[Last October, Lee Jenkins presented on continuous improvement and something called "L to J".]
This year, my district brought in Jack Baldermann to help provide more clarity and direction for our PLC teams. Each PLC team has a designated "leader", and the PLC leaders met with Jack on Thursday afternoon to help set the stage for Friday's all-staff training. I was part of the "leadership" team who met the Jack on Thursday.
The two days were quite good and there is a lot stewing around in my head right now. My takeaways:
- PLC teams need to have NORMS, and not friendly norms that help meetings run efficiently. Rather, norms that are serious about increasing student achievement. Norms that call for data analysis and actions taken based on that data.
- Standards needs need to be unpacked and essential understandings need to be identified. Essential learning targets need to be written in student-friendly "I can..." language. [Good news - we have already done that work with L to J.]
- Assessments need to be aligned to learning targets and we should be tracking achievement data for each student, according to each learning target.
Mr. Baldermann shared an example of what the math department in his school had done that led to large achievement gains. The math teachers switched to a standards-based grading system. Hold on a second... they switched to a
standards-based learning target based grading system.
I had a bit of an epiphany. Back in 2013-14, I did my master's degree action research on standards-based grading (SBG). I implemented a SBG for my algebra 2 classes. I really liked the idea and concept of SBG, but struggled with two things. A) I had aligned my curriculum to the Common Core Standards for Mathematics, and some standards were much more vast than others. Certain standards were ones that were covered over multiple years and classes; I never felt great about assigning a grade for those standards, knowing that there was more to the standard than what I was assessing. B) As a high school teacher, I was still required to report an A/B/C/D/F letter grade and percentage for high school graduation and GPA purposes. I developed a grade conversion system that took each student's standards-based scores and converted them into a percentage grade. To be expected, the system had its flaws but I knew no other way at the time.
The epiphany was this: I shouldn't use a STANDARDS-based grading system, but rather a LEARNING TARGET-based system. All of my concerns about (A) above would be removed!
The work ahead will be challenging and time-consuming. But I am excited to dip my toe back into the "learning target-based" grading system. I really wish our professional development day was in August, before the start of the school year. It's challenging to try to implement radical changes on the fly once the school year is underway. This may take me a while to develop and prepare anyway. At minimum, we will have a new system in place for next year.
I still need to write a post about the changes we made in our geometry curriculum this year. Look for that soon!