Saturday, January 17, 2015

10 steps our district took to make a grading shift:

Over the last two years there has been quite a lot of work done in my district in regard to grading beliefs and grading practices. As a result, our HS and MS have both recently agreed upon these 4 beliefs on grading. This process has taken time and hasn't happened overnight. Here is the process we've used to get where we are:

1). Our district professional development blog: 

Every Monday our superintendent sends out the Monday Morning Memo. In this email to all staff members in the district (including classified and support staff), we highlight and focus on a particular theme or topic. We've used the MMM to share information and videos in regard to shifting grading beliefs as a way to 'ease' into this conversation and shift. By doing this, we've built up awareness and acknowledgement that grading practices are something we need to be thinking about.

2). Our district professional development days:

We've been fortunate to have the flexibility and autonomy to use the Edcamp model as part of our district professional development days. By doing this we've encouraged and provided a platform for folks who are interested in talking more about grading practices. By not forcing this conversation on any one individual, more and more folks have had natural and organic conversations about grading shifts, and the hostility of another mandate has been avoided.

3). Conferences and professional development events:

We also identified a few select folks throughout the district who were interested in this topic and we nurtured and groomed them to be the champions of a grading shift in their respective buildings. This included sending them to grading events and simply providing them resources and information on how to actually implement some of these grading shifts. These folks have been our pioneers so to speak.

4). Voluntary book study:

15 Fixes for Broken Grades, by Ken O'Connor, was a book study we did in our district. We had about 15 teachers volunteer to read this book and meet on a weekly basis to discuss. We even set up a Facebook page to discuss things between meeting dates that Ken O'Connor joined to answer questions and stimulate thought. From the district standpoint, all we did was purchase the books and get the first meeting date set.

5). We adjusted Board Policy:

As we discussed and evaluated how we could make these grading shifts a reality, it became clear that we needed to also review Board Policy. What we didn't want to happen was to have our teachers feel handcuffed and feel that they couldn't make these adjustments because they then would be in violation of Board Policy. Here is an example of how we changed our cheating policy to reflect what a student knows, and not the poor decision they made to cheat.

6). 2 day Rick Wormeli event:

We met with our calendar committee and were able to get things arranged so we could bring Rick out to speak with our entire teaching staff for a two-day event. This was money well spent and the results from the event were overwhelmingly positive which further encouraged us to keep pushing a shift in our grading practices and beliefs.

7). Teacher leadership team:

We had a secondary team of teachers, grades 7-12, meet and discuss the actual wording and presentation of these grading beliefs. In the end, we absolutely wanted to be able to say that these grading beliefs were created, designed, and written by our teachers. We didn't want this to be an administrative mandate forced on teachers.

8). Parent involvement at both our HS and MS:

Our HS has a parent committee and they have been discussing these grading shifts for most of this school year. This has provided support to our teachers and has brought many of our parents up to speed on why we are implementing these changes. Our MS has hosted parent grading nights for these shifts to be discussed and explained in an effort to share the 'why' and how we are doing this. We've found that our elementary teachers are already following these grading beliefs, so a majority of our focus has been on secondary, grades 7-12.

9). Voluntary book study:

In an effort to keep the momentum up and keep things going, we've got two different voluntary book studies happening. The first book is The Collected Writings (so far) by Rick Wormeli and the second book is Fair isn't Always Equal, which is also by Rick Wormeli. Once again, the district purchased these books for folks who are interested, and we've used these books as an avenue to keep conversations alive and keep the fires burning.

10). Still going!

We aren't as far as some districts and we surely aren't perfect, but we've made great strides in the past two years and we are proud of where we are. Looking forward to continuing the conversation and continuing the journey!

Check out a few related blog posts as well from our journey:

Is it time to eliminate extra credit in schools?

Is your gradebook supportive of learning?

Making that redo/retake policy actually work!

Accountability: Do we mean the same thing?

The crippling effects of homework in schools

Have summative assessments become obsolete?

Has finals week become antiquated and redundant?