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.