06 November 2006

Establishing Benchmarks

As I continue to work through the standards based grading process for elementary, things are starting to fall into place. It's true that teachers will do most of the work in terms of establishing the details, but I need to have a framework in place.

My first epiphany was really more of a "Duh." You see, reading, writing, and math already have their assessments and are starting to work on benchmarks. I had assumed I'd follow in their footsteps. But then, I realized it was all ass-backwards. Doesn't it make more sense to figure out the targets (benchmarks) and then create the measurement tools? Okay, if I go that route, how do we establish where kids should be at each reporting period?

The next epiphanies were around devising some questions to get at the heart of these ideas.

  • Are some Grade Level Expectations (GLEs) "more equal" than others? If so, does this influence evaluation of standards in the classroom?
I ask these because some of the standards (GLEs) are extensively tested...others not so much. When they are reported, they are reported as a single number. If a kid is strong in all of the "small" ones but weak in the one or two that are scored the most, should s/he get a "3" on their report card to indicate they meet the standard?

  • For a "3" student, how do his/her skills evolve over the year? What things should be demonstrated by the end of each trimester?
This, too, is important...and quite tricky. In Washington, standards for science are in grade bands. For a particlular "GLE," it could be the same expectation whether a student is in 3rd grade or 10th grade. When should we expect mastery? Are some standards prerequisites for others during the course of a year.

  • What does a kid who meets the standard "look like"? How would s/he be different from a student at level 2 or 4?
The information generated here is mostly for classroom teacher use. This allows us to identify some specific evidence that a teacher can use and a way to explain to parents why a child is below, at, or above the standard.

I'm excited about exploring these questions with teachers...and anxious to see what they generate from these seeds of beginnings. I also wonder how successful this process might be with secondary teachers.

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