Thursday, October 27, 2011

Disappointment at the board meeting today

So the board decided not to let us talk tonight and we were given the directive to have grades in our gradebook be the traditional way of reporting grades by a week from Monday. I literally cried in front of one of our superintendents when I told them that they are adding at least 3 hrs of work and having to do separate data collection now. And I lead the group of teachers that are under fire by the Gov for not meeting AYP. She responded with "we didn't take our jobs because they would be easy." I was ready to punch her in the face and I'm not a violent person.

I'm not giving up and I'm not stopping but I need all the ideas and help from you guys. I'm not sure how to do this exactly but just cause they say I can't do it one way doesn't mean I'm going to rename it something and still do the same stuff. Any ideas or suggestions on how to do this on the DL are highly appreciated!

Superintendent finally made a decision

Just got this email at 2:30 pm today.


Dear Community Members,

I would like to thank all the community members who have shared their concerns regarding Standards-Based Grading (SBG). From the beginning I have admitted that we should have done a better job of including our XXXXX Middle School and XXXXXX High School parents in the discussions to implement the reporting of SBG.  Even though the implementation of SBG was not a success I still have great respect for our principals and teachers at these campuses for their innovative thinking and desire to push the envelope and try something new to benefit their students.

While some components of SBG have merits and the potential to benefit our students it cannot be completely implemented in isolation. I have spent the past month learning about SBG and how it’s being implemented at XXXXX MS and XXXXXXX HS. A couple of weeks ago I was reluctant to end the implementation of SBG; however, I instructed these two campuses to return to the 0-100 grading scale. As I continued to listen to our parents I learned that the use of proficiency scales was adding to the confusion of the grading process.
After much reflection and guidance from the Board of Trustees I have instructed both campuses to stop the entire implementation of SBG. Beginning Monday, Oct. 31 teachers will begin transitioning away from SBG.  The transition will conclude no later than Friday, Nov. 4, the last day of the six weeks. We have also asked teachers to review student grades for the past two grading cycles and verify that each assignment offered the opportunity to score a maximum of “100%” and not “90%.”  I have asked principals to update their school community on the progress of this endeavor. If you believe your student’s grade does not accurately reflect his/her performance, please contact your child’s teacher and principal.

For future grades, teachers will spend next week preparing grade books to reflect a child’s grade on assignments and not a grade on learning goals. Beginning with the new grading cycle, Nov. 7, you can expect your child’s Home Access account to appear similar to grading prior to SBG. In addition, students will no longer receive rubrics unless it is a project-based or writing assignment.

My review of SBG also allowed me to review the retake/retest practices at XXXXX MS and XXXXX HS.  Beginning Monday, Nov. 7 students will no longer have the opportunity to redo an assignment or test if they score above “70%.” I have instructed both campuses to follow district policy EIA which states students receiving a failing grade must be given the opportunity to redo assignments or exams. Students earning a grade below “70%” will be provided a reasonable and fair opportunity to retake or redo their assignments or exams.

As we plan for the future I will work with the Board of Trustees to review and develop district policies to ensure consistency among schools. Our current grading policy allows for significant campus discretion and through this SBG process it has become apparent that grading parameters are needed in policy to ensure uniformity across the district.  Thank you for your patience and commitment to the success of all students.



I have a fire lit under me!

This of course happens on the same day that we lose our dear librarian in a fight against cancer.  Her motto was "Fight Like Hell".  Well, I'm bringing the fight.

If you pray, please pray.  
If you chant, please chant.
If you sing, please sing.
Whatever you do for those you are thinking of please do that for me now.  I'm walking into the lions den in about 20 minutes.  

Hopefully our School Board listens to us and over rides his decision!  They're the only one that can stop this now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I need your help!

There's yet another board meeting tomorrow, Thursday 10/27 at 6:30 PM CST.

I need studies, I need citations, I need speaking points that show that reporting grades to students by Units and not Tests, Quizzes, and Homework.

I appreciate any help you can give me!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Best Q about SBG from parent!

This is the best question from one of our parents about the implementation and usage of SBG in our classrooms. It makes me laugh!!!

Fighting for SBG

So I just finished walking around my school for about 4 hours trying to get fellow teachers to sign a letter to the board asking them to simply let us have our voices heard before they make any more drastic decisions on the grading policy at my school.

Let me give you a play by play of how this year has gone down.  It's been an interesting year!

August Staff Development:  About 3 days before the students were to return to school there was a presentation to the faculty and staff that we were going to be moving as a whole campus to grading with SBG.  While we had been in numerous training sessions from the previous few years many teachers were unsure of how to write proficiency scales and implement them as well as the new grading on a 1 - 4 scale in the next week.

September 12: Open House happens and apparently a ton of mis-communication went on that night.  That's when the parents really started to get riled up and the shi.... I mean the animal poop hit the fan.

September 28: First Open forum with parents to explain the grading procedure and policies.  I wasn't there but a good friend was present and a presenter.  She said it was like the Jerry Springer show!  Parents were blurting out questions, there was cheering, clapping and tons of aggressive behavior.  One man apparently got really frustrated that his questions weren't being answered and he wasn't getting called on so he ran to the front of the room and started hollering at our principal.  That's apparently when the authorities were called (by one of my level headed students parents) and an officer came in to make sure that nothing got too out of hand.

October 13:  This email is in my inbox when I get to school.

Dear XXXXX High School and XXXXX Middle School Teachers,
It has been and will continue to be the practice of XXXXX ISD to strive for high levels of educational excellence for all students. Your actions in pioneering standards-based grading are evidence of the commitment and passion you have for teaching and learning.

As you know there have been many questions surrounding the implementation of Standards-Based Grading (SBG) at your campus. I have spent the past week evaluating the implementation of SBG at your campus. I appreciate your efforts and commitment to improve the strategies used to assess your students; however, I have asked your campus administration to return to the 0-100 grading scale. 

No later than Monday, Oct. 17 all teachers are required to return to the Traditional 0-100 Grading Scale and discontinue the use of the SBG 1-4 Scale. This decision is based on the need for us to further research the benefits of SBG and to ensure our school community and Board of Trustees support such a change.  

With this announcement, it does not mean that we want you to abandon the rigor of your instruction and assignments or the use of rubrics based on a 0-100 scale. You should continue basing your assignments on the TEKS and continue to assess which standards students understand; however, students should not be graded using rubrics based on a 1-4 scale unless you are assessing a writing or project-based assignment. The use of a 1-4 scale is permissible under the same circumstances used in your previous years of teaching. In addition, each assignment/assessment given to a student must total 100 points and clearly identify questions that are worth more points than others. 

Regarding opportunities to retest, I have instructed campuses to implement consistent standards that are fair to students. Students enrolled in advanced courses should be given the same opportunity to retest, as long as it does not contradict course requirements established by entities outside of XXXXX ISD.

Your campus administration should be able to answer any additional questions that you may have. Thank you for your commitment and passion for our students. We recognize that without your support, XXXXX ISD would not be the amazing place that it is today.



What does that translate to?
Oh, just before all of the kids in On Level classes got a chance to Retest for up to a 90 and AP students only got to retest for up to an 80.  Now they all have a chance to get a 90!  So issue #1. Issue #2, never in that correspondence does he state to stop the implementation of reporting grades to students based on Power Standards or Learning Goals.  Just to stop grading on a 1-4 scale because the parents were getting confused.

Don't worry, the adventure isn't over yet!

October 18: Open Forum with Parents at our School Regarding SBG and the changes we've implemented.  While it was still heated two teachers actually went up and stated their reasons for implementing the system.  None of the parents actually processed what the teachers were saying and one parent said that the two sweet students that had stood up before her saying how much they liked this system were clueless!  I wanted to give that woman a piece of my mind, or fist.  Thankfully one of my friends was next to me and helped me keep my calm.  There was still cheering, clapping, and even a standing ovation for one parent that honestly didn't make much sense to me.

October 20:  School Board meeting with a time for public response.  Two teachers talked and showed how they implemented grading by standards in their classroom.  Everyone loved the middle school teacher's example but my fellow high school math teacher's example wasn't as welcomed and was criticized.  But guess what, she didn't make those scales or test!  It was a quick example created by someone else and it wasn't finished.  *sigh* 
Once again there were yelling parents, clapping, standing ovations, and the board had to redirect the parents by calling a point of order.  They were warned that if there was another outburst that they would be escorted out by the officer.  I was really glad I wasn't the cop then!
Oh and the parents that didn't like the system were all wearing red shirts.  I felt like I was walking into a place to be slaughtered and I wasn't even planning on talking!
The most amazing part of the meeting was that the board, except for one member all said that they liked the rubrics being given to the students and they liked having the grades reported back to the students by Learning Goals or Power Standards.  So when the Superintendent goes to summarize what he's thought and his views going forward he thinks we should just chunk it all.  The board members were surprised and had to clarify to him that they wanted to keep the Proficiency scales and grading by Learning Goals.
I left the meeting in tears because I was so upset that we would put in so much hard work and get thrown under the bus so easily.  Even the group of parents I bravely went up to and talked to after the meeting said they felt bad for us!

October 22:  I get a text from my department head that EVERYTHING is on the table.  The board and superintendent are considering mandating that we return to grading on Assignments, Quizzes, and Assessments.  

So how did I spend my weekend you ask?  Well, despite the massive migraine I had a research paper was drafted and articles were downloaded to be included in the email that I am about to send to the school board and our superintendent.  

I'm sick of being told how to grade in my classroom without anyone talking to me or any other teachers!  We didn't just decide that it would be cool to grade this way, we actually did the research.  I'm so frustrated and I'm ready to just throw my hands up if I can't get anyone to listen to me.

Thanks for reading this all!

Losing our version of SBG

So I drafted two letters to my School Board and Superintendent this weekend in an effort to let them at least let us continue reporting back grades to the students in Power Standards or Unit Categories or whatever else you want to call it.

I just wish they would all read this article and take it heart!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Student Quotes from Today

They were really memorable today!

Student: Oh my god Miss! I think I actually get this for once!

Me: I heard about your conversation with your mom the other day. About how you feel like I actually want you to learn.
Student: Miss, you really are! I've never felt like this before. No one has ever cared this much before.
Me: Don't you think SBG has helped you feel that way?
Student: Hmm, I think I finally get it!

Student: Yea, I figured I should just show up for the test today.
Me: Good! Because I was going to get directions from your brother if you weren't here.
Student: You never would have made it in my house, we have surveillance cameras.
Me: so? You were planning on still being asleep.
Student: I have lions though Miss. You never would have made it past them.
Student: Nevermind, it is you. You could probably tame them.

Student: Miss, I have a random question. What do your Keys kids do now that the TAKS is over?
Me: I make sure they pass the rest of their classes.
Student: Oh...
Me: And we watch some of my favorite movies.
Student: Oh, I'm really glad I'm not in that class then.

What does that say about my taste in movies?!

Educating Parents on SBG

So last night we had an open forum with the parents to educate them on SBG and how we are implementing it at our school.

The parents had many concerns and they were very verbal about them.  Some were concerned with giving kids a 1, 2, 3, or 4 as a grade instead of a number between 0 and 100, which that practice has now been stopped.  Others were extremely upset that their student who up until this year has been making straight A's would be required to go above and beyond to push their grade from a 90 to a 100.  But the biggest push of some of the parents and students was over the concern that it will impact their GPA and class rank.

The problem here in Texas and in our district is that students aren't simply given an A, B, C, etc for a grading period or for a semester grade.  Instead they are given a numeric grade and in our district that number grade is what is used to calculate their GPA as well as their class rank.  And of course in Texas we have the Top 10% rule where the students in the Top 10% of their graduating class are automatically given acceptance to any public university.  I really want to sit down with some of these parents and students and show them how the math doesn't come out to a large statistical difference.

They're so uninformed and we aren't even using TRUE SBG!  We've modified the idea of it to fit our crazy grading system here which keeps it from being the thing that the parents and students are so gung ho against.


Sorry, I just had to vent....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Still in shock!

So on Sept 14th (13 days after I turned the big 3-0) my principal announced the 2nd staff member of the month for the school year.  To my shock it was me!

It still hasn't totally registered to me, even though I've really enjoyed the nice cushy parking spot (that happens to be farther from my room than my normal spot), I loved the flowers my mom sent me (12 long stem roses) and I have the award that now sits on my desk.

Just had to share!

Oh, and here's the flowers...

and the award....

SBG goes up in smoke

So this school year we implemented SBG grading school wide.  Unfortunately it hasn't gone very well.

I just want to reinforce that the following is my opinion and in no way reflects the school I work for.

Things were not communicated clearly to some of the staff, even though we have all been trained on it for the last 3 years.
Things were not communicated clearly to the students.
Things were not communicated clearly to the parents.
As a result this is now the front of our districts webpage...  Public Hearings Scheduled on Standards Based Grading.

It's SOOOOOOOO frustrating to spend so much time over the past 3 years studying, implementing and tweaking a system in a few short weeks because of some uninformed teachers and parents the district has pulled the rug out from under us.

We are literally having an uprising from the parents who think we're just bringing the bottom up and making it more difficult for the students to make perfect 100's.

Here are the questions that the district is currently fielding from parents.

All of this happening in the month that I get named "Staff Member of the Month" for my school makes me really frustrated and upset with how it is all being handled by my district.