Monday, October 24, 2011

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!

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