The Strategy of the Crown

[The following is an excerpt from a book I’m currently writing for self-publication later this year (2018). Any feedback is welcome!]

The most integral component of collaborative work is that a team believes it can make a positive difference. In other words, stories are told to one another stating collective effort matters and will increase student learning. As John Hattie’s research shows, teacher collective efficacy is the way through which teachers can help quadruple the amount of learning a student can accomplish. This is a belief system, which Robert Greene call the Strategy of the Crown in his book 48 Laws of Power:

“The Strategy of the Crown is based on a simple chain of cause and effect: If we believe we are destined for great things, our belief will radiate outward, just as a crown creates an aura around a king.”

Educators must believe they can positively affect student learning. In this era of data, we expect information to be sufficient to change people’s minds. This may be true in some cases, but in many other cases data fails at changing behavior. Why do people continue smoking when there’s ample evidence proving what it does to your body? Why do people still drink and drive in a world with Lyft and Uber? Why do some people not work out or eat healthy food? Why don’t people read more books, start side businesses, or stay off social media when more and more studies prove the negative effects of Facebook and Instagram? It’s because data oftentimes doesn’t matter–what people need is a story.

As a leader within an organization, it’s your job to provide that story. Sure, information is extremely helpful, but rather than start a staff meeting with graphs and tables showing the growth or decline of the school in various areas and sub-areas, it’s more important to tell specific stories of how students are thriving at your school. Write up a story about how an EL student was reclassified. Share how a student in GATE class created a project that was honored by a local energy company due to its technical skill. Tell a story about the students who were able to go on that field trip because they all scored proficiently on a formative assessment.

As Yuval Noah Harari states, humans are transitioning from an era of “humanism” to an era of “dataism.” Data is not going anywhere. In fact, it’s just going to become more prevalent when making decisions regarding what to buy, where to live, what to do as an occupation, who to marry, etc. There’s nothing wrong with using data–data is extremely important–but Homo sapiens have had the same brain for 70,000 years. Just because data and information have crept into our professional practice doesn’t mean telling each other stories is a dead practice. We will need stories for many more generations, and practices such as The Strategy of the Crown help blend data with the stories we tell ourselves concerning not only the power we have within, but the collective power we possess when striving for high student achievement.

Data tools

There are great programs out there that help teachers collect data about student learning. Of course, there are also many factors that dissuade teachers from using information to guide instruction:

  1. Numbers can be scary.

  2. There’s trepidation when students are analyzed because the magnifying glass can quickly turn toward the teacher.

  3. There are questions about the validity of the data.

I understand the third point, but often it’s used as an excuse. It’s true that web based programs aren’t perfect at predicting student mastery of skills, but this doesn’t mean a teachers shouldn’t use them. An imperfect data collecting tool is much more valuable than no tool at all.

Educators should be embracing all necessary resources for determining student achievement–all the while adopting better programs as they’re released.

Edmodo Snapshot

Edmodo Snapshot functions exactly like its name; it is a snapshot of where your students are at any given time in relation to mastery of the Common Core Standards. Snapshot provides ready made “micro-assessments” that students take online through their Edmodo accounts. The tests are graded automatically, and instant data is provided for the teacher. The program went live recently, and it’s an exciting addition to all the wonderful features Edmodo already offers.

Wednesday morning I used what Edmodo suggested for my first 12 question Snapshot “test,” and the standards involved were RL.7.1 (citing textual evidence), RI.7.6 (author’s point of view), and RI.7.10 (reading at grade level).

First I’ll discuss Snapshot and then I’ll share my takeaway.


Snapshot is really easy to use. The teacher logs into Edmodo and clicks on the icon of a magnifying glass with a checkmark on the left hand side of the webpage. The teacher picks the group who will receive the test, the grade level, the amount of time to be given, and the Common Core Standards to be assessed. I haven’t played around with this a lot yet, but it seems you can make the assessment as short or long as you want.

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When the students log into Edmodo, they are notified of a Snapshot assessment they can take. Once my students clicked “Take Snapshot,” they had 20 minutes to complete the assessment. (That was the default amount of time, but I could have shortened it or lengthened it if I chose.) If for any reason the students click out of the assessment, they will not be allowed access again–this happened in a couple of cases. Most of the students finished the test, and only a few ran out of time.

Teachers have access to the questions students will view before the test is taken. I’m sure a lot of teachers like this feature, but I’d caution using it too much since we don’t want to “teach to the test.

As I walked around the classroom, I noticed that the tests were not the same, which is great because it’s very easy for students to look at other screens due to the group formation in which they sit. Snapshot’s text size was small, but the 1:1 devices make it possible to zoom in and out of the webpage.

My takeaway:

Snapshot is an amazing tool. I can envision using this throughout the year to gauge my students’ mastery of the standards. Whenever I teach a unit on a specific standard (or two), Snapshot is a great way of assessing whether the student grasped the concept.

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Snapshot breaks the data into three categories: “Meets the Standard,” “Borderline,” and “Behind” (There’s also “Incomplete” for when the student doesn’t finish the Snapshot in time.) My students did well on standard RI.7.10 (reading at grade level), with most of them meeting the standard or receiving a “Borderline” score. RL.7.1 (citing textual evidence) was similar, but my students did very poorly on RI.7.6 (author’s point of view). This is very valuable information, and I’m glad I know it. The speed with which the students can take the test, and the speed in which they’re graded, gives me immediate feedback, making Snapshot the best way to conduct an efficient formative assessment in class.

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Many teachers may not like that the tests are already made, but I think it’s wonderful. Instead of using valuable PLC time creating assessments, teachers can instead mine the student data for all it’s worth and create effective lesson plans to address student need.

The best thing about Snapshot, however, is that it doesn’t bog the teacher down in too much data. The program simply shows whether the student needs help–and the truth of the matter is–that’s all I need to know. I didn’t become a teacher to print out reams of paper that contain meaningless data that will either go in a binder or recycling bin. I became a teacher to positively affect lives and teach meaningful content.

Edmodo is really firing on all cylinders right now. If they were selling stock, I’d invest.