Saturday, December 14, 2013

What the FIP?

Student academic growth is a hot topic these days.  Many states are using student growth measures to evaluate teachers.  As I examine data with educators, one recurring question is "What can I do to impact student growth??"  Sometimes this query is a manner of professional curiosity, but sometimes, it is accompanied by anxiety, frustration, and even panic, since 50% of a teacher's evaluation is based on this metric.

My usual answer is:  FIP.

What is FIP, you wonder? Glad you asked.  FIP stands for Formative Instructional Practices and it's hands-down the best way to improve teaching and learning that I've seen for a long time.  In fact, FIP isn't new.  It combines "unpacking the standards," developing clear learning targets, appropriate use of  feedback, collecting and using data to inform instruction, and the best of formative assessments all in one nicely organized initiative.  

Much of the training and work for FIP comes from Battelle for Kids (BfK), a non-profit organization headquartered in Columbus, Ohio with a known track record for excellent, research-based educational products.  BfK has developed a series of online modules to guide teachers as they learn about and implement FIP in their classrooms.  FIP schools have found that, not only can they improve their student growth scores, but they notice increased student engagement, self-confidence, and student ownership of their own learning.  

I'm a firm believer that students will not take responsibility for their own learning until we give them responsibility.  FIP modules give practical strategies teachers can use to increase student ownership.  BfK also has several subject-specific modules in which teachers can see what actual procedures can be set up to manage this system.

My personal experience with FIP comes to me through my grandson - I'll call him Joey (not his real name or he would kill me).  He moved to a FIP school his 8th grade year.  Prior to his enrollment at Adams Middle School in Johnstown, Ohio, Joey hadn't done so well in school. He suffered from all kinds of medical problems that impacted his hearing and language development as a young child, which has an impact on his learning to this day.  Adams Middle School is a FIP school.  All of the teachers understand and implement FIP.  The school schedule is structured to allow students extra time to study and reassess if they don't achieve mastery on their first summative assessment.  The overwhelming sense of anyone entering the building is that all professionals are involved in helping each student learn.  The amazing thing to me as a grandma is that Joey can now tell me exactly what he needs to study for tests.  He can articulate what he is learning in class.  And, best of all, Joey is a successful student with confidence to take risks and learn new things.  Oh, Joey still fails tests the first time he takes them sometimes, but he sticks with it, studies, and ends up mastering the material so that he can get B's and C's....and even a few A's in his classes. He no longer feels stupid - and for a grandma, that's priceless.

No, I am not an employee of BfK, nor do I receive any benefit from plugging their work.  I'm just an educator interested in what works and a grandma who loves learning. 

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