22 October 2006

Baby Steps

We continue to inch toward standards based reporting for students in the elementary grades. A lot of the reason for the slow going is that we need to develop tools for teachers along with their understanding of how to use them. There was a long meeting on Friday with the various curriculum specialists and Boss Lady 2.0 to try and map out what we need to do in the next few years. During the meeting, I had a bit of an epiphany. I had been feeling rather despondent because there's no way I can do what has been done with Reading and Writing---and I really don't feel like it's the right thing, anyway. I want to shy away from relying upon summative assessments for teachers and students. So, here's what I mapped out while other areas were talking and planning.

Below is a chart representing the science kits third graders have, along with the 1 - 4 scoring guide. The boxes would contain information for teachers about which lessons were specific to our standards, along with a description of what a student performing at a 1, 2, or 3 would "look like" for those lessons. A "4" would represent knowledge that is not directly part of the standards, but that kids might have mastered in addition to the goals.

So far, so good...but this only represents content information. What about the scientific process? This information is not kit specific. These are skills students would acquire and refine throughout the year. They need to be benchmarked---in other words, the standards represent a goal for the end of the year, but teachers would want to be able student progress along the way. Our report card is being communicated to parents as a document that shows where students are in their progress---not how they compare to the end goal. This means that the tool for teachers' assessment needs to look a little different:

Again, each box should contain specific information about what a teacher would see or hear a student doing. I would hope that the entire document for a grade level would be no more than three pages. We have the math/science cadre this year---reps from every building for every grade level in the district. It's a perfect forum to gain input on the benchmarks. Those teachers will have the best idea of what's developmentally appropriate throughout a year.

The benefit to teachers is that they don't have to individually figure out what to use in order to score students. Keep in mind that every elementary teacher is having to score every student in science, social studies, reading, writing, math, communication, and art. It's a huge amount of information to manage and we need to be mindful of what is on their plates.

The benefit to the district is that in taking the guesswork out of scoring, we have a much better chance of getting agreement between classrooms and among schools. A "3" in Ms. Smith's class would mean the same as a "3" in Mr. Sosa's class. It doesn't mean that they have taught things identically---teachers still have the academic freedom to tailor instruction---but it does mean that the outcomes are the same.

I'll float this with Boss Lady 2.0 tomorrow afternoon and then with some teachers Tuesday morning. Depending upon their feedback, I'll see if I can at least get one grade level drafted and perhaps round up a teacher or two to field test some things this spring. Does anyone out there in the great wide blogosphere have any suggestions I should incorporate?

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