Tag Archives: goal setting

Hopes vs. Goals

Next Monday in our district, teachers must turn in their goals to their administrator. Our state (Maine) has adopted PEPG (Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Model) as a tool for evaluating teacher effectiveness. Teachers must write 2 Goals

  • Professional Goal (for personal growth)
  • SLOs -Student Learning Objectives (for student growth)

Our district has chosen NBPT Standards (National Board for Professional Teachers) for professional goals. Teachers must first self-assess their strengths and weaknesses on each of the 5 Core Propositions of the NBPT Standards and then select an area of weakness to design a goal.

Then teachers must determine an area of need for their students based on a variety of data including: reviewing student folders from previous years, current student work, IEPs, pre-assessments, standardized tests, etc. They then set a goal for student learning that addresses the need they’ve determined.

Simple right? Well, it might be if all students had the same strengths and weaknesses. It might be if students were only weak in one subject area.  It might be if they all had a similar weakness in one aspect of that subject area. Our students, however, tend to come to us with a beautiful tapestry of abilities, interests, motivations, and personalities that can make singling out a goal an interesting task.

This is where the math coach I work with and I come in.  We have been helping teachers:

  • Reflect on  student work
  • Analyze student data from pre-assessments or standardized tests
  • Compare student abilities to end of year expectations
  • Prioritize those expectations (what do you want all __graders leaving your class being able to do as a_____(reader, writer, scientist, mathematician, etc)
  • Draft a goal that is achievable but rigorous
  • Create plans of action for instruction that targets the goal and differentiates for students.

That is goal setting and it takes a lot of work.


In the past few years we tended to write more HOPES than GOALS. We might have written “At least 80% of my students will go up 1 level on the Fountas & Pinnell  Benchmark Assessment”. We had no plan of action for making it happen other than our regular teaching so it wasn’t so much of a goal for the students as a hope that they hit the expected benchmark. It wasn’t stretching our teaching or their learning in any purposeful way. It didn’t offer a path for success. And our hope for their success relied on one assessment measure at the end of the school year. If they had a bad day, if they didn’t connect with the test book, if they made some careless errors, our hopes were dashed.


This year I have asked teachers to look at the reading (or writing or math) behaviors expected for those end-of-year benchmark levels and pull out the ones they determine to be non-negotiable. These are behaviors they want students to leave their class with  solid ability. We created a rubric of these 5-10 behaviors and created a class roster in which we could track success with these behaviors and note who already had these as a strength. Their goal might be framed “80% of my students will acquire 4/5 targeted behaviors“. The expectation would be all students acquire all behaviors but we have to be careful with our wording. The way the teacher evaluation system works, if they don’t meet the goals the way you’ve written them-you are ineffective!

Here are some samples from 2nd Grade and Kindergarten:

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Individual Tracking Sheet for Each Student
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Class Roster for “At A Glance” Tracking

With these tools, teachers can more easily differentiate instruction as they create small groups and confer with students.  They can decide when whole group lessons need to be repeated and refined, or when it would be more efficient to form small skill groups.  They can see who needs more scaffolding and who is ready for more challenge. This type of goal setting drives instruction. Students and teachers are more actively pursuing their goals. They aren’t merely hoping they pass the “Level N” book in June.

How does your district set goals? Do you find them meaningful? I’d love to hear more.

What’s On My Book Radar

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia

Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 8.39.26 AMI need more books in my life that expand my understanding of the human experience-and this short but powerful novel did just that. Clayton is learning to play the Blues with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd. He wants nothing more than to please his Papa and be ready to solo-and then his world is turned upside down. Papa Byrd dies and Clayton’s mother sells everything he owned and promised to Clayton-including his guitar. Devastated, Clayton steals back his grandfather’s pork pie hat-the only memento he has left. We begin to see the tangled relationships between Clayton’s mother and her father, between Clayton’s mother and his own father, and Clayton’s relationship with the two of them unfold. All families deal with loss and grief with some universal feelings, but unique reactions. This book helped me see inside the heart of a young boy, his wounded mother, and the role Blues played in their lives


How Do You Eat an Elephant?

One Bite at a Time
artwork by Melissa Washburn (please visit http://www.melissawashburn.com)

There are times of the year when the demands of work and life can become overwhelming. As we transition from one season, holiday, life event, or even school term to the next, we often find our TO DO lists becoming increasingly long and daunting.  I’ve always been a list maker.  It has helped me enormously in shifting the burden from my working memory to a surrogate memory holder (post its, bullet journal, scrap paper, etc.) and has alleviated a great deal of stress.  Trying to remember everything that needs to be done, is only one of the challenges that needs attention, however.

Once we transfer our intended tasks to paper, how do we tackle the enormity of what we hope to accomplish?  Rarely do we go down a list and systematically check off an entire task before initiating the next. We tend to multi-task and look for ways to combine activities to accomplish more. How many of you are like me and jot a few items on the list you have already completed, just so you can feel some sense of satisfaction and avoid a sense of defeat?

How do you prioritize your To-Dos?  Do you try to pick the “low hanging fruit” and get the simple tasks out of the way? That can help you feel like you are making a dent, but then you are left with the more difficult tasks when you are often more tired and frazzled. Do you try to take on the big tasks and then see nothing checked off as completed at the day’s end? I don’t believe there is ONE right way to prioritize, it really depends upon the personality of the person creating the list.

However, there is one thing I have done this past year that has helped me immensely. TINY GOALS.  I realized I was often procrastinating on complex tasks because I knew I couldn’t finish them. But now I look at the task and set tiny goals to break it down into more manageable chunks.  For example, I was working on my National Boards and many of the component pieces were time consuming and complicated and I would need to work on them after a long day of teaching or on my weekends. In the past I would have put them off and done some other things that took less mental energy. But by setting a tiny goal: I’m just going to write one paragraph for this section, I didn’t feel so overwhelmed and I got it done. I felt accomplished, and after several days the section was done. In the past I would have stressed for several days about getting the section done, with no work to show for it.

Sometimes I set a timer. I’m only going to work on this for 15 minutes. At the end of that time I usually stop, without guilt. Sometimes however, I find the energy and motivation to keep going a bit longer. Either way, I have done more in 15 minutes than I would have done procrastinating because the task was emotionally exhausting.

Think about some task that you have been putting off or stressing out over.  What could you reasonable tackle in 10 or 15 minutes today? Create a tiny goal that is achievable and take a bite out of that task. Celebrate your success. Remind yourself that you have moved closer to completion and alleviated a bit of stress.  Realize just how doable this is. Don’t push yourself past your tiny goal unless you are enthusiastically motivated-otherwise you are defeating the purpose for setting them.

Though I hate the thought of eating an elephant, the saying rings so true! Turn those bites into tiny goals and reframe your idea of success and you might alleviate a lot of stress in your life the way I did!

What’s On My Book Radar?

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Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Cassie Arroyo is an American student who is studying in Rome with her father, an art history professor. One day her life is turned upside down when her father pulls her from school unexpectedly and they are chased by gunmen.  Her father is wounded but gives Cassie mysterious directions and scant information before she leaves him at the hospital. She flees to her friends home and together, with the help of a secret organization they try to decipher the clues to help her find her now missing father, and find out why she is the target of assassination. Lots of twists and turns in this fast-paced middle grade novel. I loved it even more because I had just visited many of the sites in Rome that are settings for this mystery and I always love strong female protagonists.  A Maine Student Book Award nominee that is worth a read!