Saturday, October 19, 2013

I've simply freeform written a narrative of some experiences I had this past week.
For your reading "pleasure" ;-), my rambling reflection of "The Day We Made Them Cry".

With two weeks left in the grading period, our elementary teachers were reminded that they needed to have their all of their assignments and grades entered in our online gradebook by Oct. 24th in order for us to print their report cards using Skyward, our Student Information System. Now, they were told last Spring that they would be expected to use this system as an online gradebook beginning with the 2013-2014 school year. They were given the opportunity to practice using the online gradebook during second semester last year. They were reminded right before school started about this expectation, and they were provided with multiple opportunities for professional development in using this online gradebook.
Questions had come up during the initial use during the first few weeks of school, so we sent out Q&A email messages to all elementary teachers at two different times mid-way through first quarter to provide clear answers and expectations. So, very honestly, we did not expect the level of panic, anger, frustration and very bluntly, unprofessional and rude responses to our reminder email message. A handful replied to all recipients of the message, begging us to change the expectation. Some acted as if this was the first time they had been told about this expectation. Some insisted they had received absolutely no training, and when reminded of the training opportunities provided to them, some responded with ugly comments about the quality of the training. When asked whom they contacted to request additional training, there was total silence.
What became very clear through this very tense and difficult week is that some of our teachers have absolutely no idea how to effectively assign a report card grade to students. We were told “Most of what we do is observation; you can’t put that in a gradebook”.
A few told us they were so happy we were now using this gradebook, that they found it easier to use, and that it was a much more efficient system. As I reflect on the conversations I’ve had with these teachers, what I realize is that these are the teachers that have a firmer grasp on the purpose and processes of grading and grade reporting.
The purpose of using this single, online gradebook system at this point in time was to provide more open communication to parents. This tool has a feature called “Parent Access”; parents may log in at anytime and see their students’ current grade, their assignments, and all associated scores. The implementation plan is that teachers would use the program during first semester, without the parent access portion open, so they could learn the software. Then, Parent Access will open at the start of second semester.
We have implemented a technical change that has now created an urgent need for teachers to better understand grading and grade reporting.

Monday, July 8, 2013

I've been away a long time...almost a year! I've been busy...but posting here has taken a back seat.
I've completed "change plan part 1" and "change plan part 2", and am now working on "change plan final".
I'm so excited that Dr. Tom Guskey is going to be here in Harlem this week! I'm so looking forward to learning from him.

Here is my focus statement so far:

Grading and grade reporting are a way of life in schools. Using grades as a way of reporting or assessing value or progress has also become embedded into our entire society as well. Many of us have seen grades or GPA being used as a way of determining the value of a person or as a status symbol: “My daughter is an honor roll student at ABC Middle School” bumper stickers,  “My son has a 4.0 GPA”, are bragging rights of proud parents. We see this thinking occurring in television advertisements and in news articles as well; grades are assigned to something (A, B, C, D, F) as a way to let us know and understand its value. And who among us doesn’t know what “A” means? Excellence, perfection (“A+”!!), something to which we aspire in so many facets of our lives. However, do we really know what those letter grades mean when reporting academic progress to students and parents? We know that most students (and parents) want that A, but what does that A mean (or C, or F)? A 9th grade Biology class that is taught by 5 different faculty members in one high school can have different course syllabi, different weights for grades, and different assignments, which can ultimately result in two students ending a term with the same set of knowledge and skills, and yet with very different course grades.

The goal of this change plan is to examine best practice in the areas of assessment, grading and grade reporting with a group of teacher leaders, and then to develop a longitudinal plan for changing practice and philosophy district-wide. This process is intended to build foundational knowledge and understanding of current best practice in assessment, grading and grade reporting, and will provide a more consistently applied process for evaluating and reporting student progress.

Will this change after meeting with Dr. Guskey this week? I know there will be LOTS to think about!