To book Tom Schimmer for a keynote or workshop presentation, please contact Solution Tree at 1-877-335-1596 or via the online request form.

Recent Keynote Presentations:

Grading from the Inside Out
Long-term, sustainable grading reform begins on the inside and works it’s way outward. This keynote session will explore the oft-overlooked, but essential, first step of establishing a standards-based mindset which allows teachers to take a standards-based approach regardless of whether the report card or grading program changes. The standards-based mindset is anchored on  the non-negotiable grading “true north” of accuracy and confidence that allows summative assessment to reclaim its place as a necessary and productive part of a balanced assessment system.

Reaffirming, Reworking, & Rethinking our Assessment Fundamentals for the 21st Century
For the better part of the past two decades, educators have had a collective focus on establishing and growing their assessment literacy. Given no changes in our educational priorities, our current trajectory with developing and refining our assessment practices would likely be sufficient. However, as our priorities shift toward 21st century competencies, so too must our assessment practices. This keynote will highlight the assessment fundamentals that are reaffirmed despite the curricular shifts, those that need to be reworked to increase relevance, and those that may need to be rethought given the complexities of competency-based instruction.

Accurate Grading with a Standards-Based Mindset
Whether their school or district has fully adopted a standards-based reporting system, teachers can ensure that the grades they report are accurate by developing a standards-based mindset. Even when traditional grades are still required, a standards-based mindset more effectively allows teachers to determine a student’s level of proficiency. While developing this mindset can represent the heavy-lifting of the grading conversation, it is essential that teachers approach grading with clarity and focus. As well, this session will highlight the importance of examining our grading practices through the lens of student confidence and why school needs to be so much more than the simple accumulation of the requisite number of points.

Confidence through Competence
This keynote session will focus on creating the necessary conditions that maintain a student’s confidence and their willingness to continue learning. Confidence is not about developing an inflated self-perception. Rather, it’s about students incrementally developing a belief in themselves to eventually succeed based upon some grounded, authentic evidence of learning. Blending sound research, personal stories, his own practical classroom experience, and his work as a school leader, Tom will make a compelling case for why assessment for learning and high quality feedback directed at enhancing self-efficacy will set students on a positive learning trajectory. As well, Tom will challenge educators to re-examine their assessment, feedback, and grading practices through the confidence lens.

5 Lessons Learned
After years of implementation, staff development, presentations, and leadership at both the school and district level, Tom will outline the five most important lessons he’s learned about implementing assessment for learning and sound grading practices. Focused on putting theory into practice, Tom will describe the big ideas for successful implementation at the classroom level as well as the mindset and optimum conditions that build capacity at the school and/or district level.

Recent Full-Day, Multi-Day Workshops & Concurrent Sessions

Redefining Accountability
The need for students to be held accountable is often cited as a reason why some hesitate to implement more sound grading practices.This session will focus on the systems, structures, and routines that can redefine accountability and reshape a school’s culture. Rather than using zeros, late penalties, or any other punitive grading practice, participants will come to know that real accountability can be achieved without compromising the integrity of a student’s proficiency grade.

Reassessment the Right Way
Reassessment may be the most misunderstood aspect of the sound grading practices. Much more than simply a do over, reassessment involves clear assessment information, targeted instruction that matches the level of intensity as it relates to student needs, then a re-verification of new proficiency levels. Reassessment must be seen as a natural part of the learning process, not something earned by jumping through manufactured hoops or processes.

Effective Leadership for Sound Grading
This session will delve deeper into the grading true north of accuracy and confidence, and why leaders would be wise to anchor their grading conversations on these two non-negotiable outcomes. As well, effective leadership strategies, mindsets, and practices will be highlighted to assist leaders in moving forward on grading reform. Participants will come to know the natural evolution of a new idea and how to manage the inevitable roadblocks and challenges.

A Primer on Assessing Cross-Curricular Competencies
As schools throughout North America continue to emphasize the development of cross-curricular competencies, questions still swirl around accurately assessing and reporting student proficiency. How can you assess creativity without stifling creativity? Is the assessment of collaborative skills linked to or separate from the results of the collaborative effort? Why is critical thinking the most important of the 21st century competencies? How can the competencies be merged with curricular standards? This session will explore these and other questions and will leave participants feeling more confident about assessing 21st century competencies.

Instructional Agility
Being instructionally agile is about making seamless instructional adjustments at a moment’s notice. This session takes participants back to the core fundamentals of classroom assessment. Rather than creating assessment events that require teachers to stop teaching in order to conduct their formative assessments, the focus will be on the more organic process of infusing assessment experiences into any activity or strategy. Specifically, participants will come to know the two, non-negotiable characteristics that make an activity a formative assessment experience as well as some practical strategies that can be used for assessment purposes.

Ten Things that Matter from Assessment to Grading (2 Days)
Based upon the content of his book by the same title, this session will describe the ten most important priorities teachers should hold when implementing sound assessment and grading practices. While all ten priorities will be highlighted, specific emphasis will be placed on formative assessment, effective feedback, and the instructional practices that lead to greater student success. In addition, the topics of building student confidence and students taking more ownership over their own learning will be explored. Participants will be provided with examples of effective classroom tools that put theory into practice.

Quality Assessment Items
The quality of our assessment information is dependent upon the quality of our assessment design. This session will focus on developing quality assessment items that increase the accuracy of our assessment results. How many distractors are sufficient? What determines whether a question is of high quality? How many performance levels should be identified? These questions will be explored as participants come to understand the latest research and practices for selected-response, constructed response, and performance assessments that allow teachers to maximize the potential instructional impact our assessment items can have.

Confidence Builders
As a follow-up to the keynote session, participants will focus on the fundamental classroom strategies that lead to improved confidence and students success. Specifically, participants will come to understand how to unpack standards to allow students intimate access to the curriculum. As well, three non-negotiable aspects of effective feedback will be explored and participants will come to know how to maximize the impact of feedback on student performance. In addition, the practical implementation of other specific assessment, feedback, and grading practices and routines will be identified. Participants will leave with a clear understanding of how to develop student confidence through specific action steps and strategies.

Most Recent or Most Frequent?
Sometimes the most recent evidence of learning is the most accurate; sometimes it’s the most frequent. This session will explore the standards/conditions that lead to the most accurate determination of a student’s level of proficiency. As well, some important guidelines for effectively implementing the practice of allowing students a rewrite or a second opportunity will be highlighted. These guideline will allow teachers to avoid the most common mistake made when implementing such a practice. It’s more than just a do over; when students know more or can do more, they need to be given the opportunity to show more so as to ensure the accuracy of the grades teachers report.

Setting the Table for Standards-Based Grading
This session will detail the necessary changes to our “traditional” grading practices that are needed in order to move to a more standards-based grading and reporting system. Not only will specific, counter-productive grading practices be identified, replacement practices and routines will also be discussed which will allow the idea of standards-based grading to be put into practice. Specific examples of how teachers have made the necessary changes and the way those changes were communicated to students and parents will also be detailed. The non-negotiable aspects of standards-based grading and reporting will also be outlined.

How do you know that they know?
An over-reliance on a narrow set of “traditional” math assessment formats can lead to misinformation about student learning.  This session will focus on the development of a balanced, authentic assessment approach to math. Specifically, participants will understand how to deconstruct curricular outcomes into enabling targets, how to match those targets to the appropriate assessment methods, and how to ensure that our assessments are both authentic and accurate.  In addition, a variety of feedback methods will be explored that describe where students can improve rather than simply how many questions were correct.

4 thoughts on “Presentations

  1. Could you please tell me a little about the webinar for 10 things that matter from assessment to grading. I need to make decisions about what professional development training I need and would like to have some more specifics on it.


    Wendy Hill

    • Hi Wendy – The “10 Things” webinar is designed as an overview of my new book by the same title (you can see more info on the “book” tab on my blog site). In essence, I will highlight the biggest ideas within each of the chapters, highlight some of the unique features of the book, as well as provide some guidelines for the various ways the book can be used for book studies, etc. The focus is on the book, however, it is also a short PD session. It runs just under one hour.

      Also, I should let you know that it is going to be rescheduled for Monday, December 12 at 1pm EST. If you need anymore information please let me know. You can email me at


  2. Hi Tom:

    Thanks for providing lots of info here online. I may never attend a workshop, but, I aggressively attempt to be aware of what is out there.

    While reading above, I harkened back to this Summer when I was attempting to teach my niece how to ride her bicycle. It took three days for her to attain proficiency. My insight was that her efforts during the two days prior to success were paramount to her overall learning process. Indeed, her reflections may have been what put her over the top on the third day.

    I had tears when I witnessed that her “CAN’T” lost its “T”. The irony here was that her learning moment was personally joyful beyond any feelings that she may have had because someone tested her to a standard of pedaling or balancing.

    I love watching students become giddy when they have that instant of time when clarity is present. Only the practicing expert gets to experience that which the system can not.

    Philip Kelso

  3. Setting the Table for Standard’s Based Grading.

    Hi Tom. I am interested in the content from the aforementioned training from a district level perspective. I notice you have a virtual workshop beginning on March 16 and wonder if you have anything scheduled April – June? Thanks for the hard work!

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