But Ms. Pursley's commitment to a student-driven classroom is coupled with an equal commitment to meeting the Texas standards for first grade. "I can go with the flow of the classroom and still keep within the general Texas framework for learning," she says. Continually observing students, Ms. Pursley introduces important skills and concepts as "teachable moments" arise in class. In this way, she caters to the needs and background knowledge of each student while keeping her eye on benchmarks identified by the state.
Ms. Pursley uses formal and informal assessment to identify individual student needs. She formally assesses students two to three times a year with instruments adopted by her district -- the Texas Primary Reading Inventory and the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA). For informal assessment, Ms. Pursley listens to students read weekly -- and sometimes daily -- making notes, including marking miscues, in a binder containing records on each student.