JumpRope just started working with an international school in Thailand, the International School Eastern Seaboard (ISE), and we posed a few questions to Heather Naro, our contact there and the principal of ISE’s elementary school.
Tell us what's happening at ISE with standards-based grading. And what do you imagine next steps to be?
We began looking at standards-based assessment and reporting in the elementary school about six years ago. We were transitioning our report cards from a full narrative report card to one with standards. At first we thought standards were more like a checklist, and it took us a few years and a number of revisions to be really happy with our current standards-based report card.
As of next year we will have standards-based report cards from KG to grade 12, with no grades from KG to grade 8. In grades 9-12 we will have grades only twice a year, at the end of each semester for the student’s transcript. We have been working collaboratively as a faculty to ensure best assessment practices are being used schoolwide. It’s been an initiative that has spanned over years, and our professional development has been narrowed to focus on assessment and best practices. We have spent a number of hours educating faculty, parents, and students.
What have been the benefits for implementing a standards-based grading environment? And what have been some of the challenges?
The benefits far outweigh the challenges we have had. Teachers are more engaged with students, and our assessment practices reflects what they can do. Students are given multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery. A great deal of time is given to reflection and how students can improve through goal-setting protocols. We also have student-led conferences from KG to grade 12. The move to standards-based is far more than a report card, and it has taken years to get where we are today. The biggest challenge was changing the mindset of teachers.
Internationally, what do you see schools doing in this realm? Are more and more moving to standards-based teaching and learning - and why do you think?
Internationally, a number of schools are moving to standards-based. I think that schools have realized that this is how we should be educating our youth. It is no longer about a grade. What does an "A" really mean at different schools? One of the big "aha" moments for parents was realizing that they do not get a grade at work; they set goals and reflect, but there’s not a final grade. This helped us get parents on board at ISE.