• Jan. 10, 2017 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Standards-Based Grading: How One Physical Education Teacher Made the Transition

    Prior to 2015, I had a very rough idea what standards-based grading was all about. My experiences were based solely on what I had heard from teacher friends who themselves were making the transition. Many of these colleagues were not given a clear understanding as to why and how to make the transition, leaving them stressed out. When the day came for my unified arts colleagues and me to take that leap, we too found that we were expected to dive right in and make it work.

  • Dec. 9, 2016 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Understanding the Standards

    Why has the move to grade reporting using standards caused us so much anxiety? I mean, we all have standards when we are grading a project, right? Don’t we all have in mind an understanding of poor, good and excellent? Why is it so confusing for some to understand these 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s? Is it because we are not using a 100 point scale, or letter grades like A-F? Or is it that now we really need to agree on what the 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s mean and we need to somehow find alignment to the standards? The change to standards-based practice has created some confusion, but as we explore it, we see that it has also brought about further clarification for both the learner and the assessor.

  • Nov. 14, 2016 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Calibration Through Collaboration

    At the heart of effective standards based work is calibrating our understanding of what our students should know and be able to do. True calibration doesn’t happen in one planning period and it doesn’t happen in isolation.

  • Oct. 20, 2016 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Changing My Thinking 101

    In working in three schools across the six years I’ve been in education, one thing I have learned is that proficiency-based education requires a shift in thinking. It seems as though I stick with a school long enough for teachers to hop on board the proficiency based education ship, and then I look for something new. So, here in my third time around, I have some clarity around the benefits of this different way of viewing education. It demands a completely new manner of teaching and viewing the educational needs of students today.

  • Sept. 21, 2016 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Standards, Not Standardization: Authentic Teaching and Proficiency-Based Diplomas

    Diane Ravitch’s July New York Times essay, The Common Core Costs Billions and Hurts Students, lacks the nuance educators need to lead with as we confront the layperson’s hasty coupling of standardized tests with standards.

  • Aug. 9, 2016 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Building a Better Standards Bank

    Happy high summer everyone! This is the time of year when some of us take on projects we don’t have time to tackle during the busy school year. We’d like to offer some suggestions to those of you whose summer projects include revamping or revisiting your standards bank. This list of “pain points” and corresponding suggestions come from our several years of experience in working with schools and districts as they create resources and tools to best describe the learning students do and to most easily allow them to report out on that learning. We hope some of you find this post helpful as you get ready for the 2016-2017 school year.

  • June 23, 2016 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    College Admissions, Proficiency and JumpRope

    As Maine moves closer to graduating students with proficiency-based diplomas, and as Vermont continues to be guided by the Flexible Pathways Initiative for graduation, we at JumpRope maintain our interest in the evolving conversation about high school transcripts. Toward that end, a few of us attended the New England Association of College Admission Counseling (NEACAC) Conference at Northeastern University in Boston earlier this month. Jesse was part of a team that presented on Standards-Based Learning and the College Admissions Process.

  • May 31, 2016 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    One Maine School District’s Shift to Proficiency, Part Two

    Earlier this month I wrote about the transition to proficiency for one of our Maine school districts, RSU 12. I closed that post with the promise of returning to Deb Taylor’s reflections on their transition process.

  • May 12, 2016 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    One Maine School District’s Shift to Proficiency, Part One

    Schools and school districts find themselves on the path to proficiency-based education (PBE) for a range of reasons and once there, they make all kinds of discoveries. Many of them unforeseen. As I spoke with Deb Taylor, the Director of Curriculum and Technology in RSU 12 in southern Maine, I heard a tale of a school district initially interested in complying with the law and ultimately taking a very close look at teaching and learning. It’s a great story.

  • April 14, 2016 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Beyond Outside the Box: A Different Look at Proficiency Based Diplomas

    Teachers, schools and school districts approaching proficiency with profound dedication are forced to examine a range of questions the practice raises. Of course, many of those questions have always existed, but because proficiency includes a move toward increased transparency in student learning, it brings those questions right to the fore.

  • March 17, 2016 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Proficiency for All?

    How do we make proficiency work for all our students? I hear this question a lot. Although I have experience with students who were in SPED, I am not an expert. So, in order to begin to answer this question, I turned to people whose work with those two populations gives them far greater insight than I might have. The ideas you will read are my attempt to synthesize what I have begun to learn from colleagues here in southern Maine.

  • March 10, 2016 CATEGORIES: News, Philosophy

    Professional Learning Doubleheader: ConnectEd Coast & EdCampWME

    The start of a new year kicks off a fresh cycle of annual teacher-driven professional development events here in Maine. I look forward to this series of weekend conferences spent engaged in dialogue with colleagues from across the state. This is a time to connect “in real life” with members of my valued digital professional learning network (PLN). These face-to-face professional exchanges establish new ties and strengthen pre-existing collaborative relationships. Together, we share our successes and troubleshoot challenges collectively, and keep the conversations going through the power of connectivity.

  • Feb. 5, 2016 CATEGORIES: News

    New Login Page and Logo

    Beginning today, JumpRope is rolling out a simpler, faster login page that works better on mobile devices. The new login page includes a new logo, and is part of a change in our overall branding and design (though it’s not as radical as Uber’s recent change). Read on to learn more!

  • Jan. 29, 2016 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Proficiency-Based Transcripts: What Do High School Counselors have to say?

    The college applications and admissions process can be pretty stressful. One of the stressors specific to the time we live in is the question of the challenges posed for admissions officers reading proficiency-based transcripts

  • Jan. 4, 2016 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Navigating the College Application Process with Your Standards-Based Transcript

    As a college admissions officer in Vermont and president of our statewide admissions network, I’m asked a lot of questions about how colleges will react to standards-based grading as well as the Personalized Learning Plans that Vermont must roll out by the time next year’s freshmen start high school. Research shows that students know, understand, and do more when standards-based learning is implemented successfully. We know that grades serve lots of purposes and that standards-based grades do an excellent job of giving immediate feedback to kids and teachers, helping to drive classroom learning. But will colleges be able to make sense of all this talk of meeting/exceeding the standard? How will the most selective colleges identify gifted students if more of their peers start “meeting the standard?” Will colleges still be able to award scholarships fairly?

  • Dec. 18, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Proficiency-based Education in the Physical Education Classroom

    Four years ago, I began my journey into proficiency-based education (PBE). At the start, I was overwhelmed and wasn’t quite sure where to begin. There were plenty of resources for teaching proficiency in a classroom setting but very few resources for the “specials” or related arts teachers. At South Portland schools, I am a middle school (6th-8th) health teacher and the K-12 Health and Physical Education Curriculum and Instruction Leader. Over the last four years, I have redesigned my instruction and assessment, and my students have shown significant growth in their content knowledge. My students are taking responsibility for their learning, using the proficiency vocabulary, and know more about the targets they are learning than I ever did as a student. At times it has been a challenging journey, but looking back I can’t imagine still teaching the “old” way.

  • Dec. 10, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Things That Sparkle

    As the cool weather turns to colder weather and as the shortish days here in Maine become very short, I’ve spent some time looking carefully at some things worth celebrating. We are, after all, in the midst of/approaching the celebrations of light, birth, and unity. Stay with me as I offer some examples of the light, birth, and unity I’ve seen this season.

  • Dec. 4, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Grading Policy, Practice, and Coherence

    Many of you regular readers of this blog know that we have a set of implementation benchmarks for an effective standards-based grading system, and we’ve had several posts on the benchmarks, picking one and going into more detail about it. For this blog post, you can see from above we address one that all implementing schools and districts need to think carefully and pro-actively about: How does a school or district ensure coherence when it comes to its grading policy? And how does that school or district ensure coherence as that policy gets put into practice? A well thought out policy does not always translate well when put into practice.

  • Dec. 1, 2015 CATEGORIES: News, Philosophy

    Standards-based Learning Symposium in Vermont, Part Two

    As you know from Sara’s previous post, last Friday a group of JumpRope team members and almost 300 educators from Vermont and New Hampshire met at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, VT for a great day of learning. It was the second such event that JumpRope has helped to sponsor, with the Vermont Standards-based Learning Collective and St. Mike’s, and plans are already in the works for another next winter. The day started with a keynote by Bill Rich and Carol Ann Tomlinson and continued with two series of break out sessions.

  • Nov. 30, 2015 CATEGORIES: News, Philosophy

    Standards-based Learning Symposium in Vermont, Part One

    Here are the top five reasons the 2015 Vermont Standards-Based Learning Symposium held at St. Michael’s College wins the month of November.

  • Nov. 24, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Professional Development and Professional Equity

    In my last post, I outlined various roles that individual participants may assume during professional development (PD) related to developing a sound proficiency-based education (PBE) model. Here, I focus on thoughtfully-planned PD that is responsive to teachers’ learning needs and establishes a climate of growth and support.

  • Oct. 23, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Proficiency-based Education and Professional Development

    I’m preparing to facilitate a proficiency-based education (PBE) conference session later this month. As part of the planning process, I have reflected upon my experience with PBE professional development (PD) across districts. Here, I present part one of a series that outlines strategies I use (and hope to refine) in order to cultivate effective, productive PBE PD. As a facilitator, my objective is to provide teachers with skills needed to navigate challenges and celebrate curricular victories embedded in PBE implementation.

  • Oct. 22, 2015 CATEGORIES: News

    Overseas Adventures

    This month, Justin and I traveled to our partner school in Guangzhou, China - Nansha College Preparatory School - and stopped in Seoul and Hong Kong. Here are a few pics from our ten day adventure.

  • Oct. 8, 2015 CATEGORIES: News, Philosophy, Tips

    Grading and Reporting Systems as a Barrier to Implementing Standards-Based Grading

    Implementing standards-based grading (SBG) and reporting at the high school level is no easy task, as anyone who’s doing this work knows. Discussions around grading practices and philosophies, changes to state and national standards and laws, and discourse about what’s considered best practices for teaching and learning are at this transition’s heart. However, while these conversations are crucial, we can’t overlook the importance of reporting systems, as they become the face of teaching and assessment. In a SBG approach, these reporting systems are what communicate to students and families where a student is on the learning continuum for specific learning targets and standards.

  • Sept. 30, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Interview with Cari Medd, Principal of Poland Regional High School

    With all these years of standards-based grading under your belt, how has the work or the focus changed, from when you first started? What has matured about it?

  • Sept. 30, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Proficiency: One Thing I Love and One Thing I Hope to Change

    The inadequacies of the traditional grading system became blaringly apparent my first year teaching. A vivacious 5th grade band student came bouncing up to me the morning of his first test to proudly announce that he’d practiced for three hours the night before. However, when it came time to play the test, he was unable to even demonstrate proper fingerings for the three notes of the test. But since his practice grade was nearly 400%, his course grade averaged out to an A.

  • Sept. 10, 2015 CATEGORIES: Features, Tips

    A New Year

    It’s hard to believe, but JumpRope is entering its seventh school year. And yes, there are several schools who have been using JumpRope (under its former name, Impact) continuously this entire time. Even more people are using JumpRope for the first time this year than ever before, as new schools and districts sign on and as many of our existing customers continue to grow their implementation.

  • Sept. 10, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Standards-based Teaching and Learning: After Year One

    Several teachers at Salem City Schools in Salem, VA have been using JumpRope and undertaking standards-based grading for about 12 months now. We reached out to Scott Habeeb, the high school principal in that district, and Pawel Nazarewicz, a math teacher at the high school, to pose a few questions about their work with standards-based teaching and learning - what they have learned so far and what they foresee in the future.

  • Sept. 4, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Politics and Standards-based Teaching and Learning at the Middle Level in Vermont

    Here in Vermont, we find ourselves in a very politically charged environment. Many of our middle schools are deeply immersed in orienting their instruction using a middle level teaching philosophy, much different from traditional structures of a typical junior high school. With this philosophy comes the idea of team teaching and of coaching students to achieve their best learning potential, both of which are impacted by a number of variables.

  • Aug. 24, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Policy Ideas on Standards-based Teaching and Learning

    We don’t often delve into the standards-based policy arena; we leave that to the experts from KnowledgeWorks, iNACOL, and Great Schools Partnership. But, in these past six years, we have learned much about schools, districts, and states implementing standards-based grading and wanted to take that learning and wade some into this arena.

  • Aug. 21, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Communicating Mastery

    In response to some queries from our users, we have spent a lot of time internally at JumpRope talking about how schools and districts might best communicate mastery to their various audiences. Sometimes that communication is as simple as a teacher helping a student or parent interpret scores in the student portal. Or school leaders putting together some information on “the new grading system.” It could mean helping the community move away from publishing in the local newspaper the names of students who are on the honor role in favor of celebrating all the students who meet standards. In the end, none of that communication truly is simple. All of it can be highly charged. While JumpRope doesn’t have specific answers for how to tackle each of the above-mentioned scenarios (though we are happy to talk about them with you!), we do have one resounding refrain: Whatever message one person from the building or district is sharing with your audience, do your best to make sure that it is the same message from each and every person. Different messages, as you all know, create confusion -- and worse.

  • Aug. 18, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy


    This summer JumpRope teammates have attended two Maine EdCamps, and last week MooseCampPBE took place in Dexter, Maine.

  • Aug. 10, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    It's an EdCamp Summer: EdCampOOB

    If you have ever driven into Maine on the interstate, you know you are greeted by the phrase on the welcome sign, “Maine, the way life should be.” Well, the EdCampOOB folks brought that phrase to life in more than one way. They managed to gather over 100 teachers and administrators (most of whom are off contract over the summer!), organize three packed and lively sessions, feed us breakfast, send us away with ideas and door prizes and - ready for this?! - we spent three hours on the pier at Lindbergh’s Landing, eating a tasty lunch, enjoying the view of the beach and the boardwalk, and smacking down with the best of them in the app smackdown. And in EdCamp style, the day’s organizers, Billy Corcoran and Bob Stackpole kept the day free of charge for all participants (um, except for drinks at the bar). Like I said, the way life should be.

  • Aug. 10, 2015 CATEGORIES: Features, News, Tech

    JumpRope’s New Online Teacher Training Course

    In preparation for the start of the school year at JumpRope, we’ve been working hard at developing our training and professional development offerings. One of our projects has been an online teacher training course, and we’re excited to introduce it to our users for this coming school year.

  • July 21, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Catching FIRE this July

    Midsummer: An informal milestone for many teachers for whom “last year” is ebbing further away, while “next year” is swiftly becoming “this year.” Although we still have plenty of time to relax and recharge, it is important for me to keep my pedagogical gears turning. How can I plan a positive kickoff for a fresh cycle of learners, collaborative experiences, and unforeseen challenges?

  • July 8, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Student Agency and Assessment

    Writing about assessment at this blog is not new. Jesse wrote about assessing standards at least three times and developing rich assessments “that connect more than one learning goal, such that students understand and can apply skills in real-world scenarios instead of just in isolation.” I discussed summative assessments that were not only cool and would appeal to students but were also multi-layered and rigorously aligned to standards. And Sara and Hayley and Jesse wrote about formative assessment, and Sara had this to say about that important practice: “When we acknowledge that ‘doing well’ is seen in students making strides toward mastery and recognize that happens, in part, through our deliberate and careful feedback, it’s easier to see how important formative assessment data is.”

  • June 22, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Fully Engaging Parents and Community Members

    Some of you may know that we have a set of implementation benchmarks for an effective standards-based grading system, and we’ve had a few blog posts on these benchmarks, picking one and diving into more detail about it. For this blog post, you will see from above that we address one that all implementing schools and districts need to think very carefully and pro-actively about: How does a school or district ensure that all community members understand the standards-based grading system, on all levels?

  • June 22, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Mapping Assessments

    If you followed my little series on backwards design and course planning, you saw that I like to begin with big ideas and essential questions and then turn my attention to the standards I can mindfully address as we explore those big ideas and essential questions. The key component to comprehensive teacher-driven assessment within such a system, I think, is to map the assessments you will use to determine proficiency with the standards attached to your essential questions.

  • May 21, 2015 CATEGORIES: News, Philosophy

    The Second Maine Proficiency-based Symposium

    What are the “take aways” from the second Maine Proficiency-based Symposium held last Friday at Windham High School? There are many, and they’re pretty powerful. In no particular order, let me share some of the few that resonate most deeply with me.

  • April 28, 2015 CATEGORIES: Features, Philosophy, Tips

    Student Learning Objectives and JumpRope

    Increasingly in my travels, I’m running into teachers, schools, and districts who are working hard to implement student learning objectives (SLOs) as part of their teaching strategy as well as their teacher evaluation system.

  • April 22, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Getting Back in the Loop

    Our school made the decision to shift to standards-based grading last year. We were excited about the idea of implementing a system that would allow us to better communicate where kids were in relation to targets, in both academic areas and with our habits of work. This system would allow us to separate those areas from each other, track progress, and use grading practices to help solidify a growth mindset in our students.

  • April 17, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    A Tech Tool Becomes a Learning Tool

    Champlain Valley Union High School is a leader in the state of Vermont when it comes to standards-based teaching and learning, and recently I caught up with Emily Rinkema and Stan Williams there, to ask about CVU’s implementation of their standards-based system and JumpRope and JumpRope’s evolution from a tech tool to a learning tool.

  • April 6, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Unpacking Standards

    I wonder if any of you are like me in being compulsively organized? My family suffers through my affliction in the tidiness of our home, but I sometimes see my compulsion as a cornerstone of my ability to plan and deliver lessons, units and whole courses. The desire to organize has helped me broaden the usual approach to “unpacking standards,” the topic I promised to return to after my last post.

  • April 3, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    More on Student Voice

    As part of my post about student voice and agency, we reached out to several JumpRope users to ask them to share with us some on-the-ground examples of student agency

  • April 1, 2015 CATEGORIES: Features, News, Philosophy, Tech, Tips

    Introducing a more flexible grading scale!

    One thing we’ve heard loud and clear from our partner schools over the years is that grading students based on numbers (1-4 or 0-100, for example) is very limiting. Numeric grades not only conjure nightmares of traditional grading systems (a big no-no), but they also suggest a false objectivity within a system that we all know to be wholly subjective. Furthermore, it can be very hard for teachers to agree on a particular grading scale or on the specific methods used to calculate an overall grade for a student (do you take an average of the scores, or use the Power Law?)

  • March 31, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Student Voice

    When I started teaching, I epitomized the Sage-on-the-Stage, with a language arts class that revolved around me, not my students. Luckily, I had a year off from teaching at Columbia’s Teachers College and learned many important things from Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Lucy Calkins. They helped me change my ways; they helped me see the importance of student voice, of keeping my mouth closed more than it was open. I learned to listen more, to ask better questions, and to find ways to fade into the background, letting my students take the stage. I can’t say that I was always perfect, but I can say that when I did the above - when I was intentional about putting students front and center - important things happened.

  • March 12, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    More Big Ideas and Essential Questions

    It’s great to talk about using an approved set of standards to guide our daily and weekly instruction, but how do we actually DO that? On Monday Abner wrote on the topic of teaching to big ideas, mentioning some of our partner schools where that sort of practice is thriving. But it’s not easy

  • March 10, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Big Ideas

    I had a great week last week in Vermont, visiting with several school and district folks as that state moves more and more to a proficiency-based approach. JumpRope already has some great school partners in Vermont - Champlain Valley Union High School, Essex Middle School, and Hartland Elementary School are just three - and we look forward to more work with passionate, kids-at-the-center educators.

  • Feb. 25, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    How Standards-Based Grading Has Made Me a More Purposeful Teacher

    If there were a perfect formula for what to teach, what to assign, how to grade it, and how to get each student to master every standard, teachers everywhere would simply be replaced by robots.

  • Feb. 16, 2015 CATEGORIES: News, Philosophy

    EdCamp in Western Maine!

    EdCamp?! Maybe you’re saying, “I love EdCamp,” or maybe you’re asking, “What IS EdCamp?,” or maybe you’re wondering how the western region of our sparsely populated state managed to pull off its own event called EdCamp and make it a smashing success. Here’s how.

  • Feb. 9, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Coaching Our Team

    We currently co-coach heterogeneous 9th grade humanities classes as part of the Core program at Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU) just outside of Burlington, VT. All 9th graders are assigned to the Core program, with students assigned to teams of five teachers. Each team of teachers has prided themselves on building relationships and knowing students well, as one of the five essential goals of Core is to develop close relationships with students and family. But, yes, even the best intentions meet with adversity, and as we began to move towards standards-based learning (SBL), we were faced with our own version of “deflate-gate.” Both parents and students were anxious about what standards-based grading might mean for the omnipresent and mighty cumulative GPA.

  • Feb. 5, 2015 CATEGORIES: Features, Philosophy, Tips

    Musings on Most Recent, Power Law, and the Decaying Average

    One of the trickiest and most controversial aspects of mastery-based grading is the way that scores (grades, though I usually try to avoid the word) are calculated in the system. Specifically, determining the level of mastery a student receives on a given standard across multiple pieces of evidence is probably the most complicated.

  • Feb. 3, 2015 CATEGORIES: Features, Philosophy, Tips

    Encouraging Formative Assessment

    Recently one of JumpRope’s clients shared questions that got Jesse, Hayley, and Sara talking. They agreed that their collective response to the client’s queries was worthy of sharing through a blog post. You know the principle: If one student is asking good questions, others likely have the same questions.

  • Jan. 23, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Our Transition to Standards-based Grading

    Our school made the decision to implement standards-based grading as a way to monitor our students’ learning and ability to apply their knowledge before moving on to the next topic. The primary goal was to place the focus on the learning rather than on just doing what was needed to make a grade. While I believe in this approach, it took some time for me to get fully on board and feel fully comfortable with standards-based grading.

  • Jan. 15, 2015 CATEGORIES: News

    Looking Ahead to 2015

    As we move into this new year, we here at JumpRope are thinking back on 2014 and on to 2015, and we wanted to share a quick post with our readers about what people in our company are planning on, work-wise, for 2015. We want to pull back the curtain a bit on our work, as we begin to think ahead to and plan for a productive and fun-filled (!!) 12 months. Here goes.

  • Jan. 12, 2015 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Grading in 3D

    As I started transitioning from traditional grading to standards-based grading this year, I realized that I did not have the appropriate record-keeping tools. Traditional grading software is not designed to handle standards-based assessments just like a painter’s toolbox leaves her ill-equipped for sculpture.

  • Dec. 22, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    The Synergy of Teachers and School Leaders

    A conversation between Sara Needleman and Abner Oakes

  • Dec. 15, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tech

    Having the Right Tech

    One last blog post before the year’s end and this one brings us back to the implementation benchmarks. You may remember that we’ve been doing a few different posts on the benchmarks, teasing each one out to tell their stories. Well, let’s do that one more time in 2014, and here’s the benchmark that I will address: My school/district has the resources and expertise to manage and support a new mission-critical technical tool.

  • Nov. 24, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    How Do We Define "Exceeds"?

    How do we define a 4 in a 1-4 assessment system? What does pushing beyond the 3 really look like? These are a few questions that I raised in a post a few weeks ago. Rather than answering them then, I took a detour to write about the general merits of defining the 4. As promised, I’m returning to this topic, to share my thoughts on how we distinguish a 3 from a 4 and the tools that we might use to build strong habits of our own in making these distinctions.

  • Nov. 4, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Defining Mastery

    How do we define a 4 in a 1-4 assessment system? What does pushing beyond the 3 really look like? And if our goal is to help students attain proficiency (as defined by a 3), should we even define the 4? Would it be better to let our students discover the 4 on their own?

  • Oct. 24, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Effective Professional Development and Tidying Your Standards-based House

    We’ve been busy with our friends in Maine, Vermont, and Ohio - to name a few states that we visited lately - and we got away from our blog posts on the JumpRope implementation benchmarks. Well, let’s get back to this series of posts and look at our benchmark #6

  • Sept. 2, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    The Change Process

    We recently completed a set of implementation benchmarks for schools and districts to use to assist with their effective implementation of JumpRope and their standards-based grading system. This fall we want to delve more deeply into some of the benchmarks, to tease out our thinking behind them and provide the detail that we might get to if we were working with a school or district on the benchmarks.

  • Aug. 14, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    JumpRope’s Implementation Benchmarks, part II

    As I wrote earlier this week, please use this rubric in any way that you see fit. It can be used beforehand to review what should be in place at your school or district to ensure effective implementation of a standards-based grading system. Already in the midst of that work? Then use it to review what’s in place, how well it’s in place, and what might still need to be developed.

  • Aug. 11, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    JumpRope’s Implementation Benchmarks, part I

    You may remember back in June the blog post I wrote about our implementation benchmarks - that we had started work on a rubric to help schools and districts measure the effectiveness of their standards-based learning system. Well, please see below - the first five of our ten benchmarks/dimensions, the descriptors for each scale level, and an italicized practitioner statement, which we hope gives some background and reasoning for that benchmark. We will push out the final five of these on Thursday.

  • Aug. 4, 2014 CATEGORIES: Features

    Preparing the Soil for Planting Change

    Before you even schedule a meeting or series of meetings to bring your community on board, consider the groundwork you’ve done internally and with the community to ensure a successful up-close and in-person discussion.

  • July 31, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Sharing Standards-Based Changes with the Community

    As the standards-based movement gains momentum and as we work with more schools and districts, it's become clear to us that the communities you live in and the parents and guardians of students you work with need your guidance regarding this shift in practice. We've helped a few districts roll out their plans to their community, and we’ve watched others as they’ve done so. Here are tips we think might help as you share this change in practice.

  • June 26, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    The Student Perspective: Why Is Proficiency-Based Grading a Good Thing?

    A while back, a teacher-friend of mine commented that part of what she really liked about a standards-based system was that she felt her students had really “bought in,” that they would claim they prefer this system to the traditional grading system from which they were coming in other schools.

  • June 18, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Towards Effective Implementation

    I got a note from a school last week that had been thinking about implementing JumpRope for the 2014-15 school year. During the last four months, we’d had many conversations with folks from this school - a very thoughtful, very progressive bunch - but as one of the staff members wrote me, “we will not be prepared to even consider a pilot for 2015.”

  • June 2, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Learning from our JumpRope Users: A Case Study of Capital City Public Charter School (part two)

    Last week I wrote about the steps Capital City Public Charter School (CCPCS), one of our partner schools, took to examine practice and implement changes. The actual changes CCPCS implemented are an encouraging reflection of important steps mindful schools and districts across the country - and indeed the world - are taking.

  • May 27, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    The Compelling Narrative of Student Data

    How do you know if the instruction happening at your school is meeting the needs of all students? It's a big question, and one that I am sure many schools are interested in answering. As a small independent school, we knew that this would be an important measure of success for us.

  • May 23, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Learning from our JumpRope Users: A Case Study of Capital City Public Charter School (CCPCS)

    With so many schools focused on the shift to a standards-based practice and all that that shift entails, it only makes sense to look at success stories as they unfold and highlight why they are success stories.

  • May 21, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Standards-based Grading in Thailand

    JumpRope just started working with an international school in Thailand, the International School Eastern Seaboard (ISE), and we posed a few questions to Heather Naro, our contact there and the principal of ISE’s elementary school.

  • May 16, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    The Ice Under the Surface: Preparing to Implement JumpRope.

    During a team meeting the other day, we were sharing thoughts about calls we get at this time of the year, from schools and districts looking for a gradebook solution. What we hear during many of these calls is that they're using a tool related to their SIS or a mix of spreadsheets, and it's just not working. A quick Google search and, voila, they find us.

  • April 23, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Getting into College with a Proficiency-Based Transcript

    When it comes to college admissions, are students who graduate from high schools that use a proficiency-based transcript competitive? I spent the last few weeks asking a lot of questions to find out. The answer: Yes!

  • April 3, 2014 CATEGORIES: Features, News, Tech

    On Mobile Devices in the Classroom (or why there is no real Flash EdHDX yet)

    Yesterday we had a bit of fun announcing a new tablet device designed by JumpRope specifically for the K-12 classroom. With a whole slew of nutty features and some precisely aimed jabs at existing products, our announcement was designed both as a joke and as a commentary on the educational technology industry. Long post summary: we're very interested to how mobile devices evolve to impact learning in the K-12 classroom, but currently see a lot of unknowns. In the meantime, we've released major updates to our mobile apps including support for Android devices and the phone form-factor!

  • April 1, 2014 CATEGORIES: Features, News, Tech

    (April Fools!) Introducing the Flash EdHDX tablet for education!

    Over the last decade, schools and teachers have started to embrace the latest technology to improve student engagement, differentiation strategies, and teach effectiveness. The use of connected devices to deliver personalized, interactive learning experiences has long been the focus of pundits, journalists, and early adopters as our nation struggles to keep K-12 education relevant and effective. Currently schools interested in 1-to-1 devices must choose between massive laptops, commodity tablets (iPads, Androids, or Kindles) with limited administrative capabilities and oceans of irrelevant applications, or highly-specialized education tablets (Amplify, LearnPad) which are expensive with limited features and safety problems.

  • March 28, 2014 CATEGORIES: News, Philosophy

    JumpRope on the West Coast

    One of JumpRope’s many appealing traits is its capacity to support and ease stakeholders’ (students, parents, teachers, etc..) transition to proficiency-based teaching and learning. In my own teaching career I was able to be a part of this transition and the related growing pains for a large district.

  • March 25, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Developing Rich Assessments

    I talked on the phone the other day with folks from a JumpRope partner school, and they relayed to me an interesting story. As they explored the world of standards-based grading a few years ago, they visited a school where teachers had taken a narrow approach to the assessment side of their work.

  • March 17, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Emerging from the Dark Ages of Educational Behaviorism

    In the 1930s, psychologist BF Skinner created what became known as the Skinner Box, a device he used to test out his theories on lab rats. Using "operant conditioning," he designed and implemented an increasingly complex set of stimulus-response trials.

  • March 14, 2014 CATEGORIES: News, Philosophy

    Our Day of Learning in South Portland

    One of the things I like best about working with JumpRope is what's at the center of our work: To improve teaching and learning through thoughtful implementation of mastery-based practice.

  • March 13, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    The Intersection Between Proficiency-Based and Traditional Transcripts

    As the field of education begins to shift toward a mastery-based model, at least in some places, several questions loom large for teachers, administrators, and parents. A big one: "How will a mastery-based model affect a student's chances for college admission?"

  • March 5, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Standards-based Grading in Guangzhou, China

    For this post we posed several questions to Carly Thomas, a founding teacher at Nansha College Preparatory Academy, a new American curriculum school in Guangzhou, China. Nansha is also JumpRope’s first school partner in that country.

  • Feb. 28, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Mastery-Based Grading: It's All About Relationships

    In many traditional grading systems, an assignment often culminates with the teacher assigning each student a grade, which is at its root an exertion of power. No matter how strong, productive, and compassionate the relationship between a teacher and a student is, the power dynamic resulting from traditional grading systems can undermine the fact that teachers and students are members of the same learning community and must work together to achieve common goals.

  • Feb. 13, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Leading in One JumpRope School

    When teachers really believe that all students can succeed and that it's their job to facilitate success, we see deep and positive change.

  • Feb. 11, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    A Shift from Teaching to Learning

    What we teach and what students learn are potentially completely different, and it wasn't until we realized that the first is virtually irrelevant that we began to make significant changes in our instruction.

  • Jan. 28, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    The Long Road to the Long Term Target

    How can we motivate students and be responsive to parents and guardians if we make the philosophical choice to report out only on course or grade level targets? How do we address the state of the "perpetual partially meets" or the "8 months-long 2"?

  • Jan. 16, 2014 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    The Standards Movement: Full Circle

    I taught middle and high school language arts for 15 years and left the classroom in 1997. By that time, my wife and I had moved to the Washington, DC area, and with much interesting stuff happening public school improvement-wise at that time - I’d taught in private schools - I decided that I wanted to try and help in that world. Yes, I loved the classroom and my students and teaching The Great Gatsby and Mary Oliver and Beowulf, but there was more work to be done in the public school realm, it seemed, and I wanted to see if I could put to use on a larger scale what I’d learned about education those 15 years.

  • Jan. 13, 2014 CATEGORIES: News, Philosophy

    Exploring Practice

    "I truly think that JumpRope has moved our thinking about instruction and assessment further than I could have imagined."

  • Dec. 19, 2013 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Mastery-Based Research

    Recently one active JumpRope user asked, "Is there any current research on mastery-based grading that you know of? It is one of the most common requests I get from other teachers, but I don't know where to look."

  • July 23, 2013 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Getting to Know All About You

    I'm always a little stuck for gift ideas when my kids go to their friends' birthday parties. "What is Cal into these days? Is Phoebe still reading Jerry Spinelli books?" Invariably, the friends who end up with the best gifts are those who my own kids know well. When they have an inside line on what will really delight the birthday boy or girl, we are able to make a well suited choice.

  • April 16, 2013 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Rules of Thumb: Standards

    Rules of Thumb is a series in which we share best practices for JumpRope and standards-based grading in general. Jesse taught for five years and has helped dozens of schools and thousands of teachers implement standards-based grading, but knows very well that these aren't one-size-fits-all. Take a look, and let us know in the comments if you agree or have other related suggestions!

  • April 11, 2013 CATEGORIES: Features, Philosophy

    What are we doing today?

    Setting Classroom Expectations with Daily Learning Targets

    When I taught 8th grade science, I often heard, “Are we going to blow anything up today?” Most of the time, the answer was, “No”, but the question prompted me to ask myself “What is it the students are looking for?” Obviously, lots of the time, they are hoping for something cool, something truly engaging. But just as often, they simply are seeking clarity. They want to know what they will be doing in your classroom. They want to know what is expected of them.

  • April 9, 2013 CATEGORIES: Features, News



    by Jesse Olsen

    Many tech companies take the opportunity to have a bit of fun with their users on April 1st, and JumpRope is no exception. While fun is a big part of the goal, it has also given us a platform to offer some (often sarcastic) satire on education, technology, and especially the rapidly expanding world of ed-tech. Too often in our industry, companies are approaching education reform with tech-only solutions focused solely on gathering the most data as quickly and easily as possible. While we believe that these elements are important, we also believe that this is only half of the battle. At least as much attention needs to be given to the underlying theories of action and the ways in which data monsters affect classroom culture and pedagogy.

  • April 1, 2013 CATEGORIES: Features, News



    As we work with more and more teachers and schools that have different data needs and pressures related to final grades, a common request of JumpRope is to provide tools to help override grades at the course level. In our efforts to remain standards-based, JumpRope calculates course grades as a culmination of underlying mastery scores. While pure and meaningful when analyzing mastery, these numbers are basically just annoying when it comes to giving kids grades.

  • March 14, 2013 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Rules of Thumb: Assessment

    Rules of Thumb is a series in which we share best practices for JumpRope and standards-based grading in general. Jesse taught for five years and has helped dozens of schools and thousands of teachers implement standards-based grading, but knows very well that these aren't one-size-fits-all. Take a look, and let us know in the comments if you agree or have other related suggestions!

  • Feb. 27, 2013 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Field Notes on Backwards Design

    I am a convert. It did not take long and it took no work on the part of anyone other than me to see how much sense it makes for us to use a backwards design model for teaching and learning. I think it is important though, in this era of standardized testing, to make the clear distinction between backwards planning and teaching to the test.

  • Feb. 13, 2013 CATEGORIES: Philosophy, Tips

    Rules of Thumb: Common Core Standards

    Rules of Thumb is a series in which we share best practices for JumpRope and standards-based grading in general. Jesse taught for five years and has helped dozens of schools and thousands of teachers implement standards-based grading, but knows very well that these aren't one-size-fits-all. Take a look, and let us know in the comments if you agree or have other related suggestions!

  • Jan. 30, 2013 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Defining Standards-based Teaching and Learning

    At JumpRope, we think standards are the antidote to mediocrity in schools. Not "standardization," which in fact is something of a precursor to mediocrity, but standards—clearly defined statements of quality, as in the old fashioned meaning of word "standards."

  • Dec. 18, 2012 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Why should a parent be excited about Standards-Based grading?

    We have been reporting grades for as long as we have sent kids to school. Grades have always told parents where their kids land along a certain spectrum. Why change that?

  • Dec. 3, 2012 CATEGORIES: Features

    New Features and New Jumpropers!

    With the beginning of a new school year and JumpRope more than doubling in size, the last few months have been very busy at JumpRope HQ! We're happy to say that our new schools are settling into their shiny new mastery-based gradebooks, and scores and other data are flowing at record rates. More importantly, we have dozens of innovative schools working with us that continue to expand our understanding, making our product even better. Thank you to everyone for the continued work and support!

  • Oct. 21, 2012 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Standards, Not Standardized

    If you're like me, you welcome the Common Core standards as a pathway to "less talk (about what we believe students should learn) and more action (directed at actually getting students to meet those standards.)" Used thoughtfully, they should be the building blocks that enable many approaches and models to thrive—without the constant drag of redefining the words we use to accomplish what we (almost) all agree we should be able to accomplish.

  • Oct. 10, 2012 CATEGORIES: Features, Philosophy

    JumpRope Hates Grades

    Jesse Olsen is the founder and CEO of JumpRope, which offers tools and professional development that challenges schools and teachers to innovate in their practices and culture. This is the story of his company and insight into the question on everyone’s mind: what’s wrong with education these days?

  • Oct. 9, 2012 CATEGORIES: Features, News

    A Better World by Design

    We're entrepreneurs. We run on caffeine, late nights and big vision. We are passionate about our work and love to talk about it. That's why I was so excited to have been invited to participate in an entrepreneurialism panel at the 2012 A Better World by Design Conference, in Providence this past weekend. 

  • Aug. 9, 2012 CATEGORIES: Features, Philosophy

    Could "Just Teach" Mean "Just Assess?"

    The Choice – Part 2 of 2

    Last week, I wrote about Paul Zavitkovsky’s challenge from an article in Catalyst Chicago “Now we have a choice. Do we double down again, or do we let go of some comfortable intuitions and start putting our money on a different horse?” I left off with the idea that treating standardized testing as either the enemy or the end goal misses the point. JumpRope can help schools use data they are required to collect in service of their actual mission—educate each child well.

  • Aug. 7, 2012 CATEGORIES: Features, Philosophy

    The Implications of Standards-Based Grading

    The Huffington Post recently published an article entitled Standards-Based Grading Slow To Take Effect In High Schools. At JumpRope we believe in the positive solutions that standards-based grading can bring to the modern classroom. So, we wanted to address this issue—why has standards-based grading been slow to take effect?

  • July 31, 2012 CATEGORIES: Features, Philosophy

    Could "Just Teach" Mean "Just Assess?"

    The Challenge – Part 1 of 2

    At JumpRope, we believe in collecting data on what students have learned, as opposed to what they have done. In reality we believe this will guide the successful implementation of Common Core standards. In a Marshall Memo summary of an article by Paul Zavitkovsky from Catalyst Chicago, Getting Assessment Right in the Common Core Era, he makes the point that we’ll have to dispense with some conventional wisdom in order to do so.

  • July 19, 2012 CATEGORIES: News, Philosophy

    The Journey to JumpRope

    JumpRope is excited to be working with John D'Anieri and Sara Needleman, our new consultants and leadership coaches. They are both Maine educators with long and varied experience in standards-based teaching and learning.

  • July 6, 2012 CATEGORIES: News

    I thought summer was supposed to be for relaxing!

    It got hot outside! Good thing it's nice and cool in the office. The past few months have been exciting ones here at JumpRope. While Jesse has been working on an exciting new product, Justin has been flying all around the US of A meeting with new schools.

  • May 23, 2012 CATEGORIES: News

    Can you count to 1,000,000? We can!

    At JumpRope, we are proud to be part of the daily lives of our users. As a mission-critical, professional tool, JumpRope often gets more usage than email (unless this gem is floating around.) Teachers, administrators, and students log in multiple times per day to enter or analyze attendance, mastery, and other data.

  • May 9, 2012 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    We Speak Your Language at JumpRope

    Having taught at more than one school and worked with dozens more, I've come to know that each school works very hard to build and maintain its own unique culture. This extends from the students and families up to the staff and administration, and is a crucial part of a school's success.

  • April 28, 2012 CATEGORIES: News

    JumpRope Sponsors Best-in-the-Bronx Double Dutch Team!

    Did I ever tell you that I used to coach double dutch while I was teaching high school? In fact, it's one of the reasons that we changed our name to JumpRope last summer! We are excited to announce we've chosen to sponsor the Bathgate Double Dutch team in the Bronx by helping them purchase the uniforms and shoes that they need to compete in this year's NYC PSAL double-dutch season.

  • April 27, 2012 CATEGORIES: News

    The Fate of Civilizations lies in your hands & it's fun!

    JumpRope is excited to share with you a fun and intoxicating educational tool produced by new friends of ours, Joe Ballou and Jonathan Ng of Fate of Civilizations, a history-based board game- Glory. Glory allows students to learn about world history in a playful and engaging way, and aligns with universal standards so teachers can gather mastery data and track student progress.

  • April 19, 2012 CATEGORIES: News

    We're in the zone, the iZone

    It's exciting to sit down with a teacher or administrator who has never heard about JumpRope's standards-based grading technology and watch their nods quicken and grins widen as they learn that we are exactly what they've been looking for their entire career. So the opportunity to see this revelation many times over the course of an entire day fuels my efforts to keep fighting the good fight.

  • April 14, 2012 CATEGORIES: Philosophy

    Switch to Mastery, And Do It For Real!

    Think back to your old gradebook. What did the numbers mean? What were they used for? If you're anything like me, grades were essentially an ongoing way to motivate and penalize students. They sometimes worked, and sometimes didn't, but one thing was very clear: grades depended heavily on what students had done, and less heavily on what students had shown that they knew.

  • March 29, 2012 CATEGORIES: News

    JumpRope as a Tool to Defend and Justify Mastery

    Recently, the Urban Assembly School for Music and Art (UAMA), a high school in Brooklyn, NY, contacted us with a fascinating request: their annual Quality Review - a day-long inquiry and audit of the school's overall quality - was approaching, and they needed our help.

  • Feb. 2, 2012 CATEGORIES: Features, News, Tech

    A new way to tell when your scores are saved!

    Because we know that mastery-based grading inherently brings its own challenges, we have had worked hard to make grade entry as easy and intuitive as possible. We built in auto-saving into the gradebook from day one, behaving much like Google Docs. As you enter scores, JumpRope will save your scores every few seconds in the background.

  • Dec. 30, 2011 CATEGORIES: News

    Happy New Year from JumpRope!

    The JumpRope team would like to wish all of our users and supporters a very Happy New Year. 2011 has been a busy one at JumpRope, though many of the changes have been behind the scenes. Much of what we've done is gearing up for some exciting new products and features in 2012. Let's take a look at some of our bigger accomplishments in 2011:

  • Aug. 25, 2011 CATEGORIES: News

    Say hello to JumpRope (and the team!)

    JumpRope provides solutions for teachers, schools, and other educational organizations. Though you could call us a bootstrapped web-based startup (we are), we've stayed pretty far from the startup world as our business has grown. Instead, we've been deeply embedded in the education world working with dozens of schools and networks to learn as much as possible about designing and implementing systems in the exciting, chaotic world of education.


About JumpRope

JumpRope helps educators implement standards-based grading in every classroom through innovative assessment and feedback. We provide the web-based platform that great teachers and schools need to engage students with active pedagogy, purposeful planning, and authentic learning experiences. With the tools to make standards-based grading easy, teachers are freed to create, propel and inspire; and students become life-long learners. More +

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