Category: General

Back in the late 1700s, Eli Whitney and others began manufacturing gun parts to exact specifications. Prior to that time, each weapon had to be painstakingly built individually. With the manufacture of identical parts, guns could be very quickly assembled from bins of parts.

Much later, Henry Ford advanced this concept with his assembly lines and affordably-priced cars; and today's advanced supply-chains are the reason behind all of the myriad products and services we enjoy. In the world of information services, computer programmers often employ another evolution called Object-Oriented Programming (OOP), keeping complex programs manageable and fast to deploy by using discrete, self-contained blocks of code and data, or "objects."

Streamlined production techniques like interchangeable parts, teamwork, OOP, and others have been responsible for enormous gains in manufacturing speed, quality, and worker productivity. Using these common business practices, a trained worker can create a far better and more consistent product -- exponentially faster -- than even a skilled craftsman with a lifetime of experience.

Are methods such as these applicable to education? Is it necessary for each individual teacher to build up his/her own bank of lessons, assignments, and test-questions to use and adapt each year for the remainder of his/her career, similar to the individual artisans of the 18th century?

This year thousands of students will read "A Separate Peace." Millions more will begin to learn basic multiplication and division. Yet these students will all be taught slightly differently, in classroom-islands, with teachers employing a wide range of materials & strategies with varying degrees of success.

Amidst so much talk about "merit pay" to reward "successful" teachers -- meaning those who can show consistent and consistently-increasing test-scores -- maybe it's time to consider helping ALL teachers by giving them some consistent tools and training. Harnessing competition in an attempt to force capitalism onto an educational system seems like a blunt instrument -- a solution posited by people whose only tool is a hammer.

Rather than spend our resouces building an army of "artisans" and asking them to figure it out individually, maybe it would be more effective to adapt some basic, proven, cost-effective, and wildly successful business techniques in schools. Merit pay might be a great idea, but it's only part of the solution at best.

With the release of the movie Waiting for Superman and pundits from the NYTimes to Oprah highlighting the "deplorable state of our nation's educational system," it's clear that "something must be done!" No doubt. Of course the movie's heart is in the right place along with all of the many critics'. But rather than an unhelpful and unproductive barrage of criticism and division, maybe it's time for a Second Act: "No Teacher Left Behind."



-- New Administrators home page --
a) Cleaner layout similar to Teacher's calendar page.
b) View all teachers for a given week -- much easier to locate appropriate material for review/comments.
c) Added auto-complete search field to quickly locate a given user in your school/district.
d) "What's new?" wall provides a stream of district-wide events.
e) "What's news?" section provides U.S. and international education news updates.
-- Improved Box-Planner print layout --
a) Added print-options interim dialog with three print-layout options: two facing pages, list (vertical) format, and super-compact.
b) Print the week in a two-page side-by-side layout (equals bigger lesson boxes while still conserving paper); suitable for side-by-side viewing in a three-ring binder.
-- Class websites --
a) Cleaner layout
b) 1-click calendar to view homework assignments for a given day
c) Teacher can now hide the homework section if they don't want to display it
-- Grade book --
a) Added "Student Summary" page to show at a glance how each class/group falls within a certain grade-range. Students with average <65% are highlighted in red.
b) Administrator-users can also review this information class-by-class.
-- Browser issues --
Various js adjustments to satisfy Google's Chrome browser
Posted:10/08/2010 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 2 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]


-- Phase 1 of a platform migration. ~25% complete. --
-- Calendar page --
a) cleaner layout
b) easier to find teammates & shared materials
c) new week-month view toggle link
d) standards report will now show weekly or monthly standards-alignment
e) added user "What's New" wall
f) added user-status message -- useful to request or offer help & materials
-- Improved lesson print & email layout to be easier to read; eliminate unnecessary labels to conserve paper & printer-ink --
-- User preferences --
a) user can set Team sharing options, i.e. elect to share lessons and/or files with teammates
b) new "Standards Settings" menu allows user to hide unneeded subjects, and choose a default -- this is particularly useful to subscribers who may have many additional subjects available
c) separated "Login Settings" to a new page
-- Resources --
a) improved file uploader
b) resource files will now be shared with Teammates (only if user allows it in his/her preferences)
c) rss feeds added to various educational news and lesson-planning resource sites
-- Grade book --
a) students will now be assigned a username as well as a password
b) student/parent login will now direct to teachers' class website, and they can access grades from there
c) redesigned Assignment page more closely resembles the lesson-planner
d) grading assignments is now faster due to improved layout
e) ajax method eliminates the need to save grades
f) misc. minor enhancements
-- Curriculum mapping --
a) clearer organization puts date-range at the top of each unit
b) layout emphasizes a more "start with standards" approach to curriculum mapping
c) curriculum maps now pull lesson data directly and automatically (subscriber schools/districts)
d) two new "Auto-Map" wizards introduced: "auto-map based on standards" and "auto-map based on lessons"
-- Network "What's New" wall now includes shared-lesson event --
-- Administrator module --
a) improved c-maps outlined above
b) new "A-B report" offers side-by-side comparison of various data for up to 5 teachers at once
c) Monthly Report now has a selector to show current year or previous years' standards-alignment
-- Lesson Planners --
a) minimal changes, mainly some cosmetic adjustments to the Box Planner
Stay tuned for more upgrades (and tutorials) coming soon!
Posted:10/06/2010 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 4 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

 The Common Core standards are available now.

Note these are currently available for Mathematics and English Language Arts, only.


-- Individual lesson title fields added to the weekly planner. Click the arrow icon next to "Lesson" in each title bar. Auto-titles will still be assigned if user does not create a specific title.
-- Class-periods manager usability upgrade: now user can delete all Week-tab class periods and still have lessons display on the Box Planner.
-- List-format printing is more compact: slight layout changes improve printing from the calendar page, weekly planner, x-planner, and my-lessons.
-- Restored some features to My Lessons page: Subject filter, Units filter, and user-defined order numbering for print/email/export.


-- Rebranded the new weekly planner to "Box Planner"
-- Made the old "Classic" Weekly Planner more apparent and easy to access.
-- Patch to fix a couple of browser-compatibility issues.

Revised Colorado standards updated.

 UK standards are available now.

 DoDEA standards available now.

Category: Books

Great book of quotations and wisdom for just about anyone, in any circumstance: "Good Advice," by William Safire and Leonard Safir (brothers). This is from the preface....

"It is the duty, and ought to be the pleasure, of age and experience to warn and instruct youth and to come to the aid of experience. When sailors have discovered rocks or breakers, and have had the good luck to escape with life from amidst them, they, unless they be pirates or barbarians as well as sailors, point out the spots for the placing of buoys and of lights, in order that others may not be exposed to the danger which they have so narrowly escaped. What man of common humanity, having by good luck, missed being engulfed in a quagmire or quicksand, will withhold from his neighbors a knowledge of the peril without which the dangerous spots are not to be approached?"
William Cobbett,
"Advice to Young Men And (incidentally) To Young Women In The Middle and Higher Ranks Of Life." 1829
Category: General

In a nutshell... have recess BEFORE lunch. No good reason not to...

Category: Elementary Ed

 Why is it that females are often less mathematically-inclined than males? According to a one-year study at the University of Chicago (Beilock, et al), the discrepancy could largely be related to their early-childhood teachers’ attitude towards the subject.

The study found that female elementary teachers can subconsciously demonstrate anxiety about math and pass that on to their female students, since girls’ attitudes about math are formed at a young age and are heavily influenced by the attitudes of the women who instruct them. The study showed that boys were not similarly influenced by their female teachers’ unspoken preferences.
Since nine out of ten U.S. elementary school teachers are female, the authors recommend that elementary teachers undergo greater mathematics preparation in order to feel more comfortable with the subject. Female teachers’ subject-area confidence would presumably then be passed on to female students.

 Montana math standards updated. Go Grizzlies! alt

Site update summary:

--Custom photo backgrounds available now from your preferences page

--Streamlined design of the single and weekly planner

--Lesson-preview/editor (popup) can now add-remove standards

--Added Class Periods to all planners; lesson plans can now be categorized by class period and/or time; class periods are customizeable, just click the "edit" link

--My Lessons page supports default and custom sort order for print / email / export-to-MS Word

--Misc. grade book upgrades, incl. improved parent communication

--Minor educator-network enhancements

More features coming soon. Please feel free to check in with questions, comments, and suggestions. We hope you like the updates!
Dev Team

Posted:12/08/2009 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 2 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Site update summary:

--Lighter, "clean-white" look and feel

--New menu style for ease-of-use and one-click access to any page

--Teachers and/or administrators can more easily collaborate on curriculum mapping

--Misc. grade book upgrades (video tutorial coming soon!)

--Misc. new reporting options for Administrators

--Improved search

--Compact, "paper-saver" print and email layouts

--Minor educator-network enhancements

More features coming soon. Please feel free to check in with questions, comments, and suggestions. We hope you like the updates!
Dev Team

Attention Georgia Teachers: updated ELA and Social Studies standards now available for 2009-2010.

Posted:01/08/2009 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

2009 Texas ELA Standards up and ready to be aligned!

Indiana teachers: 2009 Indiana Math and Social Studies standards updated!

Posted:11/07/2009 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 7 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

If you have kids, you know that more often than not, the answer to this important question is... "Nothing."

Even a persistent parent might not get much more than a few non-specific sentences from their child about what they're learning in your class.

Writing a blog post every day isn't for everyone. But a quick weekly summary of happenings in your classroom might spark a conversation at home over the weekend! Parents will thank you, and students will benefit from positive reinforcement at home.

Posted:08/07/2009 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 5 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

New AZ math standards are updated for 2009-2010 implementation.

Category: General

Excerpted from a WSJ profile of Craig Barrett, soon-to-retire CEO of Intel:
--When something works, don't re-invent it, reproduce it.--
Perhaps Mr. Barrett's greatest contribution to the semiconductor industry was the concept of "Copy Exactly," the absolutely exact reproduction of successful existing practices and facilities in other locations. Copy Exactly has been the key to Intel and other chip companies actually improving yield rates (the ratio of chips that actually work) even as the products themselves have become thousands of times more complex and miniaturized and fabricated by the millions. The decision not to reinvent the wheel every time was, in fact, the subject of [a] contentious meeting where Mr. Barrett outvoted his managers. "I got the idea from McDonald's," he says. "I asked myself why McDonald's french fries tasted the same wherever I went. That's what I told my guys, "We're going to be the McDonald's of semiconductors."

Due to the intense competition of the business world, Intel is committed to a regular schedule of consistent improvement -- Moore's Law. In other words, they're doing quite a bit more than stamping out chips by the millions; they are also steadily improving both the capacity and quality of each chip.

The "McDonald's Method" is not so different from Henry Ford a century ago, and it can be found in varying forms throughout any large business enterprise. Perhaps the most highly successful businesses are the ones that have most rigorously applied what is often called the "Six Sigma" methodology. Six Sigma is slightly out of vogue today in management circles, but no one refutes its effectiveness.

Can we apply this line of thinking to public education? Not in the sense of opting for soul-crushing uniformity in the service of steady improvement or AYP. Schools are not factories, students aren't widgets, and individualized instruction is still key to helping each student to reach his/her potential. However the principle of identifying and propagating the best strategies and materials currently available -- and then improving them through innovation -- might be worth considering.

According to Barrett, at least, it's good enough for fast-paced tech companies, the incubators of some of the most creative and agile minds of our time. The managers initially rebelled. But the CEO pulled rank, and Intel is, well, Intel.

The new standards to be implemented next school year (English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science), are updated. Congratulations on a successful 2008-2009! alt

Category: General

Worth a look: good federal education resources page here that includes general topics categorized by subject. Many of these provide a great foundation for classroom and online unit-projects that can be easily aligned to your own state standards.

Oregon teachers: new 2009 Science standards up.

Nebraska teachers: new 2009 English Language Arts standards up.

Category: Elementary Ed

As a classroom teacher, you know how challenging it can be to meet the needs of all the various types of learners filling those seats in your classroom. First, you need to take into account various learning styles. Some of the students are visual learners, others auditory, while others thrive on kinesthetic input. Additionally, your students are all over the spectrum academically. One group is far ahead, another is struggling to stay afloat, and another group is chugging along right where they should be at grade level.

How can one teacher create lessons to meet the needs of all of these various learners without spending countless hours planning separate lessons and bringing in volunteers to help instruct all of the student groups? Find the answer in tiered lesson plans.

By this point in time, just about every locality has compiled a series of academic standards that must be met at each grade level. There is little wiggle-room here, but there is also great potential when tiered lessons are employed. By starting with a set standard or group of objectives and creating a lesson that naturally allows for flexibility, expansion on the topic, and a variety of possible product outcomes, you’ll meet the needs of all learners while still keeping whole-group lessons on point and relatively compact.

A crucial point is to start with the standards and grow the lesson from there. All the students will then have the same concept development, but with varying activities and reading material that meets them where they are to focus on their particular academic needs.

Click here to view detailed information, tips, and examples for developing tiered lessons in your classroom.

The Standards Toolbox lesson planner provides a great platform for building and storing your tiered lessons, and you can even differentiate related test items.

Posted:22/04/2009 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 1 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: General

Check out for lots of links and free Earth Day resources and volunteer service opportunities for students, teachers, and everyone else.

Category: General

Although technology CAN provide a useful and occasionally powerful instructional aid -- and despite countless research papers written and dollars invested -- we have yet to witness a significant leap forward in terms of technology helping to make teaching and learning more efficient, effective, and FUN. Sometimes the "tools" we're presented with can just be more complicated and create more work!

Similarly, massive investments in IT infrastructure alone will not correlate to equivalent gains in productivity. The only way to realize the potential is to "retool" to fully utilize the technologies that are available now.

One possible hurdle is that many educational "system" technologies focus outside the education process -- the external results as shown in test scores and other measurements. Measurement is needed and invaluable, certainly! But it's likely that the much heralded leap forward will come as technology tools are applied -- by educators -- to the educational process itself.

This is a strategic decision on the part of every district and school, and it requires buy-in from individual classroom teachers. The answers will be different in each locale, and luckily there won't be a single correct a, b, c, or d choice!

The ST is helpful in terms of state standards alignment and demonstrating "accountability," sure; but that is hardly the only usefulness of a web-based curriculum toolset. The Toolbox is designed to help teachers and administrators spend LESS time interpreting "data" and focus instead on real-life teaching methods and strategies. Countless studies have shown that more time devoted to individualized instruction and the "soft" skills that can't be quantified makes the greatest difference to a young learner.

Good instructional technology should facilitate LESS time spent lesson planning, curriculum mapping, and wading through instructional resources, in order to create MORE time for what matters most in the classroom -- the thoughtful attention dedicated to each student.

Suppose five teachers who teach the same grade or subject get together in a team. Each one creates five really excellent lesson plans -- and shares them with the team. In just a couple of hours, each of the five will have ... more than an entire month of great lessons.

To get a little fancy, it's possible to build cross-curricular teams, vertical teams, or mentoring relationships. But the basic idea is the same.

Do our teammates need to be in the same building? Nah.
Must everyone on our team be in the same school district? Nope.
Do we ever need to meet or even know who our "teammates" are? Not necessarily!

As educators, we're constantly being asked to foster teamwork among our students, but too often we ourselves work in relative isolation. The ST promotes sharing of curriculum materials for the simple reasons that time is precious, the stakes are high, and many hands make light work!

How can you share your lesson plans using the Standards Toolbox? Click the Share checkbox on any of the lesson plan templates. That's it, done.

Use the Search function or browse the Shared Lessons page to find resources shared by others.

The Standards Toolbox recently added a GREAT (well, we hope) curriculum mapper to the ST suite for subscriber schools/districts. Thank you to one very smart Arizona educator for prompting this development initiative.

The new C-mapper lets you:

1) create clear and targeted curriculum maps for any subject/grade, or across subjects/grades,
2) easily align to state and local standards (of course!),
3) include and distribute related materials (which can be added over time).

It's super-fast and easy to use, but still gives full functionality integrated with the lesson planner and everything else. You'll be amazed at how easily this powerful new feature will let you create as many curriculum maps as you need. Please ask if you're interested in learning more about this exciting new feature!

Posted:15/04/2009 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 8 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]
Category: General

Interesting article in Scientific American re: learning and cognition:

Daniel Tammet's reflections on his thought process remind me of some classic comprehension strategies I originally encountered through Dr. Susan Mandel Glazer (make a picture in your mind, put it in your own words, form connections, pay attention to context).

If you aren't familiar with Susan Glazer, her books and programs are great resources for teaching struggling readers and writers, and you can find some of her worksheets in the Resources section of the ST (

Teachers of foreign languages may be especially interested in this article and Tammet's book.

School Solutions is thrilled to launch the official release of our newest addition to the ST, the Educator Network. Here you can create your own Teacher blog, upload photos to share with your students, chat with other educators and form communities according to your needs and interests.

Curriculum-focused "Web 2.0" collaboration is set to become enormously beneficial to the K-12 education community, and we're already hard at work on the next generation of web services.

We'll continue to add features across the site, but we need your help to shape future development! Please submit questions, comments, and feature requests so that we can potentially incorporate them into future versions of the ST platform. And thank you to the many who have contributed helpful feedback so far.

Thank you for choosing the Standards Toolbox!