Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Journey to Healthier Grading Practices

By Michele Corbat

Today I was reminded that Margaret Mead was spot on when she said this.  I worked with our elementary standards based grading team.  This is a team of thoughtful, passionate individuals who are changing our little corner of the world for students.
In my district, Swartz Creek Community Schools, we have had standards based report cards in place at the elementary level for about 5 years.  This was before Common Core State Standards were adopted by my state.  Over the years, our teachers have worked to make some tweaks to the report cards, but the cards have not really been fully aligned to CCSS.  This year a group of elementary teachers, led by Rodney Hetherton, was invited to represent their grade level and school building to work together on revising our report cards.  Our revised report cards will better reflect the CCSS for ELA and mathematics.
The team has only met three times, however the work these dedicated teachers have done is amazing!  It speaks volumes of their commitment to take positive steps in better communicating grade-level expectations for student learning.  It was obvious to me from the first meeting that a culture of learning existed on this team.  There is trust amongst these 7 individuals.  They are honest with their questions about how they have been reporting student learning.  They are positive and supportive with one another.  People on the team feel safe to express confusion.  Our conversations are reflective and thoughtful.  They are reaching out to their building and grade level colleagues for input and come to each meeting reporting this feedback to the team. 

During our first two meetings, time was spent revisiting elements of standards based grading and the purposes of it. We discussed the purpose of a report card.  We discussed the differences between formative and summative assessments.  We discussed power standards. In between meetings, we collaborated using Google documents to record suggestions for ELA and math power standards.  

Like I mentioned earlier, today was only our third meeting.  The first two hours were spent discussing what makes an effective standards based report card. We reviewed examples from other school districts. I had to leave the meeting for another meeting (a typical day for me) and when I returned two hours later the team had the entire ELA-Writing portion of the report card revised.  Not just for one grade level, but for kindergarten through fifth grade.  They were thoughtful about the organization of the card to align to the CCSS anchor standards, spiral up through the grade levels and that the wording was parent-friendly.  After a quick lunch, they spent a couple of more hours working collaboratively and revised the entire mathematics portion of the card.  Again, for kindergarten through fifth grade!

Because these educators are so thoughtful, they spent the last portion of the day planning how to share the drafts of these revisions with our colleagues.  They want to ensure that teachers understand the rationale behind the revisions.  Conversations around how to educate our parents on the revisions also took place.  Maybe a team of parents will join us in a future meeting.  A guide to the revised report card will be developed with an FAQ section.  Ideas were collected and documented on our Google doc.  These details will be worked out in our next meeting.

I am blessed to be a part of this team.  Margaret Mead was right.  My colleagues are thoughtful, committed people who are changing our little corner of the world. 

If you get grading right, it will support everything else you do.~Doug Reeves

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