Written By Starr Sackstein
Going it alone is possible, but challenging. I know from experience.
Change requires compromise and consistency for optimal retention.
When shifting the mindset of an entire school community: teachers, students, and parents, there needs to be unity in the story being told for maximum impact.
And so the birth of our new school assessing policy has come to life.
When I was asked to write a “grading” policy this summer, I thought my principal wanted a page or two discussing grading philosophy; I had no idea she wanted an entire fleshed out a handbook on how to use standards instead of traditional grading.
Above, you see the table of contents for what will become our “non-grading” policy. I’ve been working hard to make it as simple and clear as possible, chock full of tutorial videos and support resources.
Given the way folks responded to the work I was doing this year, I have no illusions about the willingness of the staff to change their grading ways. The way a person “grades” is usually deeply ingrained within them, almost like dogma imprinted in childhood. They’ve worn these comfy clothes for so long that the idea of breaking in a new idea isn’t favorable.
So like with students, it’s time to start questioning where these beliefs come from and see how well they serve them and their students. Conversations will need to happen, but if the overall policy is going to work, we are going to need to take a few bold steps…
Here is what I’m hoping:
- That the current online grade book program we use will no longer be available as is. I’m going to ask my principal to shut off the traditional book only allowing for the standards-based choice to eliminate some of the choices and show the seriousness of the switch
- Provide initial professional development with resources to discuss why the shift is necessary and essential
- Provide a forum for teachers to discuss their concerns and fears and then help them realize they will be supported
- Provide on-going support on how to provide excellent student feedback while teaching students to do the same for each other
- Offer an easy way to collect data this way and have on-going professional learning with all teachers to help them transition more easily
- If we can get a guest speaker who isn’t me who already does this, that may be helpful, but I don’t that it will happen.
- I’d love to get one of my former students to speak to the teachers about what they gained from this experience.
- Perhaps I’ll collect quotes and ideas from folks who have made the move to share with them during the learning session
- Have opportunities to show them how to use the online grade book as it exists now and show them how to teach kids to read it and de-emphasize the “grade” aspect of learning and shift to self-awareness and metacognition.
As a school, if we are to grow in this way, we must do it together and this can’t just be dropped on them or anyone.
If you have transitioned away from traditional grades at your school, how did you do it? What advice do you have? What do you think the biggest challenges will be? Please share
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*This post originally ran on Starr Sackstein’s Ed Week Teacher blog in July 2015