As the standards-based movement gains momentum and as we work with more schools and districts, it's become clear to us that the communities you live in and the parents and guardians of students you work with need your guidance regarding this shift in practice. We've helped a few districts roll out their plans to their community, and we’ve watched others as they’ve done so. Here are tips we think might help as you share this change in practice.
1. Be transparent and communicate deliberately with your audience. Share who in the school/district is part of the leadership steering the change and the processes and resources they’re using to support it. Let your community know you value their input and feedback - and really honor it - but also be mindful with scheduling and facilitating conversations. Tackle the conversations you are ready to have when you are ready for them. Keep your community meetings focused on the topics you choose and, as much as possible, cover that topic completely.
2. Do your best to address the "hot buttons" in the community early on. If you overlook these, they could end up being the spots where you get stuck. Be clear and consistent in how you address them. Here are a few that typically come up:
a. How do students earn an “exceeds”?
b. How is honors/recognition determined?
c. How is athletic eligibility determined?
d. Will grades be converted and, if so, how?
3. Use language your audience understands. When you need to invoke eduspeak, explain your terms. You might even consider providing a glossary of terms for each meeting or for your series of meetings. That glossary would not replace the verbal definition of terms you use, but it will go a long way in helping your audience really learn them.
4. Make the case for the change. Most of us don't like change. And some of us employ imperfect thinking like, "Well, it worked for me, so it should work for my kids." Parents and community members can be resistant. If you help them understand that our current system of grading does not work nearly as well as their kids deserve and that this change is one that will give everyone far better and more actionable information, they will likely be more receptive.
5. When you make the case for the change, show as much as you can rather than just tell. Remember that as students need multiple forms of presentation to understand content, parents and guardians will also. Use books to help with examples, such as this one from Ken O'Connor. Or a chart that shows what fictitious students earned and how that affected their overall grades. See this example from our good friend Becky Brown in the South Portland, Maine school district. As you review it, consider this question: What do these grades tell us about what Carly and Daphne know about math or the skills they’ve acquired? Have that same conversation with community members.
Measurement from math class Carly Daphne
Homework 60.00% 95.00%
Classwork 70.00% 100.00%
Quizzes 98.00% 60.00%
Tests 95.00% 72.00%
Quarter grade 81.00% 82.00%
6. Lastly, if your switch to standards-based practice includes the implementation of JumpRope, consider hosting face-to-face sessions and posting online tutorials to train parents in using our parent/student portal. Think about where you were when you you were first making the shift to the practice and to the tool. Successful implementation of new ideas requires a lot of communication and support; at JumpRope, we’re all about strong implementation of standards-based practice because that practice is what we hang our hats on. Helping all stakeholders understand gets us closer to securing successful implementation.
My next post will make suggestions for groundwork to set down with your community prior to hosting informational meetings with them. Stay tuned!