Episode 3: Learn How to Reduce Your Grading Load (Plus, the Teacher/Admin Gap)

Zach Long talks with John Schembari about the importance of feeling vested and best practice student assessment strategies that will save teachers valuable time. If you missed this episode of the podcast, you can listen here. Otherwise, you can keep reading to see what was covered. 


Who Is John Schembari?

In order to become a teacher, John Schembari went through New Jersey’s alternative certification program which allowed him to teach on a conditional license during the day and take courses at night. He completed that program in a year and received his standard teaching license. Next, John had the opportunity to teach at a magnet school (at that time magnet schools were not very common). At Morris County Academy for Law & Public Safety, he taught under a social studies license for about 5 years. From there, John took on a variety of roles in administration including a founding role in one instance. His administrative experiences allowed him to work in schools that were early to the table in offering dual credit programs. These programs were innovative for the time and allowed students in their senior year to earn both high school and college credit simultaneously. After that, John worked in roles as a k-12 curriculum director. He eventually left school-based roles and transitioned to working for school support organizations. These positions mainly entailed coaching teachers and school leaders. All of these experiences led to John becoming an independent education consultant which is what he does currently. 


Schools That Perform Better

John’s experience in various roles at different levels has allowed him to see “how the pieces fit together”. One of the things that he has noticed is that the schools that are doing better in terms of student achievement are also that schools that have a strong sense of community. These schools have a “we’re all in this together” mentality and this includes administrators, teachers, families, and students. When people feel vested, they try harder and do better.


Assessment Strategies

John points out that there are many different ways to grade, or assess, learning. He recommends that teachers always think about the purpose of grading. It doesn’t always have to come at the end of learning. Formative assessment allows the teacher to assess learning along the way. Plus, it does double-duty. It eases the grading burden on the teacher while helping the students more than having a marked up paper handed back to them.


Rubrics can be another helpful student assessment strategy. John reports that he has seen rubrics work well when teaching the writing process. They can be used to assess learning throughout the process and not just at the end. Rubrics can be taught and integrated into the peer editing portion of the process. Students can be taught the skill of giving constructive feedback. Then, teachers can line up the rubrics and see what students did well on and what areas need to be retaught.


The exit ticket is one student assessment strategy that John suggests. At the end of a class period, students complete a short activity to show what they’ve learned. Now, some teachers will take their red pen and traditionally grade the exit tickets, but there’s an easier way. Simply look through the exit tickets and sort them into three piles: got it, almost got it, didn’t get it. This helps to differentiate learning since you know who needs what now. 


 Another student assessment strategy centers around quizzes. After a quiz, give the students a copy of the answer key and have them work in partners to figure out which items they understand, which items they didn’t understand but do now thanks to the collaboration with their partner, and which items are still troublesome. Students share the items that are still troublesome with the teacher, and that will guide what the teacher does next. 

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Guest Speaker: John Schembari

Guest Speaker: John Schembari

At Education Direction, John supports teachers and school leaders by performing on site evaluations, identifying data informed trends, reviewing curriculum/assessment materials, creating improvement plans, coaching individuals one-on-one, developing and delivering group trainings to educators, and implementing evidence-based instructional strategies that improve teaching practices and increase student learning. John’s areas of specific interest include the facilitation of professional learning communities and educator affinity networks, implementation of project-based learning, and the development of teaching practices that promote student engagement, equity, and inclusion.

Raised in New Jersey, he received his undergraduate degree from the University of Mary Washington (VA), his master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh (PA), his second master’s degree in educational supervision from Montclair State University (NJ), and his doctorate in educational leadership from Seton Hall University (NJ). Prior to his time as a consultant with Education Direction, he served as a middle school teacher, high school social studies teacher, founding high school principal, K-12 district CAO, leadership development facilitator, and as national director of teacher and school leader learning. John also has lived/worked internationally in Japan, Saudi Arabia, and The United Kingdom, and, occasionally, performs on site reviews of American curriculum schools in The United Arab Emirates.