Student Surveys

Schools and teachers to be graded on what kids say

Originally posted on on October 18, 2017

The tables are turning and students will begin passing out the grades in every Idaho school this year.

That’s because student feedback will become an important part of the state’s new school accountability system.

  • How often do your teachers seem excited to be teaching your class?
  • How often do you worry about violence at your school?

As part of the effort to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, state officials chose to create a student engagement survey to help measure school quality and climate.

Debbie Critchfield

All public school students attending third through 12th grade will take short, online surveys this spring using the same technology they use to take online tests, State Board of Education Vice President Debbie Critchfield.

And what students say will actually matter.

After the surveys are complete, state officials will publicly share the summarized and aggregated data —without identifying students — broken down to the district and school level.

Local schools will have access to more detailed reports with all students’ responses.

“As policymakers and legislators (the survey data) will help inform decisions on general education topics,” Critchfield said. “But the real value will be in the (students’) local building, where the data can impact student achievement. There, (the data) are more than just number, they will be able to make adjustments.”

State officials are developing a similar parent survey that they plan to roll out the following year, in 2018-19.

The student survey questions will cover several different themes:

  • School safety.
  • Student-teacher relationships.
  • School climate, meaning a student’s perception of the overall social and learning climate of the school.

Additionally, students in grades 9-12 will receive another set of questions on the topic of “grit,” or the ability to persevere through setbacks to achieve important long-range goals.

Questions will also be geared toward a students’ grade level.

“You’re not going to ask a 12th-grader the same questions as a third-grader,” Critchfield said.

Karlynn Laraway, the State Department of Education’s director of assessment and accountability, said launching the survey this year would cost the state less than $20,000. She said the state has permission to use the already-developed Panorama Student Survey and administer it to students using the American Institutes for Research technology platform that Idaho students already use to take assessment tests each spring.

That saved the state money not having to develop its own survey questions or develop a new mechanism to send the survey out, Laraway said.

Students in grades three through six will answer 12 questions, while older students will receive 15 questions.

Some of the questions an elementary school student will receive include:

  • How often do your teachers seem excited to be teaching your class?
  • How often do you worry about violence at your school?

Students may answer “almost never,” “once in a while,” “sometimes,” “frequently,” or “almost always.”

Some questions students in grades six through 12 include:

  • How often do you stay focused on the same goal for several months at a time?
  • How often do you worry about violence at your school?

Critchfield and Laraway said they wanted to publish and disclose the survey well before it reaches students to add a degree of transparency to the project.

“This isn’t secret; we don’t want anybody’s first exposure to this to be when their child takes the survey,” Critchfield said. “There are no right or wrong answers, and it is not there to trick anybody.”

Anybody with questions or concerns about the student engagement survey may email Allison Westfall with the State Department of Education or Blake Youde with the State Board of Education.

Members of the State Board of Education chose to include student and parent surveys in the state’s ESSA plan, while officials from several other states chose other metrics, such as chronic absenteeism or teacher attendance.

Click here to read the questions that will be included in the Idaho Student Engagement Survey.

Save Time with Buffer App

Please be forewarned that the audio lags on this screen-capture and so audio finishes before the references and end of the video. I think it’s still useful, but let me know in the comments. Thanks.

EDCI-568 – Buffer App for Social Media from Jean Millheim on Vimeo.

During my reading, I noticed that there is an emphasis on Professional Learning Networks or Personal Learning Networks (PLN) as I like to call them. An article posted on 21 Things 4 Teachers (Professional learning networks: Using technology to enhance professional learning networks, n.d.), highlighted ways that technology is assisting PLN. I was intrigued to see that one of the paragraphs was about using social media to enhance your PLN.

I have a Twitter account as well as a profile on LinkedIn. I like to have a LinkedIn profile so that when people want to know what my interest and skills are, they can go there and see what I’m about. LinkedIn has more of a professional aspect than Facebook, so I make sure that anything I post there is especially pertinent to my interests and professional development.

The Twitter account has been a lot of fun these past three weeks. I used it mainly for business before this class and had heard that teachers should not get involved in social media. I was expecting to have to delete it at some point, so was pleasantly surprised to learn that social media can be helpful to educators.

The one thing we know is that social media can draw you in and take all of your time. You get instant feedback in many cases, so it seems like a new friend who loves all the same things you do. Eventually, you realize that this is a virtual friend, and they are very needy! You can be on social media any time of the day or night and observe people posting, requesting, chatting, etc. So to incorporate a little more sanity to my day, I use a social media manager.

The one I’m going to talk about today is Buffer App (, 2016). I have found that this interface is much more intuitive than other social media managers that I have used. I have been using the free Buffer App account. There is a paid version with many more features — which is entirely worth the price — but we’ll talk about the free features today.

When you post to Twitter, you might feel like you are standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon and talking to the world. All of your wit is going out into the ether and falling down a black hole. At least on Facebook you can have a conversation. I liken Facebook to chatting over the backyard fence. If there’s something you want everyone to know, you write it on the wall of your house; visible to the world. If you want to have a conversation, that is visible to some, but not all, you set up privacy options. If you want to slip someone a note, you do it through the Facebook Messenger.

Twitter, on the other hand, is like walking down the school hallway and saying “hi” to everyone as you pass. Maybe you’ll tell your history professor that you are reading “The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood” (Gleick, 2012). “Let me check that out,” s/he says, and that’s the end of the conversation. Folks seem less engaged, so my aim on Twitter is to post things that I’ve found interesting so that when others follow my posts, they will get content that is worth their time. I never post just to say I did it. The twist is: “If you have nothing worthwhile to say, say nothing at all.” However, with your PLN in place, you will find plenty worth sharing.

Buffer allows me to integrate three social networking accounts, which I’ve done. They allow me to set a schedule. I’ve decided that twice a day six days a week is enough for me. Now when I sit down and start reading about things that interest me, I can put them in my Buffer queue right then, but know that they will trickle out a couple a day during the week. I am therefore freed from having to check my social media accounts every day. What a big time saver!

I can also cross-post if I want to, highlight the same article in my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, for example. My Twitter and LinkedIn audiences seem different to me. Sometimes my Twitter audience seems just to be gauging what they can sell me while my LinkedIn audience seems more dignified and interested in me professionally. If I find an article I want to save for later, I’ll “pin” it to a Pinterest board,– but that’s a subject for another day.

Be proactive about getting content that has not been shared a million times. I subscribe to some newsfeeds that are a little bit off the edge, but whose writers consistently find little-read news stories. Another tactic is to search your topic in Google, but navigate to the 3rd or 4th page. Being on the first page of Google is an exacting art, and the competition is fierce. There are many worthy stories buried in the beyond. When I decide to share an article I make sure that I have read it thoroughly. Make sure you agree with the author’s conclusions (or lack thereof). It’s as easy as cutting and pasting the URL into your Buffer App. Buffer will automatically schedule your posts into the program grid you have created.

Buffer will shorten the URL. I like to include a headline because the “” will not be descriptive. I add an appropriate headline (sometimes from the article itself) and any other handles or hashtags I want to include. Then click “Add to Queue” and you are set. As I continue to study throughout the week, I can add a bit more to my Buffer. There are apps for your phone and extensions for your browser. Since I share my iPhone and my computer with a six-year-old, I have not installed these. Instead, I choose to log in every time I want to use the Buffer App.

During the week as people “favorite” or “retweet” my content, I can look into their profiles and find like-minded professionals who may post articles and insights that will help me grow. Here is a short video link (same as above) about this blog post via screen capture software (Cattura Video, 2016):

Please note, that the video begins to lag at some point. The video continues through to the last screen that says “The End” even though the audio has decided to end early!


21 Things 4 Teachers. (n.d.). Professional learning networks: Using technology to enhance professional learning networks. Retrieved from 21 Things 4 Teachers: (2016, April 22). Buffer: A better way to share on social media. Retrieved from Buffer:

Cattura Video. (2016, April 22). cattura. Retrieved from catturavideo:

Hootsuite. (2016, April 22). Hootsuite: Get serious about social. Retrieved from Hootsuite:

Millheim, J. (2016, April 22). @cabincricktweet. Retrieved from Twitter:

Millheim, J. (2016, April 22). J Millheim [profile]. Retrieved from LinkedIn:

Georg Friederich Händel

By far, one of the most enduring and beloved pieces of music written in the last 300 years is George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah”. Once again we are coming upon the season when many will listen to the Messiah and celebrate Christmas with this wonderful tradition.

Who is the man behind the music and what can we learn about his life?

Copyright: canebal / 123RF Stock Photo

Though he was born in Germany (1685), he spent most of his life in England. His father had intended to send him to study law, but a friend of the family, after hearing Handel practicing his music at the age of eleven, persuaded his father to allow the young man to study music. He became a violinist for the Hamburg Opera at the age of 18, and gave private lessons to support himself.

From Hamburg he traveled to Italy, Italy to Hanover, Hanover to London.  Handel lead a rich and varied life. His great talent opened the door for him to be acquainted with the rich and the royal. However, he did not attach himself permanently to any one patron, but rather became an entrepreneur who enjoyed the successes of his music and his portion of the ticket proceeds.

The Messiah was written using the text provided by the librettist Charles Jennens. Jennens was a Shakespeare scholar who never gained his full position in society because he would not vow allegiance to the House of Hanover. His work was his statement of faith in Christ’s deity and an opposition to atheism. Jennens arranged the words to be a complete statement of Christian doctrine. His source material was the King James Bible and The Book of Common Prayer. He wanted to showcase Old Testament prophecies right through to Jesus the Messiah’s birth, death, and resurrection.

The libretto was written and sent to his friend G. F. Handel in hopes that he would write an Easter oratorio. Jennens’ intent was that this would be a performance piece for theater goers, knowing that a church setting would preclude many in his target audience.

“I hope [Handel] will lay out his whole Genius &  Skill upon it, that the Composition may excel all his former Compositions, as the Subject excels every other Subject,” Jennens wrote in a letter to a friend.

Handel, for his part, composed the music in approximately 24 days. At first, this seems like an incredibly short time, but taken in context, Handel was very prolific, and composed many of his works in similar time-frames. He persevered through-out his life to produce some of the richest and best loved music of all time. This was his life’s work, and he was diligent in dedicating himself to his talents. This was one of Handel’s works written in English, and as a religious piece, written without the stage props or drama of an opera. These biblical oratorios were constructed to be propelled by the chorus, rather than principal actors.

Copyright: cityanimal / 123RF Stock Photo

Handel was invited to Ireland to stage some of his works in a new venue — the Great Music Hall in Fishamble Street. Having recently finished the Messiah composition, he took it with him. After initial success in Dublin with his known works, and with that concert series just finished, he proposed to stage the Messiah’s first performance just six days later.

After an open dress rehearsal on April 12th, the eagerness to hear the new piece was extreme. The advertisements requested that ladies attending the opening performance (April 13th) to please not wear skirts with hoops, and the gentlemen to come without their swords so that the maximum number of attendees could fit within the hall. With a capacity of 600, another 100 were squeezed into the hall to hear the premier performance, which was enthusiastically received!

The Dublin Journal printed: “the best Judges allowed it to be the most finished  piece of Musick. Words are wanting to express the exquisite Delight it afforded to the admiring crouded [sic] Audience. The Sublime, the Grand, and the Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestick and moving Words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished Heart and Ear.”

The open rehearsal that caused all the buzz had been a benefit concert, and the proceeds were donated to debtor’s prison and a hospital in Dublin. Throughout his life, he continued to donate generously to orphans’ homes, hospitals and retired musicians.

At the dedication of an organ at Foundling Hospital, London, in May of 1750, Handel staged the Messiah and continued to do so every year thereafter. Indeed, he became governor of the hospital and showed a continued interest in the children and their welfare. He personally presented a full score of the Messiah to the hospital. The musical services (at first only sung by the blind children) became very popular as a result of his beneficence.

A definitive original score of Messiah does not exist because Handel re-arranged and re-wrote according to his soloists and instrumentation available at each venue. Even though blind by the end of his life, he would perform concertos and voluntaries on the organ between the parts of his oratorios, relying on his memory and solid ability to improvise. He continued, though blind, to take an active role in the arrangements for the performances of all his works until his death in 1759.

After his death, the Messiah was re-worked and re-staged; the instrumentation becoming more complex and the choirs boasting more and more voices. Mozart is one of the famous composers to have re-orchestrated Messiah in 1789. However, it is reported that Mozart felt humbled by Handel’s genius, and admitted that his rewriting could not improve the music.

“Handel knows better than any of us what will make an effect. –When he chooses, he strikes like a thunderbolt.”

Copyright: cityanimal / 123RF Stock Photo

In our time, there is a return to performing the music as Handel heard it with an emphasis on period instruments and/or smaller choirs and orchestras. The oldest existing advertisement of one of his performances at Foundling Hospital in 1754 lists the instruments in the orchestra (fifteen violins, five violas, three cellos, two double-basses, four bassoons, four oboes, two trumpets, two horns and drums), the number in the chorus (nineteen: six trebles, the remainder all men altos, tenors, basses), and five soloists who were required to assist the chorus.

He was held in high esteem by his contemporaries. Ludwig van Beethoven said of him:

“He is the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel before his tomb.”



References: (n.d.). George Frideric Handel. Retrieved from Baroque Composers and Musicians: (n.d.). Handel’s Messiah premiers in Dublin. Retrieved from This Day in History:

Kandell, J. (2009, December). The glorious history of Handel’s Messiah. Retrieved from

Vickers, D. (2015, April 10). The story behind the triumphant premiere of Handel’s Messiah. Retrieved from Gramophone: (n.d.). Foundling Hospital. Retrieved from Wikipedia: (n.d.). Messiah (Handel). Retrieved from Wikipedia: