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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Meet Morgan Bojorquez!

And so it begins: frosty windshields, naked trees and breaths hanging in the air. The 28° and colder mornings are becoming a norm. Kansas winter sits in a crouching position just around the corner. Today is the last day of November in 2011.

Here at the office, the shopping for our adopted family continues and the planning for our holiday party is underway. This Friday will be Day 2 of our Cooking with Culture event in which Morgan and Bryce will be preparing a lunch for us with India as their inspiration!

Let’s get to know Morgan a little bit better, shall we? Morgan Bojorquez is 24 years old and from Manhattan, KS. She graduated from Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations. She has been at AllofE for 4 months and is currently helping out with different implementations for eCurriculum and ExamN as well as other general office maintenance. When asked what she likes most about AllofE, she says, “I love the positive and fast-paced atmosphere of the company. I also enjoy getting to work with such intelligent and driven people, and being able to learn something new everyday, especially with technology.” Get to know Morgan even better by reading her answers to the following questions.

What are some of your hobbies and interests? Music is probably my number one interest; I can't really do anything without having something playing in the background. I also love watching KSU football, painting, hiking and being outside in general.

Do you believe in aliens? Too many strange, unexplained things happen to not believe in them.

Are you superstitious? If so, give an example. I am VERY superstitious! I try not to step on cracks, open umbrellas indoors, walk under ladders, etc. It's not normal...

If you had to guest star on Vampire Diaries or Gossip Girl, which would you choose? I don't really watch either of those shows, but I guess if I had to choose one I would pick Vampire Diaries.

If you were a fruit or vegetable, which would you be and why? Well, I guess I would be Broccoli, since I eat it all the time, and they say you are what you eat...

What do you think of this video: ? How can anyone want to eat from there? I'm still in shock that it is still open for business.

What is your least favorite kind of music and why? Country Music, I can't really explain why I don't really like it... maybe the Twang factor?

What is something you did as a kid that was weird or share a childhood story? I'm sure I did a lot of weird things as a kid, but the most adventurous thing I did was probably getting my friend and I "lost" in a wooded area near our houses for a few hours. We were fine and everything, and to this day I still maintain that I knew where we were, but she definitely never wanted to go exploring with me much after that.

What was the funniest thing that you have ever experienced? I spent my Freshman and Sophomore year of college in Upstate New York, when my best friend came to visit, she brought along a video of me lip syncing to various boy band songs and dancing around like a fool ( I swear it was a dare), next thing I know my entire dorm floor was in my room watching it and laughing (at me). I don't think I've ever laughed/cried that much in my life...

What is your favorite restaurant in Lawrence and why? 23rd St. Brewery-- It has a great atmosphere, pretty good food and it is a great place to go to watch a football game.

Would you rather drink a smoothie made of only pureed bugs or eat a stew made of road kill remains? Pureed Bugs.

Would you rather have to sing everything you wanted to say or mime it? Mime, I always dreamed to live life as one big game of "Charades".

Do you have a dance move or saying that you’re known for? At Dance Camp during High School we would always do the "Peanut Butter/Jelly Time" dance, it is the most ridiculous dance ever, but I'm pretty darn good at it. I'm also pretty good at the "Running Man"...

Mac or PC? PC


Monday, November 28, 2011

Curriculum Mapping

Do you understand curriculum mapping? Janet Hale does. In this blog we take a look at what curriculum mapping is and why it is important.

So, you have a curriculum that aligns to standards set by the state, your program, or your faculty and now it is time to make sure that everything is getting covered in the best way possible, is being understood by the students and is being taught within the allotted amount of time, a.k.a. curriculum mapping.

Curriculum mapping is the process of constantly reviewing and updating a district’s curriculum in order to reduce gaps and repetition and to ensure that the required standards and competencies are being covered and understood. Curriculum mapping helps a collective group of teachers teach in a much more efficient manner, but it also requires some work on their part.

Janet Hale explains: “The term mapping is a verb. It constitutes active engagement and collegial participation in on-going curriculum work. Curriculum mapping does not perceive education as a static environment since learning, and learning about learning, is in continual motion.”

We have all heard the famous quote from Isaac Newton – “Every object in a state of uniform motion remains in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” This does not only have physical implications but also metaphysical implications. Teachers do not want to be that external force that stops the progression of learning for their students. In order to actively engage students, the curriculum must continuously evolve and build upon itself. Curriculum mapping guides and helps teachers to do just this.

Hale states, “Maps are designed to provide authentic evidence of what has happened or is being planned to happen in a school or throughout a district. Encouraging frequent individual and collaborative revisiting, reviewing, and renewing of available data (e.g., curriculum maps, student assessments/evaluations, teacher-to-teacher instruction observations, formal testing results) through curricular dialogues and collaborative decision making is at the heart of mapping. This mindset is a necessity to reach sustainability and have curriculum mapping become a natural way for conducting curriculum work that continually improves student learning.”

She defines 3 main foci for curriculum mapping: “Communication, Curricular Dialogue, and Coherency, and we agree.

Communication is the key to effectively evolving a district’s curriculum.

Nowadays the most efficient form of communication is electronic. A lot of districts are embracing technology to centralize, share, and communicate their curriculum not only with teachers but also with parents and the community. Web-based curriculum management systems allow curriculum to be updated in real-time and accessed by peers in the same field of study. Teachers do not need to wait for a monthly meeting in order to adjust their curriculum.

It also facilitates collaboration. Teachers can work together to build a common curriculum or complementary curriculum. With curriculum mapping teachers must realize the significance of their course in combination with the courses of their peers and see their role from the perspective of the school and the district. By altering their focus to include other classes, they can increase communication, decrease redundancy and organize lectures in a meaningful and beneficial way for the student who is going through many of these classes at one time. This focus helps each school and ultimately each district graduate students with the right amount of knowledge and practice to take them to the next step in their lives.

Communication adds an element of transparency. Online curriculum mapping programs allow teachers to see the what, when, and how of the curriculum being taught by other teachers across the district.

More data = Better Curricular Dialogue = Better decision making

As Hale explains, an effective curriculum mapping process allows teachers to take ownership and get involved with the curriculum. Curriculum mapping puts the curriculum in front of them giving them the tools to “make data-based decisions about grade-level, cross-grade level, disciplinary, and cross-disciplinary curricula and instructional practices.”

Coherence - Is incoherent curriculum a problem for some school districts?

It most definitely is.

It is a common complaint of teachers that they are expected to teach too much in too little time and while that may be true, it may also be true that there are too many redundancies or miscommunications is the curriculum mapping process that are not being resolved and that are causing teachers to do more work than is necessary. While the initial endeavor of mapping out everything that is being taught in a classroom and aligning it to the required standards may seem daunting; over time with practice and better communication amongst peers as well as using technology to do it, this will become second nature and the benefits will greatly exceed the time and energy spent on mapping.

The efficiency in communication and teaching caused by continuous curriculum mapping translates into two important things. 1) Teachers are more in sync with one another and better prepared to make necessary changes and adjustments in their curriculum based on the level of knowledge that each group of students requires, and 2) Students have enough time to grasp all that they need to in order to feel confident in taking the next step onto whatever path they choose.

Curriculum mapping is a “let me help you help them” sort of system and it works if everyone does their part.



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Meet Tyrian Phagan!

Yipee! Thanksgiving is here at last and so is a mini-vacation! While there is a not-so-pleasant history and unhealthy gluttony associated with Thanksgiving, I choose to love the holiday regardless because it brings my family together and it is a perfect time to make them my guinea pigs for new vegan recipes ;) This year I’m making Sweet Potato Gratin and Green Bean Casserole, but I’m also bringing plenty of other vegan spreads, dips and munchies for them to try as well!

Last Friday was quite eventful in the office. The majority of our company came together bright and early in the morning to volunteer at the Jubilee Café, a service provided by the First Methodist Church for local citizens in need. We were all surprised to see a lot of volunteers up at 5AM and to find out that not only would we be cooks and cleaners but also waiters and waitresses instead of just servers behind a buffet bar. I thought the experience was really cool and I think the Jubilee Café is a wonderful program to have in Lawrence. I’m really glad that so many people from the company decided to get up so early just to help out. After that, David and I whipped up a delectable French breakfast with crepes, croissants, yogurt, bananas and a large assortment of yummy toppings for Day 1 of the Cooking with Culture event that we have recently brought into the office.

On top of all those events, we have all decided to come together to adopt a family for Christmas. This is the first time that I’ve ever adopted a whole family for the holidays, but I couldn’t be more excited. As we get into December, I’ll keep you updated on our charity mission. We’ve decided the best strategy at this point is to all pool in money, then let the girls go shopping J Don’t you think that is probably the best idea too?

Enough chatter, time to meet AllofE Software Developer, Tyrian Phagan! Tyrian is 29 years old and from our very own Lawrence, KS. He graduated from KU with a Bachelors and Masters of Science in Computer Science. He has been here for just under half a year and says the thing he enjoys most about working at AllofE is being able to work on a lot of different things. He is currently working on ExamN bubblesheets. When asked what one of his hobbies was, Tyrian said reading books, mostly science fiction. Get to know more about Tyrian by reading how he answered the following questions:

Be a rice farmer or cotton picker? Cotton picker

Go zip lining or white water rafting? Zip lining. I have already been white water rafting.

Own a python or an alligator? Python

Eat snails or eels? Eels

Complete Sushi Delight (#3) Challenge or the Jack-n-Grill Challenge (#13)? Check them out at this website:


Be on Fear Factor or Survivor? No

Take a bath in a tub full of jelly fish or sun bath at a bee farm with a sweet scented tanning lotion? Bee farm

What is your all time favorite food? Pizza

What do you usually do for Thanksgiving? I go to my best friend's mom's house

Do you have a dish you are looking forward to eating for Thanksgiving? Pecan Pie

What is one of your proudest accomplishments? Masters degree

What type of music really gets you energized? 80's rock

Mac or PC? PC

Thanks Tyrian! I wish everyone safe travels over the holiday break and lots of good eating!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Meet Alex Porter!

Can we talk about coffee for a second? Only three people in our office drink coffee. Three! Why does that surprise me so much? I guess, I just expect more people to want a cup of Joe at 9 am. And now I’m wondering how Joe became synonymous with coffee? I have to look this up...

...The most popular theory according to the World Wide Web is that Admiral Josephus (Joe) Daniels outlawed alcohol on ships and consequentially made coffee the favorite beverage among naval crews. Afterwards, crew members started asking for a “cup of Joe.”

Meh, I’ll take that.

My junior year of college I drank more coffee than I had ever drank before and now I can hardly get through a full cup. There are a couple reasons for this. First, I was in Germany my junior year of college and let me tell is coffee, not beer, that Germans drink the most. So, it just became normal to drink coffee like *20 times a day. *(Slight exaggeration). Second, I started drinking coffee black near the end of my year in Germany and therefore started drinking less because it tasted so much stronger. The transition to black coffee was hard at first because I grew up with a mom who loaded her coffee with creamer and sugar, but now I generally prefer it black; but I certainly can’t drink as much as I used to.

Quick factoid: the term Americano was created because when the American soldiers were in Europe during WWII, they didn’t like how strong the coffee (espresso) was and therefore had to add water to it in order to make it taste more like what they were used to. Speaking of servicemen and women, I’d like to give a shoutout to all of the vets today on this fine Veteran’s Day. The last decade has not been an easy one for millions of servicemen and woman and their families, but we hope to be welcoming many of them home soon.

Now onto our traditional employee highlight. I’d like to introduce a fellow classmate and friend, Alex Porter. Alex and I are from a small town in southeast Kansas called Iola. I think we were both equally surprised that we ended up working for the same company in Lawrence after college, but only because just a small handful of our graduating class actually left that corner of KS. Alex is 22 and graduated from KU with a Bachelors of Science in Engineering Physics (Electromechanical Control Systems). He is a developer here at AllofE and when asked what he enjoyed the most, he said, “the creative environment.” Alex is currently working on Matrix, our top of the line K-12 data analysis and warehousing program. When asked what some of his hobbies are, Alex replied, “trivia, going to the dog park, skydiving, scuba diving, traveling and drawing.” Get to know more about Alex by reading how he answered the following questions.

  • Who is your superhero alterego? Steve Jobs
  • Do you have any hidden talents? If so, what? Hmmm, I can juggle...
  • Vacation in the Swiss Alps or the Argentinean jungle? Definitely the jungle
  • Would you rather swim the English Channel or complete the Tour de France? 100% Tour de France
  • Complete Papa Bob’s Bar-B-Que Challenge or the Speck Bar & Grill Challenge?
    Check them out under the KS section of this website: Both at the same time
  • 30 days of eating Taco Johns or 30 days of Taco Bell? Taco Bell doesn’t have potato oles...
  • 6 months of complete darkness or 6 months of sunlight? Sunlight
  • Suck on a cockroach while it is still alive or let a tarantula crawl around underneath your shirt? Suck on a cockroach I suppose
  • Suffer from Sociophobia (Fear of society or people in general) or Autophobia (Fear of being alone or of oneself)? Autophobia, it’s difficult to be alone when the world’s population just surpassed 7 billion people
  • What are your top 3 favorite smells? Chipotle, fireworks, and Vicks Vaporub
  • What was one food you hated as a child, but love now? Green Beans
  • What 5 things would you do first if you won 2.5 million dollars? 1) Buy a Segway 2) Travel the world 3) Invest 4) Give to charity 5) Gamble in Las Vegas
  • Mac or PC? 1000% Mac  (<---you have to have a mac...)

Thanks Alex! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stop Stressing, Start ExamNing.

Online assessments. Are schools starting to get serious about this yet? Apparently, yes, because we have been working with a few of them, but the change for schools to support completely computerized assessments has been slow. There are only a few districts that have a 1:1 student:computer ratio; most are still resorting to bubblesheet-based assessments. When we built our online testing system, ExamN, in 2004, the landscape was completely different. After a lot of research and listening to what schools were looking for, we’ve developed something even better, something that can truly aid in the transition from paper-based testing to online testing.

Enter ExamN Version 5.

It works something like this:

As a teacher, I get to decide what kind of a test I would like to use.

Do I want to create my own?

Do I need to use a common assessment test that was created by district administrators?

Or did I find one in a text book or elsewhere that I would like to use?

And then how do I want to administer it? Online? Bubblesheets?

Classroom Assessments

If the teacher would like to create their own test it is as easy as one, two, three. One, they create test questions in a question bank in the any of most common question formats (true/false, multiple choice, short answer, etc). Two, they insert all the questions into the test in the order that they want and preview the test. Three, they schedule and launch the test for their students to take. They will get immediate results and many useful reports based on the students’ submissions.

Common Assessments

If the teacher needs to use a common assessment test they have two options. One, give the test just as it is or two, add their own questions, then give the test. The purpose of the common assessment test is for districts to see how well students in different schools across the district are doing in comparison to one another. The benefit of the teacher being able to add their own questions to a common assessment test is that the students only need to take one test and from that the teachers and administrators can both receive the information they need to know.

Automated Bubblesheet Grading

If a teacher finds a test outside of ExamN, they can still use that test, but grade the answers in ExamN. How this works is the teacher creates an answer key in ExamN and ExamN creates a bubble sheet for the teacher to print out and hand to his/her students to answer the questions on. The filled-in bubble sheet is scanned back into the system and quickly compared to the answer key resulting in fast grades and reports for each student and the class as a whole.

No more is there a need for expensive machines, paper or companies to grade bubble sheets for you. With ExamN you create, personalize and pre-populate them yourself. Pre-populating certain fields like student ID, teacher ID, Class ID and School Building avoids problems and saves time.

Online Assessments

And for those districts that do have capacity to administer computerized assessments, this makes the teacher’s job that much easier. No printing, no scanning, no grading. Period.

Performance Based Assessments

More and more districts are also moving towards performance based assessments as a more accurate picture of a student’s progress. Teachers are now able to build and use standards driven rubrics to aid in this process by adding some objectivity to a more subjective approach. Did the student meet the requirement or understand the objective? Check yes or no.

Reporting, reporting, and more reporting

After the tests are in and scores are given, you can guess what’s next – How can we generate some reports? With so many reporting options available, let’s just take a look at a few of them:

Question Summary Report: displays the results of each question and the frequency that each answer was chosen.

Common Assessment Report: displays the number and percentage of correctly and incorrectly answered common assessment questions, teacher-added questions and the total of both (assuming the teacher did add their own questions to the common assessment).

State, Common Core and College Readiness Standards Reporting: analyzes what standards have been assessed and how each student and classes as a whole performed based on the standards.

Get Results: Data Centralization, Automation…Time Saving

With all your old tests and all of your students’ test results in one easy-to-access location, giving tests and monitoring progress has never been so easy. You don’t need to shuffle through paper tests in order to discuss a student’s test results, you don’t need to try to read illegible writing, and you don’t need to take time calculating scores and figuring out the most commonly missed questions. You don’t even need to rewrite the same questions for final exams, just get the question you want out of any of your previously made question banks and apply it to a new test.

So if you are ready to let those things go, then stop stressing and start ExamNing.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Meet Stacy Cook!

I am so excited about so many different things happening at AllofE that I don’t even know where this blog should begin. I guess I’ll start by telling you that we had a company meeting this morning. Sure, that may sound pretty common to you, but company meetings don’t really happen at AllofE. We focus on efficiency and therefore don’t believe we need to waste our time telling each other things we already know that are happening around the company, but there does come a time when you avoid having company meetings for so long that it becomes a necessity. I thought we were at the point of necessity and I guess our CEO thought so too. The meeting went great. Our CEO impressed upon us the importance of the stage we are at as a company, just how far we have come over the last year, what he wants us to focus on now and how each of our roles are important in driving us to the next level. I hope everyone else is pumped, because I am!

Before I get to the employee highlight, I’d like to update you guys on what has been going on. Halloween was a lot of fun; Bryce won the best Halloween costume (the gorilla in the middle) and was therefore awarded a beautiful pot of mums which he says shall remain at his desk until next Halloween (where I assume he plans to pass them off to the next winner? Haha, I hope he takes care of them so that they can last that long). We had a delicious baked potato bar and finally dwindled down our giant pile of sweet treats.

AllofE presented one of its newest and most popular products, Matrix, alongside Basehor-Linwood school district at the Kansas Department of Education’s annual conference in Wichita. There was a good turn out of people despite the other 14 sessions taking place simultaneously, so hopefully we’ll be able to partner with some of those attending districts soon.

Coming up, we will be volunteering at the Jubilee Café, a bright and early morning where we hope to give back to the Lawrence community. That same day we will be starting an exciting new “Cooking with Culture” event in the office where we partner up with a coworker and present a breakfast or lunch that is traditional in another culture. David and I are up first, but what we will be making is a surprise. I will tell you that it is a breakfast that is quite popular in America, but is not originally from here and has made its way around the globe. I think we will be educating people on the history of our breakfast and try to pull in traditional versions of it from the countries that it is popular in.

Well before I go overboard, let me introduce to you Stacy Cook, who used to be Stacy Schwind, but just recently got married! Stacy is 25 and from Lansing, Kansas. She graduated from KU with a Bachelor of Science in Strategic Communications and minors in Business and Sociology. Stacy has been a part of AllofE for three years now and has many different roles including Business Analyst, Office Manager, HR Coordinator and Snack Maker. When asked what Stacy liked the most about AllofE she said, “The ability to learn and grow. I started out on the marketing side and have transitioned to the technical side because of huge opportunity to learn new things from some very smart people and expand and strengthen my abilities.” Stacy is currently working on converting William Jewell College’s old ContentM to the “latest and greatest version of ContentM which includes the use of panel pages.” Get to know more about Stacy by reading through the following questions!

What are some of your hobbies and interests? Reading sappy, girly books; spoiling my dogs; working out; spending time with friends; and learning new technology, of course!

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A Disney princess or a Zoologist – I had soooo many Zoobook magazines!

What is your favorite food item or meal? Mexican food

Who is a celebrity you would like to meet? Well, not exactly a celebrity, but Walt Disney - So smart, talented, and just a big kid at heart!

Would you rather cut off your own arm or have a friend cut off six of your toes? I would pass out immediately during either of those. The site of blood makes me so sick.

Complete the Gorilla (aka Wheat State) Challenge or the DonDon Challenge? Pizza please!

Drink 16 oz. of lake water or a spoonful of sewage? Lake water

Eat a pig’s tail or cow brains? Pig tail

Live in a high rise apartment in New York or a log cabin in Alaska? New York, New York!

Be the CEO of a Wall Street Company or a State Representative? State Rep

Be a famous artist or famous musician? Muscian

Complete a marathon or a triathlon? Triathlon

Be on Real World or Big Brother? Real World

Mac or PC? PC

Thanks, Stacy! Have a fun, warm weekend everyone!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Using Normal Curve Equivalents to Determine the Mean


Normal curve equivalents, commonly referred to as NCEs, are values associated with a test score that relate a student's performance on an exam to the mean in a normal distribution of scores. This value is actually an interpretation of the standard score (or z-score) on a larger scale (1-99). A z-score is simply the number of standard deviations a score is from the mean, and, therefore, represents a performance level associated with other scores in a distribution. Normal curve equivalents are favorable performance measures because the scale they are measured on is one of equal intervals. This attribute of NCEs makes direct averaging and comparing between two NCEs possible. Therefore, two previously unrelated test scores can be directly related, in terms of performance against the mean, on the NCE scale.

In this blog, I will explain how NCEs, along with their corresponding test scores, can be used to calculate the mean of the data from which the NCEs were determined. This calculation is important because it presents us with the ability to easily calculate mean state test scores given two NCE, test score pairs. Using the state average, any student that falls into the distribution from which the mean was calculated could then be associated with their own NCE for that test. Because NCEs can be directly related, performance from year to year (or content area to content area) can be viewed—this opens up an avenue for determining an accurate measure of growth within school districts.

Determining Z-Scores

NCEs were developed specifically for educational statistics as a way of making standard scores more convenient. Mathematically altering z-scores to be on a scale ranging from values 1 to 99 results in a performance score that can be quickly and more easily interpreted. With the end goal of calculating the mean of a distribution of student scores, the first logical step is to simplify the NCEs. Standard scores are the building blocks of NCEs and contain within them the standard deviation of the data. Therefore, dealing directly with z-scores will make this process easier. The equation to find a z-score from an NCE is

Using Z-Scores to Find Standard Deviation

Z-scores are the number of standard deviations a score is from the mean. As a result of this, two z-score, test score pairs can be used to calculate the standard deviation of the data from which these test scores came by finding what fraction of a z-score a change in test score corresponds to. The equation to do this is

Finding the Mean

After finding the standard deviation, only one variable remains unknown—the mean. Using one of the z-scores from the data, as well as the recently determined standard deviation, the mean can be found by using


When a minimum of two test score, NCE pairs are known for a set of data, the data's mean and standard deviation are easily calculable. In addition to this, the process is made more simple when the NCEs are first transformed into standard scores. Overall this process makes finding information about test score distributions fast and straightforward.