadable guide from Teaching Tolerance provides easy-to-implement strategies you can use to facilitate conversations with your students.


Connect with established organizations in your community
No one expects you to be an expert on issues of racial justice. Acknowledge where your gaps are and work to fill them by connecting with established groups in your community. This may look like building relationships with community partners like the NAACP or the Urban League. It may mean networking with leaders within traditionally underrepresented communities to learn more about the history of the neighborhoods your school serves. A lot of this work tends to happen around Black History Month, but it needs to happen throughout the year to make lasting connections.


A video primer for anti-racist white educators
Terry Jess and Luke Michener, two white, male teachers in Washington, took it upon themselves to acknowledge their gaps and learn more about white supremacy, racial inequality, and how they can better serve students in their classrooms. The result is a collection of YouTube videos, including a 10-part series specifically for other white educators navigating these issues.


Resources from Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action
Curated by D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice, this is a comprehensive collection of readings, teaching guides, posters, lesson plans, and films divided by grade level that celebrate different cultures, ethnicities, and gender identities. There are even resources in Spanish and Arabic. This is a deep treasure trove of materials and ideas. Consider sharing with your grade-level team and exploring together so you don’t miss anything.


We can all do our part to build an anti-racist school community, one that specifically supports the health, safety, and education of Black students. It starts with each of us, and if anyone has the power to get the job done, it’s educators.



Erin Ryan joined NWEA as senior writer in 2018. A former teacher and student of education policy, she enjoys sharing stories and new ideas to support student learning.


As we continue to navigate our new normal, I wanted to take a moment to connect with all of you, the very heart of our schools and communities.


I’ve had the opportunity to speak with educators all over the country and one thing is abundantly clear, teachers are rising to this incredible challenge with grace, creativity, and heart. It is truly inspiring and a reminder to all of us of what’s possible when we work together and think big for our students. 

Our priority continues to be the health and well-being of our staff and partners. As we continue to socially distance, our Show of Hands team put together an issue that is relevant to our current reality. You’ll find resources for teacher self-care, an interview with an expert on social emotional learning, and original research exploring the impact COVID-19 school closures may have on student learning.


As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, I’ve never been prouder to work alongside educators like you. From all of us at NWEA, we are with you. Let’s continue to work together in partnership as we chart a path toward re-open. For now, please stay safe and healthy.


Chris Minnich

Like most of our beloved spring traditions, Teacher Appreciation Week will look different this year. Add it to the ever-growing list of small griefs and moments that are lost, without warning. But it didn’t feel right to let this special week fall to the wayside. So, while you can’t celebrate another year of a job well done alongside your colleagues and students, we want to extend our gratitude. 


Thank you for leaving extra room in your heart for our kids. You take on the emotional labor that comes with loving so fiercely and without reservation. You see them, root for them, celebrate them, and fight for them. They are “your kids” too, and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Thank you for sharing your limitless imaginations with us. You are truly innovators, doing more with less and not letting technical or geographical limitations stop you from keeping your students connected and engaged. From online conversations, to home visits through glass doors, to parades of cars driving through neighborhoods—you are there. You are a constant in a world that is anything but. You are an unstoppable force for good in a scary, worrisome time. Your work makes their day. That makes ours.



While we cheer for doctors, nurses, and medical teams out of our windows each night, know we’re cheering for you too. We ring the bell for our heroes on the home front, who rearranged the entire educational system almost overnight. We honor you as you are still planning, still teaching, still connecting, and still leading during an international crisis. We don’t know how you do it. And you do it all with families and concerns of your own.



We grieve alongside you for a school year unfinished. Goodbyes unsaid. For a safe place indefinitely closed, for kids who may be hungry or on their own during the day. We miss “normal”, whatever it was. But in moments of optimism, we imagine what recovery will look like. We know it will come. We know the world won’t feel “right” until you’re back in your classroom.



This Teacher Appreciation Week won’t look like the others. It may be quiet, or more reflective. It may be celebrated with more emoji than usual, maybe even a meme or two. But one thing it won’t do is go unnoticed. Because the work you do is essential and worthy of celebration. This virus can change a lot of things, but we won’t let it change that.

From all of us at Show of Hands: thank you, thank you, thank you.

During times of drastic change, educators may find themselves engaging in new ways with students, with content, and even with their instructional styles. With great change comes a greater need for self-care.


Educators, give yourself permission to make self-care a priority. We are conduits for the people we serve, and the best way to serve others is to be your best self.


However, the life of a teacher can be so busy that it’s hard to find time for self-care. Here are a few simple techniques you can use to incorporate self-care into your routine in a way that can be mutually beneficial for you and your students.



Shake it out.

Move what’s weighing you down. Taking a one-minute dance break helps to release tension and move pent-up energy. Plato said that music gives “wings to the mind,” and this short exercise can help free up space in the mind so that both you and your students can think more clearly and become more productive.
In the same way that you know when there’s a high level of anxiety among your students, they can also sense when you’re stressed. Take either of these as cues that it’s time to have one minute of movement.

Talk it out.

Allow space to release. You and your students need a safe space to share your thoughts and feelings, particularly about situations that may be stressful. Begin by sharing what you feel. Consider the “Yes, and…” technique when you respond to students, which will allow everyone to have their words either affirmed or reframed, both of which encourage a positive perspective. When someone replies by saying “Yes, and…” followed with a positive reframe (if it was a negative feeling) or added context to affirm what was stated (if it was a positive feeling), powerful things happen. The simple act of saying “Yes, and…” validates the person’s feelings without judgment. I find that this exercise is a great way to transition between activities, or when dealing with something new.


Cut it out.

Carve space for support by assigning roles to everyone. You have the responsibility of helping your entire classroom succeed, which is a lot of work! It’s important to establish structured roles within the classroom community so that the onus of success is on everyone.

Assigning roles to students not only helps with classroom management, but it also instills a sense of confidence and pride. Consider having roles that support everyone’s emotional well-being, such as an Accountability Partner (where a student checks in regularly to assess their progress toward goals) or a Champion Partner (where a student provides encouragement and support). You can model this practice by first assigning roles to people in your life. These roles can work in the virtual classroom too.

The data don’t lie
Each of the techniques I’ve suggested provides an outlet for your stress and anxiety—and your students’ too. Researchers have found that when kids express their thoughts in a healthy manner, their test scores significantly increase, “particularly for students for whom test anxiety had become a habit.” Another research study revealed that “Students with low-stress teachers had the highest test scores and the best behavior.”

The daily process of teaching and learning can be stressful for everyone. Make self-care a priority for yourself and your students. Keep it simple by starting today with what you have: your love for teaching, yourself, and the students you serve.


A former middle school math teacher, instructional coach, workshop facilitator, trainer, and consultant, Fenesha Hubbard is passionate about creating authentic learning experiences and helping others grow. She’s currently a content designer on the Professional Learning Design team at NWEA.

Portions of this article first appeared on Teach. Learn. Grow.. It was edited by the author and used here with permission.

As COVID-19 redefines “normal” across the country, students, teachers, and families do their best to make progress at home, in whatever form it may take. With distance learning efforts underway with the help of video chats, apps, and paper packets, one component of student learning is often left out of the conversation—social emotional learning (SEL). SEL is often described by what it’s not: anything related to traditional academics. It’s the skills, attitudes, and behaviors that help kids be successful in and out of the classroom.

To learn more about SEL, I interviewed Dr. Karyn Lewis, senior research scientist in the Center for School and Student Progress at NWEA. Karyn has a background in social psychology, with an emphasis on SEL, school climate, and students’ sense of belonging. We set out to learn more about how SEL will be impacted by COVID-19 closures, and what teachers and families can do now, or when schools reopen to support students through this shared trauma. Karyn’s responses were edited for length and clarity.


As I understand it, SEL are those non-academic skills or behaviors that help people build relationships. Is it essentially, how to be a human? What kind of skills are we talking about? 

I think you could ask ten different people and get ten different answers. Things like managing their emotions, controlling their behavior, connecting proactively and productively with peers, making good decisions. It really runs the gamut. And I think schools have, and should, define what it means for their population specifically, to honor the unique types of kids that they're serving.


For early learners, some of these SEL skills and behaviors are embedded in their standards. Does that continue as they get older?

You're right that it is really well represented in what we expect of preschoolers. But we've had this interesting trend of kind of just letting that drop off after kindergarten. And I think in the last five years or so, schools have started to recognize that this is something to be purposefully developing in older students. And we're seeing more and more states and districts develop standards around social-emotional learning.


What do you think are some of the hold-ups to making this more widely accepted?

We know that social and emotional development is really different from academic development. It's not a linear trajectory over time, like we expect with math skills, where at every increasing age we expect new and linear trends in development. It peaks and valleys, depending on kids' experiences in the classroom and outside the classroom. So that is a challenge that prevents us from having a really accurate picture of what we should expect at each developmental milestone.


Let’s talk about SEL in the context of COVID-19. Researchers at NWEA used data on summer learning loss to develop possible scenarios for how school closures will impact student learning. Can something similar be done for SEL?

We know that trauma and chronic stress can be really impactful on the kinds of skills we put in this bucket—things like the ability to pay attention, regulate our emotion, regulate our behavior. Research shows a really strong link between experiencing [trauma] and having a hard time with those kinds of capacities. So it is very much based in relationships and kids' experiences.



So depending on what that looks like for some students in this pause, I think we very much can expect that we're going to see some real challenges and struggles when kids get back in the classroom.


Will these challenges look different for older students?

This isn't just something that's going to pertain to younger kids. I think we should expect it for students of all ages. I think we should expect it in adults as well. We are all able to fall victim to the impact of trauma and chronic stress.

I know for me, when I am feeling anxious, it comes out as irritability. And I think, "Oh my goodness. What are the words coming out of my mouth right now?" But it's human nature to have this kind of behavior when we're under really, really stressful and trying times.


Is there anything that teachers can do to help students now, or is it something that can wait until they’re back in the classroom?

I think what's really powerful is that the best thing we can do is really focus on relationships, connecting teachers and students, connecting students to one another. Because the most healing way to combat trauma is to focus on well-being and relationships.


I've seen a couple of articles that ask questions like, "How can you continue your SEL instruction remotely?" And I think at this point what is best is to think less about developing individual social-emotional competencies like goal setting and adopting a growth mindset, and instead change the conversation to be about how can we support students and teachers' social-emotional well-being. The number one way to do that is to make sure we're connecting with one another, and just checking in, and focusing on well-being, in contrast with any kind of skill development.


Some schools or districts are unable to do virtual distance learning, and some students may not be able to keep up with it at home due to age, learning needs, etc., so maintaining those relationships is difficult. When students return to school, what can teachers do to make up for lost time, so to speak?

I think it's going to be really useful to reframe our narrative when we return to school in the fall. Let’s not think about how we can hit the ground running. Let's pause and allow the time and space that adults and children are going to need to recover from this. And I think that really involves being gentle with ourselves and our students, and just letting this unfold. I think there's some research-based ways to support things like emotion processing and connection that we can pay attention to, but it's going to be really important to just give time and space to grieve what was lost and come back together and start rebuilding those relationships.


Can you talk about some strategies that may be helpful when we’re back together again?

I think as adults, it will go a long way to provide those kind of emotional and psychological scaffolds to process this experience that are going to be really important. So that will be things like just giving time and space to talk about emotions. Writing assignments and journaling can even be incorporated now into distance learning, to help kids write about what this experience has been like for them and what's challenging.



But overall, it’s critical that we’re sure that the focus of what we're doing when we come back together is reconnecting, and ensuring kids are feeling connected to their teachers and one another. And I think that emphasis on connection means that we need to spend time thinking about our school and our classroom climate first and foremost, as opposed to panicking about all the instruction that's been lost and getting kids caught up to where we wish they were. We need to meet kids where they're at, make our priority their well-being, and figure out how we can connect with them to support them in that space.

And what about teachers and staff? How will COVID-19 closures impact adults in schools and classrooms?

We know that student trauma is going to work its way up and impact teachers, and they're going to have a really heavy emotional burden now and in the future coping with this. I just hope we can encourage teachers to give space to that. Having a peer network of other teachers that are going through the same thing to debrief with, to process with, to support one another is going to be really critical.


If you want to learn more about SEL, visit CASEL [The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning] online. For ideas on self-care for teachers, read our article from Fenesha Hubbard in Show of Hands.

Erin Ryan joined NWEA as senior writer in 2018. A former teacher and student of education policy, she enjoys using her word-**** status to support student learning.

Posted on behalf of Danielle Kerns

Winter testing in MAP Growth is an important check-in to ensure that students are on track to meet their end-of-year growth goals in spring. The goal strands in a MAP Growth assessment can help identify areas of strength or concern for a student, and whether they should be supported or challenged with differentiated instruction in a particular area. The information teachers receive from a mid-year MAP Growth test can help guide whole-classroom instruction by measuring the effectiveness of their curriculum and aid in determining if each student’s needs are being met.


Overall growth between fall and winter can also give students confidence by showing them that they are succeeding—and it can also prepare them for end-of-year assessments that are just around the corner.



MAP Growth reports are your go-to resource to dive deep into the data and easily analyze the information that is most important to you. So which reports do we recommend? Let’s start with some of the most important questions to ask.


How can I see how all of my students performed on their winter test and what specific areas we should be focusing on?
The Class Breakdown report by RIT or Goal breaks out your class performance by student, and places them into 10-point RIT bands in specific goal areas. If you view the report by Goal, it will connect you with the learning continuum and provide meaningful learning statements that can be used in the classroom.



How can I support each student individually and customize their learning paths to success?
The Student Profile report reflects individual student progress and helps you set custom growth goals outside of what is typical for average growth. Setting custom goals in this report will not impact projected growth met in other reports. This report is ideal for sharing with students and parents, so they can see how the student has grown over time and how best to reinforce learning at home.



Are my students on track to meet their growth goals? How are they performing compared to their peers?
The Achievement Status and Growth report reflects your entire class and highlights their performance between two terms, while projecting and tracking RIT growth between assessments. If you used this report in fall to see what the expected growth was for spring, make sure to re-order this report after winter testing to see what their new growth goal for spring should be.



How can I effectively teach concepts to every student based on individual performance?
The learning continuum is a key tool for connecting MAP Growth results with the specific content a student is ready to learn. It can be used to help teachers tailor classroom instruction by connecting learning statements with specific goal areas and corresponding RIT ranges. The learning continuum is an excellent resource to see what your students have mastered, what they’re currently ready to develop, and what concepts they should be introduced to next.