What to Expect

With the push for increased rigor in schools, it’s often difficult to tell what is and isn’t rigorous.  Barbara brings her expertise to that problem with her expert review of instructional assessments.  Completely customized for each school or district, Barbara reviews assignments, assessments, and/or instructional practices for rigor and engagement.  She then provides a written analysis, along with specific suggestions for next steps.  Barbara can complete an off-site review of the assignments and assessments using Webb's Depth of Knowledge, and offers the option of on-site walk-throughs of instructional practices, as well as off-site reviews of recorded instruction. 


Additionally, she can train teachers and leaders on the process, which builds expertise, shared ownership and sustainability. 


In advance of the 3 hour Skype session, Barbara and I spoke at length on the phone regarding our school’s needs, which were focused on increasing depth of knowledge learning opportunities for our students.  I collected samples of assignments and corresponding student work and sent them to Barbara in advance of our session.  I also made multiple copies of the samples for my staff to use during the discussion.  We conducted the Skype session as an all staff meeting in our media center, projecting the skype image and using large speakers so Barbara could be heard clearly.  She led the review of the work, providing teaching and questioning to keep staff engaged.  Teachers reflected on the work as Barbara questioned them.  After the session, she sent the work back to the teachers with specific feedback as related to DOK.  We were then able to use this as a springboard to continue our own DOK work using common language and understandings which grew out of our session with Barbara. Barbara’s work with our staff through this innovative collaborative method has positively impacted student achievement in our school!



Brian Keefer, Elementary Principal, Henry County Schools

Sample Excerpts from Reports

Sample Grade 3 Math


The majority of the questions in this assessment (and this is generally an issue with math problems) were at Level 1.  Students are asked to use/follow a well-known formula, compute simple algorithms, and represent a math relationship in words, pictures, or symbols. See examples below.


  • “Which set contains numbers that are easily divisible by 2?”
  • “Nancy was baking an apple pie.  She had 5 apples and she cut each apple into 8 slices.  How many apple slices did Nancy cut for her apple pie?”
  • “Which problem could be represented by the array shown below?”


However, there was an example of a Level 3 question.  One criteria of a Level 3, rigorous question, is to recognize and explain misconceptions. Although students did not explain the misconception, in question 24, “Selena read 216 minutes during a reading competition at Hall Elementary. Yolanda read 472 minutes during the same reading competition. Which of the following strategies could not be used to determine how many more minutes Yolanda read than Selena?”, they were required to identify the misconception, or the one that was not correct.


High School Biology


Similar to the other two science samples, there were many questions at Levels 1 and 2 using recall, inference, application, and basic comprehension.


  •  “The production of energy-rich ATP molecules is the direct result of…”  Note:  if students were directly given this information, it is a Level 1 Basic Recall.
  • “The presence of large numbers of mitochondria in the cells that line the small intestine suggests that the transport of materials into and out of these cells requires…”
  • “Since oxygen gas is being released, it can be inferred that the plant is….”


However, as in the Grade 3 math example, students were asked to identify a misconception in Question 5: “Which is the least accurate statement about the reactants and products of photosynthesis and cellular respiration?”  Should this type question be ehnanced and increased, as well as asking students to justify their responses and formulate other options, the rigor would increase.

Sample District Pre-Assessment

Sample District Pre-Assessment
This is a short excerpt on a district-wide pre-assessment. Teachers from all schools chose a task, assignment, test, project, or other assessment that they considered rigorous. Using a validated criteria, Dr. Blackburn provided an expert review, then completed an executive summary so the district could plan next steps.
Sample District PreAssessment.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [36.6 KB]