Thursday, January 31, 2013

What have you done for me lately?

Grading reform is messy to say the least.  

Recently, we had a compelling discussion that centered around mastery learning.  I posted an activity out of the Elements of Grading below, it generated some interesting comments.  

What grade would you give this student? 

1. C
2. C
3. Missing 
4. Missing 
5. D
6. C
7. B
8. Missing 
9. B
10. A 

Most use average and would probably give this student a 'D' or an 'F' due to the missing assignments.  What if the 'A' was the final test?  Maybe it took the student until number 10 to master the concept. In a majority of classrooms it only matters if a student gets the concept by a specific date.  We know that students learn at different rates, some faster than others.  

What if we focused solely on mastery and had systems in place to ensure mastery of concept?  I don't live in a fantasy world, and understand that in a traditional school system this idea is not possible.  If we truly believe that ALL students can learn then we need to do differently.  Some students will need extra time out of the normal class time to reach mastery of the concept.  

What if grading looked like this?

PLC's work to establish the guaranteed and viable curriculum.  In every class we establish what students should know and be able to do (Powerstandards).  We take those Powerstandards and develop great assessments to assess those standards.  We agree that these 12-15 standards are what all students should know and be able to do.  We develop a structure that supports the mastery of these concepts.  Time would be available within the school day to ensure that ALL students work towards mastery.  We provide struggling students with small focused groups that enable them to get the concept.  

A visual of my thoughts below: 

What have you done for me lately becomes the mantra.  If we believe that all students can learn then to meet this belief we need to be innovative.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Best teachers and their characteristics?

We can all think back to school and remember our best teachers.  What are some characteristics that describe your best teacher?  Why did they leave a mark on you?

John Hattie mentions an interesting piece of research regarding what characteristics our best teachers have.  We have between 40-60 teachers over our years in school.  Why do only a small percentage leave a mark?

According to Hattie best teachers;

"Turned students on to the love and challenge of their subject."

"Built relationships."

"Helped students to have different and better strategies or processes to learn the subject."

"Demonstrated a willingness to explain material and help students with their work."

When I think about my best teachers, they have similar characteristics.  The most important thing for me as someone who had a rough child hood, is that they cared and they were interested in me.  They didn't make it easy though, they held high expectations regardless of who you were.

Teachers make a difference, some more than others.

What characteristics describe your best teacher?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

All kids will learn or else.

In my short time in my new position as superintendent we have had a lot of discussions regarding our response to students that are not learning.  The challenge I see now is taking action and making a commitment to "all kids will learn or else."  For lack of better words, we need to walk the walk.  It takes a whole school approach, for us to address ALL needs of students and cannot be done in pockets.  A whole school approach takes work and a commitment from everyone on staff.  I read a great article that was sent to me by one of our teachers regarding a case study on implementing RTI.


It is no secret that quality core instruction (Tier 1) eliminates a lot of issues.  The case study focused on instruction.  They developed consistent approaches for all teachers to use.  They moved away from whole class instruction and used more, "student to student interaction with the content."  They used best practices that were practical and meshed well across content areas.  They developed a system of progress monitoring through the PLC process.  They found what students should know and be able to do in each area and created competencies (assessments) to assess each Powerstandard.  They intervened as a whole staff based off of these competencies.  The mastery of these assessments resulted in a grade (standards based grading).

I believe that interventions should be supplemental and not take place of core instruction.  Supplemental interventions require schedules that are flexible.  There was evidence of this in the article.  Throughout the two year study the school adjusted and changed as it needed to meet all students needs.  I believe we are breaking through, and there is a shift occurring but we need to begin to put our words into action.  Take a few minutes to read this article: Implementing RTI in a High School

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 and 1940 similarities in grading

I have written previously regarding my support for standards based grading and I have not changed my thoughts regarding it.  It just makes sense to embed it into our work within PLCs.  As we lay out what we want students to know and be able to do, a grading system should mirror this work.  Recently, my family found this report from my wife's great grandmother.  As you can see not much has changed since 1940 in terms of reporting grades.  The only difference may be the report card is written in handwriting and not printed off.  

How do we know if the child truly knows the material from this type of grade reporting?  We can only speculate from the grades reported.  The report card above shows an overall average to good rating.  So based on this report card the individual would have been a "good" student.  I personally found it interesting that they included conduct and effort, these days we often  just add that to the final grade, at least they separated it. 

My vision of what this may look like.  Powerstandards are what we believe the students should know and be able to do.  A formative assessment is the physical instead of the autopsy, we probe to find the breakdown in learning.  The formative assessment could have multiple assessments assigned to each Powerstandard.  Grading for learning allows us to pinpoint the breakdown and provide interventions.

We need to do differently in this area and it just makes sense to begin thinking about the grading process.  

2013 and 1940 - Should our reports cards be this similar?