Friday Open Thread

 UPDATE:  Thank you to a sharp-eyed reader - Director DeBell is NOT having his community meeting tomorrow.  It has been rescheduled for next Saturday, Jan. 26th.  I confirmed this with the Board office as the calendar still had it as tomorrow.

The district will be sending out their Levies Information brochure soon so look for that in the mail.

Op-Ed from Garfield's Jesse Hagopian on why their teachers took the stand that they did on MAP testing.

The MAP opt-out was covered on NPR as well.

What's on your mind?


Anonymous said…
New grading system coming to middle schools.

Standards-based Grading.

You can read up on it on the Whitman web site:

SPS Parent
Anonymous said…
Received my brochure yesterday. I am in Northeast Seattle.

hschinske said…
Standards-based grading is supposedly what they've been doing in elementary schools for years. I can't say I thought it was well implemented there (over the years I encountered a zillion different interpretations of what the grades were supposed to represent). I don't have a particular beef with the basic concept, and I think old-fashioned grades can be just as misleading, but at least with the old-fashioned grades people have a lot of experience in what they may or may not imply.

Helen Schinske
Anonymous said…
According to the Board Calendar and Director DeBell's page on the SPS webpage, his meeting for tomorrow has been postponed until Jan. 26th.

-North End Mom
Patrick said…
According to the Board Calendar and Director DeBell's page on the SPS webpage, his meeting for tomorrow has been postponed until Jan. 26th.

I suppose it would be uncharitable of me to interpret that as running and hiding until after the board vote on the NE middle schools situation.
Patrick said…
I really wish District staff would prepare reports on the different possible scenarios that areunderstandable on their own. The bullet points with one or two phrases that make no sense without being explained verbally just don't cut it. It makes me suspect they're not thinking clearly about the problem if they can't put their thoughts down on paper. I want to see where the numbers come from and everything that goes into each scenario. Maybe it's deliberate, to keep people not in the know from having all the information, or maybe it's a defensive tactic to keep them from being held responsible if they change their mind later. But either way it looks unprofessional to me.
Thank you NE Mom.
Anonymous said…

What: McClure Middle School PTSA General Meeting and screening of Race to Nowhere

When: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 Screening begins at 6:30 pm
(PTSA meeting begins at 6:00 pm)

Where: McClure Middle School Cafeteria (1915 1st Avenue West, Seattle, WA 98119)

The McClure Middle School PTSA invites you to attend the screening of Race to Nowhere, a documentary born out of concern that "families, teachers and children were wrestling with a silent epidemic of school stress and academic burnout." Filmmaker Vicki Abeles "was moved to pick up a camera and begin what would become a two-year investigation into the nationwide problem of America's pressure-cooker culture and education system-and the dangerous toll it takes on children and their families.....Premiering in 2009, the finished film, "Race to Nowhere" has since been screened in more than 6,000 schools, universities, cinemas, hospitals, corporations, education and health conferences and community centers across the US, to a cumulative audience of more than one million."

The event is free, and advance registration is helpful but not necessary.

We hope you - and your children - will join us. Please forward this email to friends, family and interested community members.

Click here for more information on the McClure PTSA screening of Race to Nowhere.

Click here to forward an epostcard to friends and interested parties.

-mcclure ptsa
Anonymous said…
Today SLOG covered the Garfield teachers refusal to give MAP.

Anonymous said…
Patrick said:

>> According to the Board Calendar and Director DeBell's page on the SPS webpage, his meeting for tomorrow has been postponed until Jan. 26th.

>> I suppose it would be uncharitable of me to interpret that as running and hiding until after the board vote on the NE middle schools situation.

I suppose it would, but if so I'd be uncharitable right along with you.

Anonymous said…
I participated in a phone poll yesterday on K-12 education. There were questions about satisfaction with the Seattle schools, the upcoming teachers contract, and messaging around the changes to the teacher contract. There were specific questions around placement of teachers and principals and whether they should end forced placement; whether principals should be able to hire during different parts of the year; and whether teacher evaluation and hiring can take into account teacher effectiveness, etc.

K12 parent
Eckstein Parent said…
The Ed Director for NE is the principal who instituted standards-based grading at Eckstein.

One part of the new grading system that I liked was that there is more than one chance to meet the standard. A child can rewrite a paper or do corrections on a test, write a reflection on their mistakes and try again.

Sometimes I am annoyed by the grading in high school where it seems like a gotcha when a child misunderstands the material or the directions and has no more opportunities to work with the material. In some classes papers are graded so seldom that a test is the first chance a child has to see if they are getting the material. Then it is too late if they aren't.
seattle citizen said…
K12 parent wrote that she/he "participated in a phone poll yesterday on K-12 education. There were questions about satisfaction with the Seattle schools, the upcoming teachers contract, and messaging around the changes to the teacher contract."

Ah, so the astro-turf Our Schools Coalition, created by Gates->Alliance->LEV->Strategies360 to propagandize around the teachers' contract is back in action!

Three years ago, they obtained the list of parents in Seattle schools illegally from SPS...I wonder how K-12 parent got a call? I guess they're still using that list, eh?

Must be nice to be part of Gates/Strategies360 network, so as to get whatever you need, the law or ethics be damned...
Anonymous said…
Salmon Bay Elementary teachers will not administer the MAP test to their students this Winter. The principal does support some standardized testing but is standing behind the teachers decision. Students have the option of "opting in" if families desire a MAP test for their elementary students. Middle School Students will take the MAP as scheduled.

Unknown said…
Seattle School District No. 1
Proposition No. 1

The Seattle School District’s enrollment rate continues to grow; yet the school district has continually
used and mismanages many of the funds provided to them. Countless dollars are not being spent on
repairs; schools are taking a loss in funds by selling school at losses only to reopen them.

In 2009 the school district was offered $9.7 million for the sales of Martin Luther King Elementary. When
all was said and done they voted to sell it to a non-profit church for $2.3 million. This is lost money that
could have provided much needed maintenance. Arbor Heights the oldest school in the district and the
most in need of repairs is not even part of the money allotted in the levy. Now the school district is nearly
$550 million in back repairs.

This mismanagement of funds is not helping our students. We need improvement in our schools. Do you
as a voter want to see your tax dollars go down the drain?

Vote NO on the operations Levy
Anonymous said…
I've had 2 calls about the Seattle K-12 survey also. Both times I asked who was sponsoring the survey and both times they said they couldn't answer (the caller ID says, "unknown"), so I would not do the survey (and yet they called back).

Today I asked how they got my phone number (we are unlisted) and I was told it was "random" but I doubt it as the first caller referred to our child/ren in SPS.
I do not appreciate the fact that our personal information is being passed on to any companies for surveys, much less for any one perspective in upcoming CBA bargaining negotiations.

Anonymous said…
re: standards based grading- I'd score it a big "F" (in old school grading system)!

My kid has had Standards based grading for 5 years now, and the results in high school are not impressive. Starting in middle school, homework does not figure into the grading system at all (parents are told that this prepares students for the "college way") so their study habits are soon down to zilch- who knows a 7th grader who will voluntarily do more work that is required?

Struggling students struggle more (in many classes, especially math, homework problems are rarely reviewed), and kids who can skate by do no homework work at all, or fill in any type of guesses because it's never looked at by the teacher.

Personally, I wonder if it is a result of teachers having 150 students (30 per class x 5 periods/day) and regular homework is too much to humanly keep up with?

And then there is the accepted practice that you get as many "re-do's" as you need to pass the standards test so what difference does it make if you goof up on the 1st (or 2nd or 3rd try)- you always have another re-do chance until the end of the semester!

I am not a fan of meaningless busywork/homework, nor a fan of traditional grades at all, but Parents beware- the standards based grading can be a very poor tool if not implemented properly and students will pay the price as they float through high school and beyond. It definitely is not preparing them for college rigor.

mirmac1 said…
Okay, is this yet another oops from the Times (or did they deliberately write the wrong headline for this letter to the editor?)
Anonymous said…
Standars's based grades is great if we want standard's based kids. I don't know anybody who aspires to that goal. My kids aren't standard and I don't want them to be "standard".

If you have a kid with a disability, or any kid who doesn't enter a class "at standard", then you've got to wonder what the grade is supposed to mean. Lots of people think kids with disabilities' grades will just somehow, magically be handled by their IEP. Nope. That's not covered. There's nothing that even mandates that "standards" be covered in the IEP. That's the "I" part. Individual. Sp why would you give them a "standard's based grade."?

We've got to take a long hard look at who we think "grades" are supposed to benefit. My vote is that they benefit the person receiving the grade. So, does it benefit students with disabilities to get years and years of 1's... because they have a disability? A 1 grade... essentially says "Yep, you're still disabled." Well, that doesn't benefit my kid. Does it benefit other kids to get 4's... just because they are who they are, and they were already above standard? That doesn't benefit my typical kid either.

You want grades to be individually given, based on what a kid can do. And, based on the work they apply to the class, in a way that's reasonable and well spelled out to the class beforehand.

Maybe that's not perfect. But it's a whole lot better than the preordained grades that "standard's based grades" imposes. Should all the black students at some schools get 1's. Many schools have such an achievement gap, that 1's would be the standards based grade for many whole groups. That sucks. And, it's avoidable.

I guess that's a whole lot easier to apply standard's based grades than having to bother with figuring something else out.

eckstein parent said…
Actually I don't want my child to be graded individually based on what they can do. Assessment that shows that, took my kids several days of individual testing with a Nueropsychologist & is not something that teachers are trained to do. 6 teachers over 6 years could not recognize my child's learning disability. (Graded down for being lazy) So I have no confidence that teachers are able to individually assess a kid's abilities.

If a class has standards to learn that are beyond the state required standard that is fine to assess based on that.

I want their grade to reflect whether they learned what they were expected to learn in class. I want them to get the idea that that is why they are in class & it is up to them to make sure they learn the material. If they already know the material then I don't see why they should spend hours on homework that is redundant. (Like my kid in AP classes does.) If they can not approach the material because of a disability then I want the curriculum (standard) modified as required by IDEA (like it is for my kid with a learning disability).

I get tired of my child's grades reflecting timeliness, classroom behavior, drawing ability, neatness, ability to motivate others in their group for a project. When you get extra credit for cleaning up a teacher's classroom & get graded down for sharing your textbook with another student who forgot it (both happened to my kid at RHS), I think you are sending the wrong message to kids. What they learn is that school is about jumping through hoops and sucking up, not learning.
Anonymous said…
Any ideas as to how standards-based grading would work for APP?

Also, would teachers be required to provide families with a detailed list of the standards at the beginning of a class?

just give them letter grades said…
Based on our experience with standards based grading in elementary school, I'm skeptical. Someone made the comment, "does it benefit other kids to just get 4s," and our experience was that even A+ on tests didn't get a 4. That was considered by the teacher as meeting standard, a 3. In order to get a 4, you were supposed to show a deeper understanding of the material. It's elementary math. In another subject, a grade was given when the teacher hadn't even covered the material or standard. My child only got discouraged when seeing "grades," even though A level work was being done.

As far as retaking tests, I want my child to do their best the first time. I don't want to send the message that life is full of redos. A teacher policy that my child thinks is fair - it rewards those that studied and did well, but also gives a second chance to others - is allowing students to retake the test, but the highest grade you can get on the retake is
75% or something. It keeps the student from failing, and provides a chance to show understanding of the material. It also provides incentive to do your best the first time around.

Perhaps one benefit of standards based grading is that they would actually have to articulate the standards they're teaching. For APP, that could be a good thing, but that's about the only benefit I see.

What's more frustrating for me is knowing teachers are going to spend numerous hours on yet another initiative that seems to have little benefit for students. It seems like another case of good intentions gone awry.
Anonymous said…
What I do like about the retakes is that it reinforces learning - makes sure kids master information before moving on.

NE Mom of 3
Anonymous said…
I would rather the grade reflect whether my child knows the material than reflect when or how quickly they learned it.

If we want to make sure that a certain grade is not accessible to kids who take longer to learn the material then we should make sure there is a high grade that is only accessible to kids who knew the material before the class started on it. Those could be the A kids & the ones who learned it within 2 weeks can be the B kids & the ones who took 3 weeks can be the C kids, etc.

If we want to grade kids on how quickly they learn then I think it should be separate grade. We can also give them a grade on how hard they work, how compliant they are, how well they remember instructions, all very good traits that kids need to learn. But those traits don't really tell us if they are ready for pre-calculus. That is what I want to see in an academic grade, did they learn what they need to learn to move on. Mastery - like NE mom said.

-mom of 2
Anonymous said…
Ecstein parent, the law, IEPs have a provision called "modified grades." It's a checkbox on your IEP. But, there's no provision for stating what that modification actually means and how grades are to be given. So, the teachers already are supposed to base grades on what a child can do, and that is already what they're supposed to be doing. A class may have standards and standardized content - but the kid with a disability may have different goals that aren't aligned with that standard. In that case, what do standardized grades even mean? Mostly they just ignore the "modified grade" stipulation in the IEP and gives the students with a disability a bad grade.

And as others point out, getting a 100% on a standards based test really means that you "met standard" and therefore it's a 2 (or B in translation). So a traditional A+ is only worth a B. Getting an A means the student somehow opined what the next standard would be, or guessed the next lesson, or it means that they already knew the material. If student went above and beyond the standard - but did something completely different than whatever the next standard happened to be - well, that would still be a B (or meets standard). The reality is, that isn't how life works nor is it motivating.

Do we really want all our high schoolers to now be getting B's for 100% of standard performance? I bet not. Why would anybody want to jeapordize college admission for some sort of "standards based grading" pandering. Why should Seattle students be penalized to support this ideal?

And one other point - lots of people poo-poo credit for classroom skills. Those are the things that actually matter most in life. Remember... showing up is 80% of the game.

NE mom, so your kid will get a B for mastery of algebra 2? That's what a B means. And if gets an A, it means he really doesn't need to move on because he already mastered the next class up. If he already knows pre-calculus - he'll get the A indicating he doesn't really need it. I'm always stumped by people who don't know what their kid has mastered.

Anonymous said…
Is an exception made for classes taken in middle school for high school credit? If taken for high school credit, they factor into the high school GPA, and I sure wouldn't want some SBG mumbo jumbo affecting the high school GPA.

Eckstein parent said…
Well I would prefer that my kids practice their sucking up skills at home.

"Mom can I do the laundry for you so that you can see that I'm contributing when you decide how much money to give me for college?"

Instead of "Mom I don't have time to do the laundry because I have to clean the classroom so my teacher will give me an A and colleges will think I am smarter than the kid who got a B."

Linh-Co said…
Standards-based grading is BS. It is another educrap distraction from instruction. This will do nothing to help the achievement gap. Meanwhile, the schools are wasting precious professional development time and resources on this garbage.
dan dempsey said…
Editors Todd Alan Price; John Duffy and Tania Giordani explore the privatization of public schools in the new book Defending Public Education From Corporate Takeover. Discussed in depth are the topics of the voucher system, corporate takeover with the implementation of charter schools, and other attacks on public schools.

At this moment, schools are doing everything they can to win the Race to the Top. They are allocating their funding to test preparation, riffing beloved teachers, and transferring students who "drag down" their grade average on the state report card. This book describes the current state of the education system in the United States. Readers will be on the front lines of the protests in Madison, in the inner city public-turned-charter schools, and in the shoes of the teachers dealing with educational politics every day. By the end of this text, you may beg the question: who's winning in the Race to the Top?

Todd Alan Price, Ph.D., is director of leadership and specialized roles at National Louis University. An associate professor of education, his interests include educational policy, service learning, co-teaching, and the history and philosophy of education in the United States of America, Cuba, and the People's Republic of China, where he has lived, studied, and taught.

John Duffy, Ed.D., is a retired high school social studies and English teacher. He has been instructing school leaders and teachers in Chicago Public Schools for the last six years. His research, writing, and advocacy throughout his career have been on behalf of progressive teacher unionism, critical multicultural education, and diversity equity in school programs and curriculum.

Tania Giordani, Ed.D., is a professor of adult education at the College of Lake County, where she currently serves as a department chair for adult basic education and general education development. She is an advocate for equal access to quality education for all children and uses Theater of the Oppressed to engage parents, students, and community members in conversations about the current state of public education.

School "reform," charter schools, mandatory testing, new funding schemes, selective admissions, curriculum changes, standards, and closures have made public schooling in America confusing. [The] biting commentary this book, written by very knowledgeable people, helps explain what's going on. If you want information and analysis . . . here it is!
— William H. Watkins, professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
Anonymous said…
Well Eckstein parent, I'm sure your tune will change when your kid gets to high school. You won't want a 100% mark - to wind up with a B. And, you will be happy that turning your paper in on time will count for a set number of points, and so does homework. If you want standards based grades - you should be willing to forgo college admission for your child to students in districts that don't have it.

And... who really cares about middle school after all.

just give them letter grades said…
ws said…
Schmitz Park has voiced MAP boycott support.
dan dempsey said…
Linh-Co said...
Standards-based grading is BS. It is another educrap distraction from instruction. This will do nothing to help the achievement gap. Meanwhile, the schools are wasting precious professional development time and resources on this garbage.

John Hattie using data, lots of data from around the world, has determined what has been proven to work best to produce improvements in student learning. Hattie is largely ignored in the USA.

Many education leaders today push agendas completely removed from reality.

CCSS is untried and therefore unproven. The WA legislature approved the implementation of the originally Gates funded CCSS before even knowing what CCSS said.

In response to a "supposed crisis" changes are put in place that are NOT solutions. MAP testing was one of those "fake" solutions.
Anonymous said…
From the Schmitz Park letter of support:

...Not only are our teachers concerned about the time taken away from instruction to administer the test, but the current version of the MAP test is aligned with the old state standards and it is clearly an unsuitable vehicle for evaluating students currently being taught the new required Common Core Standards. So not only are the results of little instructional value, but this discrepancy between what is taught and what is measured will yield falsely low scores making the MAP test invalid for the purpose of measuring student growth/teacher effectiveness

I'm not sure this is exactly true. Was the MAP ever aligned to the old (though still in effect, since not until 2014-15 will state assessments reflect Common Core) state standards? I thought "alignment" meant that they correlated MSP pass rates/scores with MAP RIT scores. MAP could then be used as a predictive measure for those likely to pass the MSP and identify those needing more support. There is a discrepency between what and when content is taught and what and when MAP tests. Its adaptive nature means that students will get questions on material not taught. Its assumed sequencing of skills doesn't necessarily align with the sequence of SPS.

The MAP test itself is not inherently bad. It is useful as a screening tool. Its Seattle Schools use of the test that is problematic. They are using it as if it is more accurate than it really is. They are misusing it to evaluate teachers. They are using it to test for Algebra readiness, without triangulating it with other assessments. They are using up too much classroom and staff time to administer it multiple times a year. They need to acknowledge that even though it has out-of-level questions, some students are hitting the ceiling of the test and the results then have limited value. They are using the test without fully understanding its limitations.

-we opt out
dan dempsey said…
We opt out wrote:

Was the MAP ever aligned to the old (though still in effect, since not until 2014-15 will state assessments reflect Common Core) state standards? I thought "alignment" meant that they correlated MSP pass rates/scores with MAP RIT scores.

The way MAP was sold to the SPS was that it was aligned to the Standards.... NOT correlated but aligned.

When I questioned Brad Bernetek about the alignment he admitted that the results were only correlated.

To even begin to be a useful tool for prescribing interventions ... MAp would need to inform teachers what content standards were not being met.

All this test ever claimed was that higher scores on WASL testing would correlate to higher scores on MAP testing.

My conversation with Bernetek came about when I asked him if the MAP math was correlated to the New 2008 math standards or the old pre-2008 math standards and he told me "both".
eckstein parent said…

I have done the high school GPA/AP classes/subject tests/college admissions etc with one child. You are right that I prefer that my child have a chance to earn an A. I prefer that my child earn an A because they have the opportunity to learn more than the minimum standard in class and that is reflected in their grade.

My experience with standards based grading is not that kids are limited to learning only the standard. I see that as a minimum not a maximum. I am sorry that in your experience it is used as a maximum to keep kids from learning more. I think that is a misapplication of standards.

In high school I see 2 main problems with grading that could be addressed with standards based grading. One problem is that kids who have not mastered the material still pass the class because they turned in their homework & did extra credit. Then they are moved to the next level without needed skills. See math. In reverse there are kids who have mastered the material before the class ever starts & can fail because they do not do the homework or extra credit from which they learn nothing. (Both of these were resented by my high schooler who saw the first scenario as setting kids up to fail & the second scenario as preventing kids from spending their own time learning.)

The other problem is the number of kids who drop out because they are limited to one chance to learn something, they start with a lack of skills, or they screw up, or get sick, or misunderstand, or just don’t have the resources to jump the hoops. Maybe they could learn the material but it is too late. They missed the homework deadlines & the extra credit opportunities. They might be able to take the class again but they can not recover their GPA. I have seen kids drop out, who could have handled learning the standards but were hospitalized for a significant time or dealt with a family tragedy or were so affected by keeping up their GPA that they began self-sabotaging. They knew there were no second chances. The opportunities to make up work are very limited and do not include extra credit or daily in-class quizzes. You must make it up in a very limited time on top of your normal workload & before the end of the semester. So they are drop outs. I think that we failed those students by telling them that learning the material was not the important thing. Jumping hoops in a certain way, at a certain time is what we are looking for in high school. I would rather see them try again to reach the standards with no penalty for timeliness.

Nova kids manage to get into colleges with no GPA. And colleges know which schools are inflating grades. I would rather see a measure of academic achievement for an academic grade & other things like citizenship graded separately.
Shannon Campion surfaces said…

Stand for Children and Shannon Campion heavily promoted I 1240. Now, Stand for Children is donating to Inslee's campaign. According to Campion, it is just good will. Cough. Gag. Vomit.
Anonymous said…
Eckstein parent, In a true standard's based grading scheme - simply "going above and beyond" the classroom materials shouldn't earn you that "A". An "A" should mean a set amount (probably 1 year)of mastery of the standards of the next level. Why should a student get a better grade for learning a bunch of other non-standard stuff that happened to interest him/her, or learning more (non-standard) depth... anymore than any other non-tangible like citizenship? And really. There's no "second" grade lurking around somewhere for intangibles.

No matter the grading system - homework and assignments should reflect the important learning objectives. So, doing the homework can always be evidence of having learned the material, and always be part of the grade. If the complaint is "bad homework assignments", then that is totally another subject.

Any grading method can be abused - like you describe, with the teacher not permitting late work or figuring out what to do with a hospitalized student. My experience is that teachers really do try, and really do help students dig their way out - in all grading systems. My niece's school even has a term for it - grade grubbing.

Eckstein Parent said…
Perhaps Eckstein is not implementing standards based grading in a completely faithful way, because it does not sound like the system you are describing. It is also not consistent across teachers. I am sure there are other ways to address the problems I see with the high school grading system, but the standards based grading being tried at Eckstein is the closest I have seen.

If a B is meeting standard & an A is one grade level above standard what is a C or a D? Is that one or two grade levels below standard? How can that pass you on to the next standard? In the system you are seeing, does a kid who is in a class one grade level above their age get an A automatically? What about 2 grade levels above, what grade do they get? If kids are not allowed to work beyond the minimum standard and can only work on that standard, then I think pass/keep trying is a better way to grade. But I think it is a travesty if maximum caps are put on learning.

Homework is only evidence of learning the material if it is graded. (Rarely to never in my experience, that is 150 worksheets every day for some poor teacher.) Some kids don’t need to do any homework to master the material, some kids need to do the practice sheet twice or 5 times & some kids do not have the skills to approach the work to begin with. At Eckstein there is suppose to be a pretest for each unit to help guide teacher & student in seeing where they are with that standard. If they don’t have the necessary pre-skills or if they have already mastered the material, they should be doing something else instead of that homework. Then it is up to the student to do the homework enough times to master the material & they don’t pass the test until they have mastered the material. What is appropriate homework for one student is not for another. So perhaps it is just bad homework assignments. But I like the idea of kids realizing that just doing the homework once may not mean they have mastered the material which I think should be communicated as the goal.

At Eckstein there are 3 grading categories on the report card for each class. Academic, Citizenship & Effort.

My interest in the standards based grading is based on my experience with grading in high school where more than half of my child’s time was spent on activities to earn grades from which nothing was learned. ( Including 15-20 hours of homework/week. ) There I saw kids foundering in algebra because they couldn’t manipulate fractions but had been passed onto the next level & kids dropping out because there were no second chances. There is no grade scrubbing at RHS. If you get behind it is very difficult to catch up & if you are behind at the end of the unit or grading period, too late. Sometimes it is heartbreaking.
Anonymous said…
As Eckstein parent suggested, the way standards based grading is being described is that only working above grade level would earn an A. That means teachers need to provide work above grade level standards. A math test, for example, would have challenge problems built in that tested the concepts in a more difficult application that requires higher level thinking....this is how they did it in the old days...and they gave letter grades. A's were given to the students that could go beyond the basic problems and apply the concepts to more difficult problems.

This whole discussion leads me to believe grades will become more meaningless under SBG. The fact that teachers and schools have different interpretations of how to implement SBG has me wondering how it's any better than letter grades.

My question is where did the directive start? Are all schools moving to SBG based on a directive from Teaching and Learning? Can middle schools independently decide to implement a different grading system? If we have questions about the changes, do we talk with the school principal or some higher power?

skeptical parent
Jan said…
Where to start. First of all -- I think I want Eckstein parent to run the schools (at least the assessment/grading part of them). Everything he/she describes matches my observations from GHS.
Secondly, if "standards based" education means that you can't get an A for knowing 100 percent of the work, the problem isn't with the idea of standards based grading -- it is with how the standards are defined. My sense is that what a parent, a college admissions counselor, or a student thinks -- when they look at an A on a report card -- is that it represents someone who has mastered the material at a course level. That level of mastery (you can ask me anything that we covered in this course and I can answer correctly) is what should correlate to an A. I think it becomes too cute by half to be fussing around with whether and to what extent kids go beyond, deeper, into the "next room" of knowledge, etc. I am not saying those things may not have value, but they need to be recognized in other ways (letters of recommendation, independent study courses, acceleration, etc.) The same is true with neatness of artwork, attendance, etc. By blending those things in with grades that should be reflective of how well a kid knows a subject, all you do is confuse things, debase the grade, and teach kids to be cynical about what grades mean.

One final point -- when you look at the schools that are doing THE BEST jobs of keeping kids from dropping out, getting kids into colleges somewhere, etc. -- virtually ALL of them make a practice of raising "grade retrieval" to an art. The adults negotiate with the teachers to give kids the additional time, second chances, etc. that they need so that they CAN succeed and staying in school makes sense.

The degree to which we work at cross purposes drives me nuts. We say we want kids to stay in school, to graduate, to go to college. Then we turn their grading system into an arbitrary labyrinth of behavior modification (rather than an assessment of what they know or have learned). We devalue and debase the efforts of the kids who may be working the hardest (because it takes them the longest to achieve mastery) by setting artificial "time limits" on how long we will give them to learn, and what instructional/learning methods we will allow; and we torment the fast learners by requiring them to chalk up hours of unnecessary busywork and spend time in unneeded review and practice. And if they are so bored they don't do it (or have other organizational issues, ADHD, etc -- we fail them, though their teachers may know full well that they know the coursework better than anyone else in the class. HAH, we say -- THAT'LL teach 'em! Meanwhile, we refuse to allow them to simply "demonstrate mastery" and move on. We are wasting our kids' time and teaching them that good grades depend on the degree to which they can arbitrarily game the system. They (both the slow learners, the fast learners, and those whose grades are based on actual mastery -- but who get the same grades as kids who have not matered the subject, but did 2 dioramas and cleaned the bookshelves) ought to be furious with us.

How many kids will really want to take a test, or write a paper 3 or 4 times, instead of once, to get a good grade -- if they could have gotten it done right the first time? Most kids I know would figure out that one pretty quickly! And by the second or third unit of material, they would have figured out how to maximize their chances of doing well the first (or max second) time. The same holds true of papers and projects.
Anonymous said…
But Eckstein parent conflates the issue. First asserting that homework is never graded. That definitely isn't my experience. Both my kid's homework and classwork is graded. So, it sounds like the real beef is that teachers aren't looking at the evidence of work they already have - not that the grade is based on a standard. And no skeptical, teachers are not obligated to also teach or provide materials above standard to give your kid an A. In standards based grading - there's no obligation to tell anybody how they can get an A. The teacher is still only obligated to teach the standard. And finally, to clarify, 1=Above Standard, 2=Meets Standard, 3=Appropaching Standard (within a year of), 4=Below Standard. That's the same as the MSP/HSPE/EOCs' etc. That is what "standards based grades are supposed to align with". So, 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, 4=D, didn't show up = F.

The complaints I'm hearing by Eckstein parent about non-standard grading are mostly about how evidence for grades are given. No matter the system, the teacher will have to use something to base their grade upon. I'm simply pointing out, that grades need to benefit the student - not an ideal about standards. We have many students for whom standards based grading is a huge disservice: students who are behind at the beginning, students with disabilities, minority students who never have done well on standards tests so no reason to assume that they will do well with standards based grading which is supposed to align with that. Standards based grades is just a way for those who already have achieved to prove themselves, once again, that they are more deserving than others.

Definitely in high school - you want a clear path to an "A" - otherwise you will limit your college opportunitites. Of course knowledge of the course material is very important. That is what high school is all about ... not about slavishly sticking to the ideal of standardization.

hschinske said…
Slight correction: 1 is not the top grade, but the bottom. And standards-based grades are NOT SUPPOSED to map one-to-one with A-B-C-D. If they didn't convey somewhat different information, there would be no point in changing the notation.

In my experience, the main problem is, as it has always been, trying to shove too much information into one number/letter/interpretive dance/what have you. Well, actually, that's one of the main problems. The other is inconsistency in application -- and don't fool yourself that doesn't happen with percentage grades. Just because something is expressed as a percentage doesn't mean it's objective.

Helen Schinske
Anonymous said…
You're right. Teachers aren't obligated to teach above standard. The base level expectation is that they are teaching the standards. In the current system, if students do the work and meet the standards they can reasonably expect an A. In the SBG system, however, the same material could be covered, the student could do the same level of work, and get what, a 3? That's what I find so confusing.

What is the intent of SBG again? What is the problem it's trying to solve?

Jan said…
Helen -- I totally agree with your point -- that arbitrariness and inconsistency can and do flourish with percentage-based systems. I do think there are two issues being discussed here -- (1) whether "top grades" in SBG is the same as an "A" in a percentage based sysem (where the A means mastery of subject covered, not some sort of "exceeds expectations" concept; and (2) how much we try to "pile" into a single letter or number, whether all teachers do it consistently, whether it is then "fair" to represent to colleges that number as having some meaning with respect to what kids know in a given subject. (There is actually also a (3) having to do with pacing and accommodations for different learners, as well).

Traditionally, for my kids, "grades" are what the classroom teacher says they are. If you have to show up each day with 2 No. 2 pencils, sharpened, put your name and date in the left hand corner, participate in oral discussions, do 2 dioramas, etc. submit everything once (with no ability to do corrections for credit),etc. etc. to get full points for the class, -- well, then, you do! And Harvard and MIT can just sort of try to figure all that out by looking at the grade (which, of course, is part of the reason why things like SATs exist -- the same grade can mean very different things, from school to school, and even from class to class in a school).

What SBGs at least introduce into the discussion is the idea of "purifying" the grade -- taking out all the behavior modification elements (do them if you want -- but report them some other place and reward them some other way), and encouraging teachers to be less controlling in terms of the amount of time, etc. that it takes kids to reach mastery. We stop grading on whether exact hoops were jumped through on exact dates -- and start looking at whether and to what extent, over the length of the course, kids can get from point A to point Z.

One of my kids called home from college last year, in total shock over the professor in one of his upper level science courses. This guy announced in the first week of class that anyone could take and retake exams (or versions of them) as often as they wanted -- and he was happy to take the highest grade. ALL he cared about was that they mastered the material in the course. Period. These are busy kids. They don't retake exams for sport. But it takes away the possibility that you studied hard and thought you hit everything, only to have the exam focus on something you missed, or misunderstood -- or you DID know the stuff, but failed to convey it well in an answer, etc. etc. It takes all the "cat and mouse" out of testing -- and just focuses on pure learning. This professor's point was clear. I just want you to learn the stuff. If you want to spend the extra time to study more and retake the test -- great!
Eckstein Parent said…
I love the message from that college professor.

I believe that the major goal of standards based grading is so that the teacher, administrator & child can see whether the material was mastered. In the current grading system that is not the case. There is a difference in the schools’ reported ‘students ready for high school math’ based on passing grade in 8th grade math & the number of students who pass the math MSP in 8th grade. At Eckstein the principal was hoping to identify & give extra support to kids who were not mastering material.

The bonus is that kids are given the message that learning the material is the primary goal. That is what we want them to do. In the current grading system, kids know that is not what is important because they can pass a class without mastering the material & fail a class in which they are proficient, since the grades do not reflect mastery.

Getting rid of the deadline for learning material reinforces that the goal is to learn the material & you should keep trying until you do. You should not abandon the material & move on without necessary skills only to founder later.

As far as sped kids, I don’t think it is good to just give them passing scores without proficiency unless they have curriculum modifications in their IEP. I think that often that is used as an excuse not to give the specially designed instruction that would be required for them to learn the standard. The majority of our sped students who are failing standardized tests have average or above average IQs and could pass those tests given the correct specially designed instruction & accommodations. If they have curriculum modifications then they should be graded on those standards. They should also get regular reports objectively measuring progress on their goals.

I do think that that another side benefit is increased opportunities for kids who need more time with the material to master it & for kids who struggle with executive function or ADD or anxiety that may impede their ability to jump all the different hoops required every day even though they can learn the material.

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