Caught in the crossfire of this has been standards based grading. I use SBG in my classroom and it works really well for me. To be sure there are issues, but I definitely like it better than what I was doing 8 years ago. But that is not the case for many of my colleagues. They haven't gotten adequate training or support. Principals and district administration have given us conflicting messages and made incorrigible directives that have harmed the process.
The two items that have caused most of the angst among teachers is the 0-4 scale and how to deal with 'multiple opportunities'. I have been an advocate of the 0-4 scale. I like that it mirrors GPA, which is a concept most parents and students (and teachers) SHOULD be able to understand. But the implementation of that 0-4 scale has been a disaster. If we use average without any fail-safes, a student could conceivably turn in one out of four assignments and still get a passing score for the course.
The obvious fail-safe here is that you set minimum requirements for each assignment. For me, that means a kid has to meet every learning target at a basic level. If a student does not meet every learning target, they do not pass the course.
But sadly, district leadership has delivered conflicting messages on this, and the impression given is that we cannot set minimum requirements for our courses. Teachers have been in despair because they're passing kids that should not pass, yet the mathematics of the situation require it. It's been a major source of stress for most of our teachers.
The second item that has been tough for teachers has been the process of giving multiple opportunities. In SBG's inception in our district, teachers could decide how to administer retakes. We could do what fit best for our class and students. For me, that meant unlimited retakes to meet the most basic level, and limited retakes after that. It also meant that instead of homework, I require an opportunity cost: work that must be done before a kid is allowed to even take the test.
Which by the way, is different than what I do in my IB Mathematics HL class. There they have one retake and only one retake. That's the difference between an at-grade-level class and an accelerated one.
But again, the district has messed this up. They have set down inconsistent directives that give the impression that we need to give unlimited retakes for all levels and classes. They have dictated what scores we must use. They've overreached here and gotten teachers pissed off about something that truly is on the periphery of SBG.
Incompetence in SBG implementation has poisoned what was a good idea.
Here's the text of my comment (which closed our teacher comments) to the school board last night:
First of all, I want to thank the board, superintendent, and cabinet for your continued hard work and your commitment to kids in our communities.
I’m here tonight to support my colleagues in conveying a very important message. This message is nearly universal – It’s a concern that touches all grade levels, all subjects, the east side, the west side, elementary, secondary, all of us. Simply put: district administration has asked us as teachers to spend too much of our time, energy, and resources on initiatives that have little or no positive impact on student achievement.
Make no mistake: this is not about a bunch of teachers resistant to change. In fact, we are enthusiastic about making any changes that help kids. That's not the situation here though. These initiatives, though well-intentioned, are distracting us from the things that really matter. Putting together great lessons. Connecting with kids. These are the things that have been lost. These are the things that really matter. These are the things that make an impact.
This fundamental lack of focus has created a stressful environment for teachers, parents, and students that is unhealthy and impedes student achievement.
So tonight we ask for your help. We’re asking that you help us as a district refocus our attention on those things that really matter. If we do, there’s no doubt in my mind that teachers, parents, and most importantly the kids, will all be a lot better off.
Of course, I mean it when I say that the most important things are great lessons and connecting with kids. It's too bad we've been consumed with grading. It's supposed to support learning, not supplant it.
Update 1/23 7:00
Channel 12 produced a nice news story on the meeting. I'm the good-looking guy in the yellow shirt.
And if any of you would like to watch the full meeting, including my hot wife (@libraryhat) talking about Twitter & Goodreads at 48:12, here ya go:
More press! Here's an article in the Sun Post. I was quoted.