02 April 2007

Piecing Things Together

Several of us from this district attended a presentation by Ken O'Connor last week. He is something of a guru in the land of standards-based grading and reporting, something my district is valiantly trying to implement. The workshop was also a type of preview for us. Ken is contracted to provide three days of inservice to our staff in the fall.

O'Connor has some good and thought-provoking information, but I have some concerns about having him set the tone with our staff now that I've seen how things work. First of all, one-third of our elementary schools have already read his book (which is more or less exactly the same as what he presents) and have experience with standards-based grading. They need something to help deepen their knowledge base and answer some of their more significant questions. The rest of the schools also are a bit beyond "Standards-Based Reporting 101." Not much, but perhaps enough to be pretty darned bored by this particular presentation. If we have all of our elementaries attend at the same time, I don't think that anyone's needs are going to be met.

As for secondary...yikes.

We asked Ken at dinner last week if he had a different approach with secondary staff who hadn't had any exposure to thinking about standards-based grading and reporting. He doesn't. And while we believe that secondary teachers should reflect on their current grading practices, I'm worried that what Ken is going to say is going to piss them off to the point where anything good in the message will be lost forever. I can see where teachers are going to get hung up on the reporting of non-academic behaviors and making those considerations separate from the learning. I really think that those of us who will be charged with facilitating things are going to have to seriously develop some structure around the day and provide Ken with a bit more direction. I don't know how well this will work. O'Connor seems to have a very small circle of comfort.

I know it's Spring Break and I have many more fun topics to ponder, but this one keeps popping up to the surface. The week after Break, I'll be learning more about how the staff shake-up in our department will impact what is on my plate...including our Back-to-School planning. I'd like to have a clear picture in mind of how all of this is going to fit together.

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Mr. McNamar said...

Science Goddess,
I have sat through O'Connor workshops--wanted to get up and leave.
The difficulty that I continue to have with standards based ideas revolves around what high schools are meant to do--prepare students for college.
In college, there is no standards based grading. Therefore, I can't completely buy into O'Connor's theories.
But I do agree with some of his thoughts. The zero grade especially caught my attention. I can't say I have an answer, yet. What bothers me most is that his premises need the students to be responsible, but they aren't. There is only so much begging I am willing to do.

The Science Goddess said...

I would agree with that. I also think that for those kids who aren't college bound, employers are going to be looking for people who do their work in a timely manner and in a way that has quality and integrity.

To me, there is a big difference between a kid who made a true attempt to do the work but missed the standards and a kid who did not attempt the work at all. In theory, later attempts could erase the first ones, but how is a teacher supposed to provide feedback to help a kid improve when no evidence is provided? I understand that things like work habits should be reported separately from achievement, but I don't know that kids will get it...other than the ones who love to play the system.