You may remember back in June the blog post I wrote about our implementation benchmarks - that we had started work on a rubric to help schools and districts measure the effectiveness of their standards-based learning system. Well, please see below - the first five of our ten benchmarks/dimensions, the descriptors for each scale level, and an italicized practitioner statement, which we hope gives some background and reasoning for that benchmark. We will push out the final five of these on Thursday.
You will see that we’ve developed four levels of attainment, much like the rubrics that many of our schools use; as you can see, a 3 is meeting the standard, with a 4 exceeding it. Now, where is your school or district along this continuum?
We hope that this rubric will be useful to any school or district that is considering a standards-based grading system or is in the midst of it. It can be used beforehand, for example, to review what should be in place at your school or district to ensure effective implementation. It can be used a year into the work, to review what’s in place, how well it’s in place, and what might still need to be developed.
Feel free too to use all of the below or just parts of it. Yes, we think that the whole is darn good and can help schools and districts in their work. But we also know that schools and districts are in very different places, and some may want to nibble at these benchmarks, rather than gobble the whole smorgasbord. That makes sense to us.
Lastly, what’re we missing here? What did we get wrong? What is confusing you? Send us your comments, thoughts, criticisms, kudos, etc. We’d love to hear what you think!
BENCHMARK 1: My school/district has existing experience and exposure to the philosophy and research underpinning standards-based education and holds the belief that standards-based education leads to improved student outcomes.
“While a cohort of teachers and leaders felt strongly that standards-based education was the right move, the introduction of a system quickly made it clear that there were other teachers and staff members that had little understanding or appreciation of the value of standards-based education. This led to internal disagreements, unclear messages to students, and a certain degree of industrial sabotage.”
BENCHMARK 2: My district/school leadership has a process to manage change. It recognizes that change takes time and seeks the active involvement of stakeholders to garner ideas and support to help with the change.
“Many of us at the district were excited about getting a new gradebook and about our new approach to teaching and learning - but we quickly realized that we’d jumped into something without undertaking some of the big thinking that needed to be done - that there were changes afoot that needed to be addressed that we had not planned for. We needed the same sort of planning process that we’d taken on when we implemented Responsive Classroom district-wide, for example. And we needed the same sort of patience, given the sea changes occurring.”
BENCHMARK 3: My school/district community provides or has developed clear learning goals and standards for students that are rigorous, student-friendly, and consistent with internal and external expectations of student achievement.
“We were excited to start using JumpRope to track mastery of the Common Core standards. We knew that our district would be expected to align classroom curriculum and assessment to the Common Core and had done extensive work to train teachers accordingly. It made sense in the abstract, but when we began working to directly assess the standards, we found that the standards were not student-friendly and were not specific enough to drive daily or weekly instruction in the way that we had hoped. As a result, we began to write student-friendly learning targets and align them to the Common Core in JumpRope, which gave us the best of both worlds.”
BENCHMARK 4: My school/district has structures in place to develop (and to some extent ensure) common policies and practices when it comes to grading.
“When implementing JumpRope, it quickly became clear that each teacher had previously had a large amount of freedom as to how their grades were calculated - from strict percentage-based weights of different assessments to essentially just making them up each marking period. Using an online gradebook that exposes individual standards and scores to students and other teachers in real time led to a lot of challenging conversations about norming the frequency, specificity, and criteria behind student scores.”
BENCHMARK 5: School/district personnel communicate effectively with students, parents, families, and the community about the value of and practical aspects (how to read reports, engage with the data, whether kids are going to college) of standards-based grading.
“One challenge we had was that parents and families weren’t prepared for the new reports and grading methodology. As a result, we struggled with student and parent buy-in. Furthermore, teachers were new to the system and philosophy and had difficulty explaining it to parents and students, which exacerbated the situation.”