Thursday, November 3, 2011

How we WERE doing SBG

So as you read this you have to keep in mind that we were doing a version of SBG.  We were not doing true SBG, which is what I got into many heated debates with coworkers about.

So the district tells us which unit to teach when.  What we would do is then go through this lesson planning cycle  (Oh and the TEKS are the standards the state gives us, we aren't joining the common core movement.  That's a whole different blog!)

So, we would then design what we previously called our Summative Assessments, now our Unit Tests, and we would grade them by Category/Power Standard/Main Topic.  We would also give the students Proficiency Scales to let them know this is what we expect them to be able to do by the end of the unit and this is what grade it will earn them.

So here's a screen shot of one of the old Summative Tests.

The TEKS or state assessed standard is listed, the type of question it is is listed (LR = Logical Reasoning, Alg = Algebra) and the level of the question is listed.  At our school and in our PLC we would give the students all the tools to be able to do a Level 4 question but we would make them synthesize or evaluate their stance or defend/justify why they believe they had the right answers.  Some of the students were told that to do the level 4 questions they would have to go above and beyond what is taught in class.  I have spoken with many parents, students and administrators about that statement because I feel in Geometry that is a true statement.  I can't teach a student to think logically, especially a teenager.  I can show them the steps to make, but I can't make their brains function that way.  Being able to put the pieces together and make a logical argument is something that everyone has to learn at some point in time and I feel is an acquired skill, but that's also a part of my teaching philosophy and very influenced by the fact that I teach Geometry.

So after the tests the students would get their tests back and fill out this chart to figure out what their grade was.  

It was really awesome and the kids loved it!  They could quickly see where they lost their points and if it was big conceptual mistakes or little things like forgetting a negative or the word not.  Their grades actually meant something and the students were taking ownership of their own learning!  Now did all of the teachers do this?  No.  But they all have to do it now, since we didn't meet AYP this last year and we have to have data showing growth and that we were targeting students based on their weaknesses and intervening as necessary.

The part about how we previously reported grades back to the students (and the part I'm really going to miss) is how our gradebooks looked.

We didn't put grades in as 1s, 2s, 3s or 4s so we always had to convert back to a grade between 0 and 100 (this was because of issues with the gradebook).  But look at that!!!  You can look at that and instantly say, "Oh, this child needs help with Congruence".  It's right there in your face.  You don't have to pick through the assignments and see which have low grades and what they're titled.  And there's that study skills section at the end where I can report back how the students are behaving in class, if they're coming on time, bringing the necessary supplies, doing there homework, etc.  (I didn't exactly get that set up for that grading period, but that's been thrown out too).

So that's what we WERE doing.

I know, we're Texas.  We don't lead the change in systems or like to rock the boat in anything other than football and some other sports.  I did get to make the point to some of the big people in charge last week after the board meeting we didn't get to speak at that the STATE gives us STANDARDS to teach.  The STATE assesses the students on those STANDARDS and reports back scores on those STANDARDS.  Is it that crazy to think, "hey maybe we should model our system like the state?"  I'll go into detail about why this all blew up in our faces later but here's what's going on with my school now.

Now the titles in the gradebook in Blue are going to be Major and Minor.  They're each going to be worth 50%.  Major grades would be tests, assessments (even though I'm cautious using that word now since we can't say formative and summative anymore), and any projects.  Minor grades are in class assignments, homework, knowledge checks, quizzes, and the likes.  We no longer get to hand the students anything that tells them what their end goal is in each unit or what we expect them to be able to do.  Instead of Proficiency Scales that we can share with the students we now have Objective Alignment Documents that no student can see (I even found a clipart that says CLASSIFIED on it yesterday and put it on the documents that we can't share anymore, tehehe -- I have to get my laughs where I can!).

So that's the big system that had everyone in a tissy, or however you spell it.

The reason it caused so many issues is that it wasn't properly communicated to the parents before the school year started, they felt like they had no say in what was going on and classes that had previously been an easy 100 the students had to work harder for those grades.  Also in Texas we have this "wonderful" thing called the Top 10% Rule.  It went into effect shortly before I graduated from high school in 2000.  I had issues with it back then and I still have issues with it now.  It says "If you’re in the top 10% of your high school graduating class, you’re eligible for automatic admission to any public university in Texas. "  Because of this and the natural competition between class members in the high schools the parents want all of the students from all of the schools across Texas to be judged on what they think is a common ground and system.  The parents are currently assuming that all of the other districts are still reporting grades back to students as Tests, Quizzes, and Assignments but they don't realize that they all actually aren't.

So this is where we stand.
I'll post later today some of the things the students wrote in their letters to the school board and superintendent.  They have some awesome points!  =)

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