• Sara Needleman

Preparing the Soil for Planting Change

Glad to have you back, readers. If you missed last week’s post on rolling out the shift to standards-based practice to your community, see it here. It might be helpful to see that post and this one as a two-part package.

So before you even schedule a meeting or series of meetings to bring your community on board, consider the groundwork you’ve done internally and with the community to ensure a successful up-close and in-person discussion. Here are some ideas:

1. Provide background to proficiency-based grading and reporting in print. You might include this information in a school newsletter, a direct mailing, the school or district website, or any other source parents and community members are likely to see. Keep in mind that sharing the same information in multiple places is always a good idea. Remember that you’re working to be transparent but also working to control the conversations as much as possible. In that spirit, choose what you share wisely. Here are some thoughts:

a. The major hallmarks of a proficiency-based practice b. The ways a proficiency-based practice is different from a traditional practice c. The work you’ve done internally to prepare for the change d. The people involved in thinking through the change and some of the decisions made e. Examples of other schools or districts that are undergoing the same shift

2. Develop or refine your Beliefs Statement to be sure it necessarily underlies the purposes and goals of proficiency-based practices. Here is a great example from our loyal partners in South Portland, Maine. Here is an example from another of our high-flying schools, Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU) in Hinesburg, Vermont.

3. Share with your audience how the standards will actually make their presence known in classroom instruction and assessment. Speak to the value the district places on standards and the process you have undertaken to make those standards robust, clear, and consistent across classrooms, grade levels, and schools. Here is the South Portland description of standards in the curriculum and as seen through assessment. And here is the CVU example.

4. Clearly define proficiency-based learning. Here is the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) definition for proficiency-based learning. You can find another comprehensive definition, provided by the Great Schools Partnership in Portland, Maine here. And here is one more definition from the Business Education Compact in Oregon. You might also provide some additional resources for community members. Each of the sites mentioned here has helpful lists if you’re looking.

5. As you undertake this challenging and crucial process, maintain transparency with stakeholders. As much as possible, clearly articulate the timeline you intend to follow and the component parts along the timeline; keep your community up-to-date as decisions are made and changes are being implemented; and invite the well-structured conversations you are ready to have, as you feel confident to do so.

6. Reflect. Revisit. Refine. You will have as many opportunities to define and share your work as you create. Keep in mind that it’s generally our own reflective processes, informed by wide-ranging feedback and self-criticism, that makes us better.

We got the above picture from here.

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