Author: Molly Anderson

kids in grass writing
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Choosing a Competency Based Platform to Support Students

Discovery Charter School, located in San Jose, California. It has an amazing program and a competitive lottery for acceptance to the school. Discovery Charter School is dedicated to creating lifelong learners that are prepared to meet the challenges of the future. They focus on educating the whole child through strong family involvement, project-based learning, and respect for individual learning styles and developmental readiness. They recently chose Novare to help them implement their mission. Novare is a learning management platform that facilitates project based learning by connecting competencies to student work and creating portfolios. Novare helps schools communicate with learners and families through competencies, proficiency levels in the language of the school and competency based reports.

We recently interviewed 6th grade teacher, Toni Sindelar, to learn her perspective about why Discovery chose Novare and how implementing it has been.

What first drew your school to Novare?

Creating efficiencies for teachers to create competency based reports

“Our educational philosophy is based on a growth mindset and tracking students’ learning through skills. Our current student information system forces us to tie a letter grade to each assignment, and we wanted to use an assessment system that does not rely on a letter grade. Novare is great for this because the focus is on understanding what skills the students are gaining, rather than simply providing a letter grade. Novare also connects to our student information system, so we have the flexibility to use both platforms in sync.”


What is your experience with Novare?

“The platform has been really fun to play with and very forgiving. If I make a mistake, I can easily undo it. It is adaptable and flexible.”


What about Novare Team members and customer service?

“It has been great. The team is extremely responsive, very patient, and accommodating. They are willing to work with us, and are transparent every step of the way. Whereas other systems that we use charge us for every communication or support issue, Novare has a one time fee and the team continues to help us at no extra cost.”


Would you recommend Novare?

“Absolutely. We have been very happy with Novare so far and would certainly be willing to refer Novare to other schools.”

Novare looks forward to connecting with you to further your vision in competency-based education. We are all about building relationships and putting learners at the heart of our work.


education, elementary school, learning and people concept - group of school kids with pens and notebooks writing test in classroom
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

4 Key Components to Assessing Critical Thinking

Assessing critical thinking can be tricky.  Figuring out the tasks, isolating the skills, and knowing what you are actually assessing. Here is a summary of the key components for assessing critical thinking in even very young students.

 1. Take out the noise. If you are measuring reasoning, focus on reasoning. Do not focus on other skills, such as spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Reasoning assessment should be done through conversations for kindergarten and first grade students. Beginning in  second grade, activities that incorporate writing may be used.

2. Don’t scaffold. When assessing reasoning skills, do not provide support. Give them the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding without help from teachers or other students. Here is an example of a task for second or third grade students.


First generate a class list of what makes a hero.  Make certain you discuss heroes that are not super heroes. Typical lists may include brave, strong, faces challenges, clever…. Then read Jack and the Beanstalk retold and illustrated by Steven Kellogg.  Each student should have a copy to follow along to read and look at the illustrations.  Review any questions on vocabulary. This version shows Jack as morally ambiguous. Next ask students according to the characteristics, was Jack a hero? Support your answer with specific evidence from the text.


3. Use a scoring guide. Know what you are looking for to demonstrate different proficiency levels. Here is an example of a scoring guide for grades 2 and 3 with different proficiency levels. The first row describes the skill for that proficiency level. The row below shows the evidence to look for in determining at which level the student performs.



4. Analyze student work together.  Comparative assessment helps calibrate expectations between classrooms and provides rich dialogue for understanding criteria and student outcomes.


This topic was one of many explored at EL National Conference. Many thanks for the insights and resources provided by Jeff Heyck-Williams and Jill Clark, who taught the master class on Creating Assessments of Critical Thinking and Problem Solving!

Teachers in schools have saved countless hours by utilizing Novare’s assessment platform to organize and share resources for assignments, evaluate student work and easily aggregate and manipulate data.


On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Life Lessons & Risk Taking

Our friends offered to take us rock climbing last weekend.  My family has NEVER been climbing outside of the occasional indoor climbing wall. We were thrilled and a bit nervous about the experience. After a beautiful drive up to Summit Rock, we began to hike.


The day was exhilarating.  It is hard work rock climbing. There is a great deal of problem solving and trust involved.  The problem solving involved figuring out how to use the space to climb to the top – using your body as a lever, where to position hands and feet to get the next few inches up. Learning to trust is the other critical part to climbing – trusting the people have you, trusting your ability, trusting the rope that holds you.

Thinking back to the day, the most thrilling experience was climbing over the precipice, dangling at the top of a cliff and rappelling down the rock.


Why did I risk it? Exhilaration, joy, the view, the self confidence?  But in truth it came down to feeling safe to risk the climb.  I knew there was someone below to slow my descent if I lost control. I had a careful teacher at the top guiding my hands with advice. I was able to take that jump, because of the scaffolding of support.


As a teacher, a parent, the CEO of a company that supports teachers and students, I want to create the scaffolding to permit teachers, students and my children to take risks, learn from mistakes, grow and thrive.

May each of you climb mountains.

PBL World and Novare!
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare / 1

PBL World and Novare!

Novare is proud to be invited to participate in the Ed Leaders Tech for Schools Workshop at PBL World! PBL World is a National Conference that promotes Project Based Learning. We agree with the Buck Institute for Education, co-host of Ed Leaders Tech for Schools at PBL World and a leader in helping teachers prepare students for successful lives, that PBL engages students in real life problem solving, supported by research and develops deeper learning!

Why PBL” by the Buck Institute for Education as shown on their website.

Why Project BasedLearning (PBL)?

Project Based Learning’s time has come. The experience of thousands of teachers across all grade levels and subject areas, backed by research, confirms that PBL is an effective and enjoyable way to learn – and develop deeper learning competencies required for success in college, career, and civic life. Why are so many educators across the United States and around the world interested in this teaching method? The answer is a combination of timeless reasons and recent developments.

  • PBL makes school more engaging for students.Today’s students, more than ever, often find school to be boring and meaningless. In PBL, students are active, not passive; a project engages their hearts and minds, and provides real-world relevance for learning.
  • PBL improves learning.After completing a project, students understand content more deeply, remember what they learn and retain it longer than is often the case with traditional instruction. Because of this, students who gain content knowledge with PBL are better able to apply what they know and can do to new situations.
  • PBL builds success skills for college, career, and life.In the 21st century workplace and in college, success requires more than basic knowledge and skills. In a project, students learn how to take initiative and responsibility, build their confidence, solve problems, work in teams, communicate ideas, and manage themselves more effectively.
  • PBL helps address standards. The Common Core and other present-day standards emphasize real-world application of knowledge and skills, and the development of success skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, communication in a variety of media, and speaking and presentation skills. PBL is an effective way to meet these goals.
  • PBL provides opportunities for students to use technology.Students are familiar with and enjoy using a variety of tech tools that are a perfect fit with PBL. With technology, teachers and students can not only find resources and information and create products, but also collaborate more effectively, and connect with experts, partners, and audiences around the world.
  • PBL makes teaching more enjoyable and rewarding.Projects allow teachers to work more closely with active, engaged students doing high-quality, meaningful work, and in many cases to rediscover the joy of learning alongside their students.
  • PBL connects students and schools with communities and the real world.Projects provide students with empowering opportunities to make a difference, by solving real problems and addressing real issues. Students learn how to interact with adults and organizations, are exposed to workplaces and adult jobs, and can develop career interests. Parents and community members can be involved in projects.

EdSurge, co-host to the Ed Leaders Tech for School Workshop at PBL World, describes the summit and demonstrates the value of attending this free conference.

“The Ed Leaders Tech for Schools Workshop at PBL World will give you the inside track on emerging tech & trends directly aligned with best practice Project Based Learning.”

The purpose is to “focus on deep engagement between education leaders and edtech companies through a personalized program based on district priorities for supporting teachers and school leaders in using Project Based Learning.

The workshop showcases innovative, effective technology tools for classrooms and schools that directly support high-quality PBL.”

Novare is honored to be selected to participate in this workshop.

See you at PBL World!




Product Update-Customize Proficiency Levels!
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Product Update: Customize Proficiency Levels!

Attention Novare Users! We are excited to announce that we have added another level to our 4 previous levels. You can now select “incomplete”. This level helps track students who were absent, you can now circle back with them and let students know if they have not submitted their work.

Also, schools can determine different proficiency levels and how to best describe them.


Welcome Indigo Program!
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Welcome Indigo Program!

The Indigo Program is a safe and caring K-8 program designed to educate the whole child. At Indigo, “We provide multi-age interactions and constructivist learning activities through a positive discipline approach. This approach is supported by strong parent involvement. Indigo values the unique learning styles, skills and abilities of each child so they will be prepared to make a positive impact on the world.”

I had the honor of working with Mimi, Nasreen, and Natalie. We focused on looking at the benefits of having portfolios. Novare can show which standards connect with a proficiency level and date stamp along with narrative opportunities from both teachers and students to help students delve deeper into ideas. The Indigo team is also interested in reporting out not only projects to families, but also reports that can incorporate student, teacher, parent learning goals, overall view of assessment, narratives, pictures, videos and portfolios all in one report, easily assembled with portals, that permit students to manage their portfolios and parents to better understand what their children are learning. All this information is in one place!

Novare Connecting with Oelwein High School
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Novare Connecting with Oelwein High School

It has been truly inspiring to meet so many thoughtful, insightful and caring education professionals! I am proud to announce that Novare is working with the leadership team at Oelwein High School. Their Mission Statement is: The Oelwein Community School District is ‘forming the future’ by accepting, educating, guiding, inspiring, and caring about students in order that they may achieve their fullest potential.

Josh and Liz shared with me their excitement of being able to track multiple assessments on a single standard to show how students progress over time. They are also interested in the ways they can customize report cards to share how students are doing. Liz and I discussed how Novare can help with also supporting students with special curricular standards to personalize learning and meet students where they perform.

Welcome Earl Frost Elementary
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Welcome Earl Frost Elementary

Novare is excited to work with Frost Elementary School. Frost’s mission is to ensure that every child’s potential is achieved. The entire Frost Team is dedicated to creating a nurturing yet rigorous environment that enables each child to develop academically, socially, and emotionally. Frost teachers work collaboratively to design and implement curriculum that will engage students through common core standard-aligned units. Every lesson aims to develop the following skills in each child:

  • Learning – critical thinking, creative, collaboration, and communication
  • Literacy – information literacy, media literacy, and technology literacy
  • Life – flexibility, initiative, social skills, productivity, and leadership

I had the privilege of working with Tiffany and Erin. Erin has great curiosity and explored many aspects of the platform. Her focus was personalizing PBIS standards and creating groups and projects. Tiffany is thoughtful and insightful. She explored ways to organize groups, create learning goals for assignments, began tracking assessment and looking at ways Novare can help teachers collaborate. It’s wonderful to work with this savvy leadership team.

Common Core Results Are Back
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Common Core Results Are Back

The test results are back from the controversial, high risk, end of year tests. Based on the results from this test most of our students in this nation are not proficient in needed skills. Articles like this and this talk about what isn’t working and many bloggers, writers, and educators don’t seem to have an easy answer… and I know why… there is no easy answer! The results provide information from only one metric we chose to use at the end of the school year. Most students did not perform well on the standardized tests.

What it leaves me with are more questions than answers.  As a nation, did we really expect all of our students to master these deeper learning concepts so quickly?  Do our teachers have the needed resources to develop and guide the students through this shift in learning? Is this a good baseline to determine student growth as we move forward? Shouldn’t we use multiple types of assessment to determine how students are doing and ultimately the effectiveness of the common core.

These are not easy to implement, It can be scary knowing that you are going to learn less content for deeper learning. What gets left out? How do you balance it. What level do students need to be successful in life?  How do we measure that success? I am a mother to four and each is so different.

Diane Ravitch’s blog has a great compilation of different tests and some issues with them. They show students from many states scoring proficient or above mostly between 30 and 50 percent. That means half or most are not proficient. What does that mean? It could mean many things…

  1. The test is valid, Our students are not able to think in the way we are now wanting them to perform and we can use this information to shape how we teach. That means putting it in a form that is usable for schools to look at programs and individuals and work on developing these skills.
  2. The test is invalid, The questions are biased / do not assess what is intended.  Having a third party review the tests to determine validity would restore faith in this process.
  3. Technology has not caught up to use this test accurately (students struggling with typing, or schools not having the infrastructure to support online testing, glitches with wifi etc.  skewing results.
  4. This type of test is not the best metric to gauge what is happening.  

I do believe we need a metric outside the classroom to determine if students have the skills needed to be college ready. I am not convinced this is the only or best way to do that. Therefore I don’t think these results will tell us what we want to know about our children being prepared for the future.

The common core was designed to move away from content driven multiple choice tests. It would make sense that an evaluation of it should be more project based. Scaling that view could be challenging, but possible.  

Technology will be the key to implementing and organizing engaging projects. It will provide tools for students to collaborate, revise and learn. We need to do more than change testing standards. We need to rethink the way we assess our students. Technology is the way in which we can make this happen.

The Super School Project is ReImagining High School!
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

The Super School Project is ReImagining High School!

The Super School contest is asking us to rethink education to better prepare our children for college, career and life. It is an opportunity to bring together all the people involved in education: students, parents, educators, and business to design public high schools in order to help students be prepared for the future.

I am extremely excited because it:

  1. Mobilizes our nation, moving from East to West to start the dialogues of changing schools to better prepare students for college, career and life. 
  2. Provides strong criteria to guide the process, but not limit the solutions.
  3. Emphasizes using research to create diverse models for high schools.
  4. Funds 5 public schools to implement solutions.  


I think this contest is an excellent way to generate excitement and dialogue about solutions for education. So many times the focus is negative on what doesn’t work and this contest shifts it to what will work. It helps us focus on change in a positive way.  The focus is how to prepare students and engage them both in the contest and in education. It also provides $50 million to start the process and truly rethink education!

I am fired up about this and wanted to share it with you. This is an amazing example of Project Based Learning. An engaging challenge set in the “real world”. It has excellent criteria to guide the project and is extremely open ended.

This is the exact type of projects we support for classroom teachers. Where they can set up a project with criteria and students can create, edit, revise, and dialogue easily about it. Educators can guide and probe for deeper understanding and provide feedback connecting to narratives, standards or social emotional learning!

I’m going to be following this on TwitterThis will be fabulous to participate and watch! 

See you next week when we get our Mondays with Molly rolling again!