Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Proficiency Based Learning Series Post #6

What to Expect In Our PBL System for 2017-18 

I can't believe we are already at the end of another great school year here at the Gorham Schools! We've accomplished so much, and we have thoroughly enjoyed working with your children day in and day out for the past 10 months.   It truly is an honor to be entrusted by the community of Gorham to serve, cultivate, and grow our most precious resource - our children!  Thank you for giving us this honor!

When I mention that we have accomplished so much in our schools over the past year, our work in moving our Proficiency Based Learning (PBL) system forward has been one of those accomplishments.  Our teachers, administrators, community members and students have worked diligently through our district-wide PBL committees to help clarify our beliefs, define what our system is, and how it will operate for our children and this was no easy task.  Over the course of the school year, we regularly met in seven different committees to conduct this work.  Those committees were:

*  PBL Steering Committee
*  K-5 Grading and Reporting Committee
*  6-12 Grading and Reporting Committee
*  K-12 ELA Committee
*  K-12 Math Committee
*  K-12 Science Committee
*  K-12 Social Studies Committee

Countless hours were spent thoughtfully reviewing our graduation standards, our performance indicators, and our scoring criteria (see earlier posts for definitions of those terms) to make sure they focused on essential learning and created a clear K-12 progression of learning for our students.  Needed revisions were noted, some made, and some will be made, but all identified.  Common definitions were created, grading and reporting scales were created, new report cards and transcripts were created and revisions to policy suggested.  All was done in an effort to make sure that we had a solid plan for how we will move forward with our PBL work and to ensure we are ready for our first class to graduate from GHS with a PBL diploma in the year 2021.  We made decisions about implementation plans for the coming year and for a four-year "step in" process that will get us to our ultimate goal using a methodical and careful approach, making sure that meeting the needs of our students remains at the forefront of all that we do.

The purpose of this last PBL post is to give you an overview of both what to expect for PBL implementation in the coming year at each grade span (K-5, 6-8 and 9-12) and to also provide insights into how we see our students moving through our PBL system over time.

K-5 Grade Span

There really won't be a lot of changes at the K-5 level next year in actual classroom practices.  Our K-5 teachers have been working on the implementation of our PBL system for several years now.  The biggest change you will see is that next year's grading and reporting will be done solely through our standards-based grading and reporting software called Jumprope.  For the past two years teachers have been working to track student learning using this software, but at the end of each trimester teachers had taken those scores and simply input them into the Infinite Campus reporting software so that parents saw very few changes to how student learning was reported.  For the coming year, we will be "removing the curtain" of Infinite Campus and reporting directly through Jumprope.  We will still be sending home reports to parents at the end of each trimester, but those reports will contain a lot more information than what you are used to seeing in Infinite Campus, which is good.  

Of course, it is still a change and one we want to be very cognizant of moving forward because it involves the all-important tool of communication that is our report card.  It is important to us that parents and students understand how to read these new reports, what to look for, and what specific trends might mean for your child's learning.  Therefore, we will be spending considerable time in the fall of next year (likely during the month of October) helping to educate parents on these new reports.  We'll be working with each school's PIE group to get information out to parents on when these events will be held and we'll make sure to offer up multiple methods for learning that will range from face to face meetings to online links and resources and more.

Other than this change, students will pretty much move through our K-5 system just as they have for the past several years.  Students who need support in meeting standards will be provided timely interventions to make sure they don't fall behind in their learning and students who need enrichment will be provided challenging experiences that continue to push their learning in meaningful ways.  Long story short - we'll continue to work hard to meet the needs of each individual learner to take them from where they are in their learning to where they need to be, supporting and challenging in appropriate ways as they move forward on their learning journey!

6-8 Grade Span

Here is where things start to get a little more interesting.  Beginning in the fall of 2017 students in the 6th grade will have their learning reported out utilizing the same standards-based grading software that is being utilized K-5: Jumprope.  Student learning will be reported out on a 1-4 scale by standard and by performance indicator across all content areas.  Additionally, our allied arts courses will utilize Jumprope to report student learning as well as those content areas that were piloting this past year (7th & 8th grade Science).  

One thing that will be different from the K-5 implementation of Jumprope, however, is that parents of students in grade 6 (and others utilizing Jumprope) will have access to the parent portal.  This parent portal is much like Infinite Campus and is intended to help make sure parents are able to follow what their children are learning and how well they are doing in that learning in relative "real time".  Once again, we know this is a change in format so we will also be spending a considerable amount of time this fall offering parent forums and online resources and materials to parents in order to help them better understand how to navigate the parent portal, and what all those colors and drop down menus can show for information and what that information means.  Additionally, we will be placing special emphasis on making sure that our 6th-grade students themselves know how to understand the software so that they can navigate it, and so that they can help their parents to navigate it.

Also as part of our "step in" approach, students in grades 7 & 8 will utilize the "blended scale" for grading and reporting that was outlined in my last PBL post.  I did want to be clear, however, that we have made a few "tweaks" to the original blended scale based upon recent staff, student and parent feedback. The new blended scale for students in grades 6-12 is below:

Proficiency Score
A,B,C Score
100-Pt. Score
Proficiency Description
4
A
100
Distinguished - The student consistently exceeds the proficiency requirements for the course level.  Performance indicators show that the student grasps, applies, generalizes, and extends key concepts, processes, and skills independently.
3.75
A
96.7
3.5
A
93.3
3.25
B
90
Proficient - The student consistently meets the proficiency requirements for the course level.  Performance indicators show that the student, with limited errors, grasps key concepts, processes, and skills for the course/grade level and understands and applies them.
3
B
86.7
2.75
C
83.3
2.5
C
80
Developing - The student is progressing toward the proficiency requirements for the course/grade level.  Performance indicators show that the student is beginning to grasp key concepts, processes, and skills for the course/grade level, but demonstrates inconsistent understanding and application of concepts.
2.25
C
76.7
2
D
73.3
1.75
D
70
Emerging - The student is making some progress toward meeting the competency requirements.  Performance indicators show that the student is not demonstrating understanding of course-level concepts, processes, and skills and requires additional time and support.
1.5
D
66.7
1.25
F
63.3
1
F
60
IE
Insufficient Evidence
The student did not turn in enough work to determine his/her level of proficiency.
* Note:  Scores lower than a 60 will not be given to students using this grading scale.

The adjustments made to this scale were to allow a teacher to utilize EITHER the 1-4 scale in their classroom or the 100 point scale in their classroom and still have Infinite Campus be able to report out the same score on the 100 point scale.

Grades will be reported to parents using this blended scale approach next year for students in grades 7&8 for all core content areas except science (who will continue their pilot work in Jumprope).  Learning for all students in grades 6-8 will be reported on by standards so parents will see a lot more information than what they have in the past.  Additionally, all students will be scored using our Skills for Life Rubric.  Student learning in these areas will also be reported out to parents separately from academic skills.

Students at GMS will move through the grades very similarly to how they have always moved through the grades at the middle school level.  Students who need support to meet standards will be provided timely and immediate support through our Response to Intervention (RTI) programs, our EICAL program, or through other supports as determined by the needs of each child.  Students who need enrichment and challenge will be provided enriching experiences within the classroom.  All students will be challenged to do their very best regardless of what classroom they are in or what standards they are working on.

9-12 Grade Span

Here is where the proverbial "rubber" begins to really "hit the road" for our students.  The Gorham Schools are moving forward slowly and methodically in our PBL practices at these grade levels because we want to make sure that whatever changes are made, are made for the direct benefit of our students and does not disadvantage them in any way - perceived or otherwise.  We have a very clear PBL "vision" for GHS that we will be moving towards over the course of the next four years.  During this time we will be making sure to take our time educating our students and our parents as to what changes are occurring, why they are occurring, and how those changes will benefit our students in moving closer towards our mission/vision.

That being said, there are still going to be some significant shifts in the coming year.  The first major shift will be in the fact that all of our grading and reporting will be done by graduation standard.  Students and parents will still see scores for Algebra I or English I for example, however, students and parents will also see individual scores for each graduation standard that is contained within those courses.  Additionally, as outlined in the middle school section above, we will be utilizing that same blended scale.  Utilization of this scale will allow teachers who are comfortable to begin grading on a 1-4 scale, while also allowing teachers who are still learning about PBL grading practices to grade on the 100 point scale while all scores will be translated utilizing infinite campus into the 100 point scale.  Bottom line is that parents will still see grades for each course based upon a 100 point scale, at least for the next few years.

Another big shift will be our expectation for what is "proficient".  Students must meet proficiency for their course in order to pass the course and receive course credit.  For the coming year, proficiency will be defined by a student receiving a grade of between a 2.0 - 3.0 on the 1-4 scale which can be translated to between a 73.3 - 86.7 on the 100 point scale.  This is a slightly higher requirement than in the past when a "passing" score was considered a 70. 

Another big shift will be that teachers will score academic standards and skills for life standards separately from one another.  Parents will see a score for each course a student takes.  Additionally, parents will see a score for each standard contained within that course - one of which will be the skills for life score.  These skills for life scores will be recorded and reported on report cards and will be seen on the student's college transcript.  Additionally, students will need to demonstrate proficiency on their skills for life scores (as well as their academic scores) in order to be eligible to participate in extra and co-curricular activities.

Speaking of the college transcript. . . another change for GHS next year is that we will be moving to a 2-sided transcript.  The first side of the transcript will seem very similar to what we have now.  It will list a student's year (freshman, sophomore, etc) and the courses they took each year.  For each course there will be a final score.  There will also be a score for the skills for life standard on the transcript.  These individual course scores will be calculated into a total GPA for each student just as they always have been.   On the back side of the transcript however, will be a rolling report by graduation standard where scores from all four years will feed into a single score for each graduation standard in each content area (Math, ELA, Science, etc.).  For students who are seniors next year, this report will include just one year's worth of work, while underclassmen who continue to move through the system will accumulate scores each year as they move through our system.

We will still have a requirement for each student to earn 22 credits in order to graduate from GHS.  Similar to in the past, 4 of those credits must be in ELA, 4 in math, 3 in science, etc. etc.  In order for a student to receive course credit, they must pass the course with a proficient score as outlined above. We will still be using these individual course scores to determine quarterly honor roll, latin honors, and overall GPA calculations.

Once again, students in grades 9-12 will move through our system in a very similar manner to how they have in the past.  Students will take courses, earn credits towards graduation, and once graduation requirements have been met, will graduate from GHS.  Students who need support will be provided timely and targeted support through our Response to Intervention (RTI) System, through Auxillium, our learning labs, and other support programs.  All students will be appropriately challenged and supported to meet their highest potential.

That summarizes the changes we are planning for next year as part of our PBL implementation.  Please know that the Gorham Schools will continue to support our students with some of the strongest and most effective educational programs possible, carried out by some of the best teaching staff in the state!  We will continue to collect data to inform our practices and measure our success.
We look forward to continuing to serve the children of Gorham and in making sure that they leave our schools "prepared and inspired" to take on the complex challenges facing our current and future world.

If you have additional questions, or wish to learn more, please do not hesitate to reach out to me via email (heather.perry@gorhamschools.org).  THANK YOU!   






Sunday, May 7, 2017

Highlights of Proposed FY 18 Gorham School Department Budget

Before I get into the details of the Proposed FY 18 School Budget, I wanted to take just a minute to "brag" a bit about the Gorham Schools so that people might gain a better understanding of the quality of service that is purchased with their very valuable tax dollars.

Gorham High School has just been ranked one of the top ten high schools in the entire state of Maine by US News & World Report.  This is an improvement from our #14 ranking of just 1 year ago.  Last year, 96% of our graduating seniors went on to post secondary learning experiences.  We also added 33 new colleges to our "Future Story" wall at GHS this past summer (if you don't know what that is, check out the Maine lobby when you go to a ball game next time. . . its a listing of every college our graduating seniors have attended over the past several years!  Impressive!).  GHS students participate in 45+ exciting co-curricular activities like robotics, musicals, chorus, band, rainbow league, and many more.  Our students have consistently won awards in these areas such as Odyssey of the Mind, robotics, and our music and theater  programs.  Additionally, our students participate in many extra curricular activities successfully with both boys and girls soccer teams being Southern Maine regional champions in class A last fall, and our girls B-ball team winning their second Class AA state championship in a row this past winter as just a few examples of our student's athletic success.

Our students also work hard to support our community by giving blood, by helping to stock the local food pantry, by mentoring younger students, by donating art work to the empty bowls project each year and much more.  Additionally, our students are well supported by our community with 3,000 plus volunteer hours being provided by our community members, by countless internships and job shadowing experiences, and by participation in other large events such as our annual K-5 STEAM nights.  Clearly, we have great students, we have great schools, and we live and serve a great community here in Gorham!

This year's FY 18 budget development process has been a long and challenging one.  We started our work back in November of 2016 by asking staff to identify what they needed to run their programs for the coming year and by discussing priorities with district leadership and School Committee.  In December, building and program level budgets were due to my office and we began to put a first draft budget together.  In January, individual meetings were held with each building principal and program director where each budget line was reviewed and questioned thoroughly. Then in February, a first draft budget was created and shared with the School Committee during its first budget workshop meeting on Feb. 13, 2017.  Then the School Committee continued to meet over the course of 6 more grueling budget workshop meetings where priorities were solidified, and rationale provided for each request.  On April 12, 2017 the School Committee then voted unanimously to support the proposed FY 18 budget and to send it along to the Town Council, which is where we are in the process at this point.

There are just three steps left in the process at this point.  First is a joint meeting between the School Committee and the Town Council scheduled for May 16th, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers.  During this meeting, the School Committee will present the proposed budget to the Town Council and be prepared to answer any questions they may have.  The second is the public hearing and Town Council vote on the Town's budget which is scheduled to take place on June 6th, 2017 at 6:30 p.m.  During this meeting the Town Council will vote on the total town's budget.  The Town Council can increase or decrease the total school's proposed budget, but they cannot dictate how those changes might play out for the school department.  The third step is the public validation referendum that is scheduled for June 13th, 2017.  This is a public referendum vote.  Voters are asked to either approve or deny the overall school's budget.  If the budget is approved and validated, it is good to move forward.  If the budget is approved but not validated, the process must be repeated until it is.

There are four major cost drivers that are impacting the FY 18 proposed budget.  I will first review each of these and then share overall information on the impacts of the proposed budget.  The four major cost drivers are:

1.  Required Staffing Costs
2.  Capital Improvement Plan
3.  K-5 Planning Time
4.  Increasing Student Enrollments

Required Staffing Costs:

Almost 80% of our total school budget costs are in staffing.  This makes sense because we are primarily a people oriented organization.  Each year it costs us more to simply maintain the status quo.  For this coming year, we must honor negotiated salary increases as follows:

-  Teachers - 2%
-  Maintenance, Bus drivers, School Nutrition - 4.75%
-  Ed. Techs and Administrative Assistants - 4%
-  Building & Program Administrators - 2%
-  Other support staff - 3%

These increases total about $750,000.00 in impacts to the proposed FY 18 budget.  Again, this doesn't change our existing staffing, it just maintains it.

In addition to these costs, this year our premiums for health insurance costs went up by 9.18%.  The impact to the proposed budget due to this change (which we can't control) was an increase of $73,000.00

Finally, MPERS (Teacher Retirement) costs are going up from 3.36% to 3.96% (which again we can't control).  The impact to the proposed budget due to this change was an increase of $120,000.00.  The interesting thing to note regarding MPERS costs is that prior to 2014, these costs were never in the local school's budget.  Instead, these costs were paid for entirely by the State of Maine.  A statute was passed in 2014 that moved MPERS costs into the EPS funding formula and began to require that local school systems pay a portion of their costs.  Since 2014 over $1 million has been paid by Gorham property taxpayers over the course of five years that, prior to 2014, were paid for entirely by the State of Maine.  Just one example of the state passing more costs onto local property tax payers.

Capital Improvement Plan

The State of Maine Department of Education establishes a recommended reinvestment for annual capital planning of school facilities at 2% of the total estimated replacement costs for each building.  Gorham has never met this mark, and in fact has been very far from it.  Here is a chart showing what we should be investing annually in our schools for capital improvements:

             

In FY 2010 our total CIPS budget was just a little over $200,000.00.  Well below the recommended $1.8 million per year.  The Gorham School Committee, with the recommendation of the Gorham Town Council has been trying to increase our CIPS budget annually to get closer to the recommended amount.  Our goal is to increase the CIPS budget to approximately $1 million annually so that we can try to keep up with the demands of operating and properly maintaining our schools.  In FY 17 we were able to increase our CIPS budget to $605,000.00.  This year we are proposing to increase the CIPS budget to $980,000.00.  This would be an overall increase of $325,000.00.

K-5 Planning Time

In last year's contract negotiations with teachers, the Gorham School Committee approved a plan that would allow elementary teachers to have, on average, 225 minutes per week for planning time.  This time would allow K-5 teachers to have a more equitable amount of time per day to plan for the important work they do with children.

In order to create this planning time, we had to add an additional allied arts rotation for students and bring existing part time allied arts positions (that were at .6) to full time.  Through our work to create this proposed budget, the School Committee has approved adding classroom guidance instruction for grades K-2 and STEM focused technology instruction (such as coding) for students in grades 3-5.  This change would require us to hire 1 more elementary guidance position, 1 Ed. Tech. III and bring existing .6 allied arts positions up to full time.  The projected impact to the proposed budget is estimated at an increase of $217,000.00.

Increasing Student Enrollments

Below is a chart summarizing our total K-12 enrollments since 2001 and giving us a glimpse into our projections through 2020:



As you can see, we reached a high of approximately 2750 students in 2004 and then had a period decreasing enrollments, hitting a "low" of approximately 2625 in 2014.  Since then, however we have been steadily increasing in our overall enrollments, especially at the K-5 level, and we are projected to continue.

These projections are supported by a ten year history of single family home permits that has recently been completed by the Town of Gorham.  That history is seen below:



What this data shows is that permits for single family homes have already grown to 85 in 2016-17, which is more than double what it was in 2007-08.

Our overall enrollment is projected to increase by 400 students across grades K-12 in just ten short years as can be seen below:



The most immediate results of which is currently being felt at the K-5 levels.  These increasing enrollments are also increasing pressures on our K-5 schools that currently feed from 3 attendance zones.



Due to these increasing enrollments, we have had to add four additional teaching positions for the proposed FY 18 budget, as well as an additional 2 regular Ed. Techs for a total increase to the proposed budget of $420,000.00.

Overall Impacts

So now that you have a solid understanding of the four key cost drivers behind this year's proposed FY 18 budget, let's share the overall impacts of the proposed Budget.  The proposed FY 18 budget totals $37,921,593.00 and represents a 4.49% increase over the final approved FY 17 budget of $36,291,178.00.  This budget requires a 8.5% increase in the local appropriation.  Assuming General Purpose Aid is finalized at the proposed level, and the actual FY 17 property tax increases by $10 million in FY 18, the impact of this budget on the mil rate is an increase of 7.72% or $0.85.  In review of the FY 18 budget summary page in the budget booklet (Click Here for a link), you will see an increase in the local appropriation of $1,469,265.00.

If you are interested in learning more about the Proposed FY 18 School Budget, I would invite you to go to our district website to watch a series of budget informational videos that are posted there.  I have inserted that LINK HERE for your convenience.  I would also encourage you to reach out to me with any questions you might have.  You can call my office at 222-1012 or you can email me at heather.perry@gorhamschools.org.

Thank you!


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Proficiency Based Learning Update Series #5

Grading and Reporting in Gorham's PBL System

Now, I'm sure by now you have either gotten "lost" and are very frustrated with all my PBL posts, or you have understood all of this proficiency-based "stuff" thoroughly and are now wondering what this means in term of our grading and reporting practices here in Gorham for the coming years.  If you are at the "lost" stage, I would urge you to please pick up the phone and call me (222-1012) or email me any questions you have (heather.perry@gorhamschools.org).  Also, please know I will be setting up public forums later this spring for parents at all grade levels to talk more about what all this means and to give everyone a chance to come and ask questions to better understand.

If you are wondering what this means in terms of our grading and reporting practices here in Gorham - well let me give you a brief overview of where we are now with those decisions, again, with the understanding that some small adjustments may still be made.  But first, let's remind ourselves WHY we are making these important changes:


A Reminder about “Why” - Our Mission/Vision and our PBL Work:


The Gorham Schools believe that the creation of a proficiency-based system of learning is a key mechanism through which we can make our mission/vision and core beliefs about learning a true reality for all our students.


Our mission is that all Gorham students are prepared and inspired to take on the complex challenges facing our current and future world.  Gorham students should be actively engaged in learning that is academically rigorous and challenging in meaningful ways.  Their learning should be personalized to meet the needs and to honor the passions of all students.


We are building our proficiency-based system to honor our core beliefs that each student is unique and learns in different ways and at different rates and that learning involves risks, making mistakes, and reflecting on outcomes.


As we continue to build this system, our grading practices will also need to shift. Although this new approach will ask us to look at grading differently, we believe it will help teachers focus on students’ specific skills and knowledge and communicate progress to students and parents in a more targeted and transparent way. As a result, students will be able to take charge of their learning and teachers and students will be able to collaborate to create a more personalized approach to learning.

Now that we are reminded about the "why", let's look at this work by grade level clusters so we can see what work is being done at each level in the area of grading and reporting. Here goes:

Kindergarten - Gr. 5

We have been reporting out on a 1,2,3,4 scale at this grade level for 6+ years.  In this scale, a "3" is considered proficient and that is still the target, although keep in mind as I referred to earlier in my post #4 - as we move into our system, we will say that between a 2-3 is proficient in the first year, between a 2.5 - 3 in the second year, and between a 2.75-3 for all years after this.  We use the 2.75 range because of the decaying average and the knowledge that students may inevitably start with a low score on any given assessment.  It may take them a few times to "get it" so we need to give a range in order for us to take into account the fact that although a student may not have started off "knowing something" our hope is that they certainly will end with knowing it. The scores should reflect this understanding.

For the 2017-18 School Year the biggest change that will occur at these grade levels, is that we will no longer use Infinite Campus to report our quarter grades.  Instead, we will use Jumprope.  Teachers have actually been using Jumprope to track student learning and grades for the past 2 years, but they have then taken those scores and re-entered them into Infinite Campus so that the end user (parents) saw the same basic format you have always seen.  For the coming year, we will simply remove this last "curtain" and now print off reports directly from Jumprope to share with parents.

We will plan to focus a great deal of time in September and October of next year to share with parents what these new reports will look like and how to read them - but rest assured the actual scores will not change.  A "3" is still the proficiency score we are seeking.

Gr. 6-8 & 9-12

Here's where some changes will be a little more visible.  Once again, we will be working with a "step in" approach so that we can better inform and educate students and parents about what this all means as we continue to make changes.  For the first year of our "step in model," we will ask teachers in grade 6 only to report out student learning using a 1-4 scale.  That 1-4 scale will be almost identical to what has been used in K-5 for several years and looks something like this:

1-4 Grading Scale

Score
Description
Proficiency Description


4
Distinguished
The student consistently exceeds the proficiency requirements for the course level.  Performance indicators show that the student grasps, applies, generalizes, and extends key concepts, processes, and skills independently.
3.5
Exceeding Proficiency
The student’s body of work falls consistently between a “3” and a “4” for proficiency requirements for the course level.  


3
Proficient
The student consistently meets the proficiency requirements for the course level.  Performance indicators show that the student, with limited errors, grasps key concepts, processes, and skills for the course level and understands and applies them effectively.
2.5
Approaching Proficiency
The student’s body of work falls consistently between a “2” and a “3” for proficiency requirements for the course level.


2
Developing
The student is progressing toward meeting the proficiency requirements for the course level.  Performance indicators show that the student is beginning to grasp key concepts, processes and skills for the course level, but demonstrates inconsistent understanding and application of concepts


1
Emerging
The student is making some progress toward meeting the competency requirements.  Performance Indicators show that the student is not demonstrating understanding of course-level key concepts, processes and skills and requires additional time and support.
IE
Insufficient Evidence
The student did not turn in enough work to determine his/her level of proficiency.

Teachers will use our standards-based grading and reporting software called "Jumprope" to track and report student learning.  Jumprope does have a parent portal so parents will enjoy the same access to their children's learning as they have with Infinite Campus, although it will require a little "getting used to" to learn how to navigate it - but we will take care of that by offering up training videos, and parent nights to assist parents in this learing in the fall of next year.

Teachers in grades 7-12 will NOT initially use this 1-4 scale (other than those who have already been piloting Jumprope in grades 7 & 8).  Instead, teachers at these grade levels will continue to use Infinite Campus to report out student learning on a 100 point scale using what we are calling a "blended scale" approach.  By using this approach, we hope to accomplish several things:

1.  Allow 7-12 teachers to learn how to better utilize our standards-based learning and reporting software (Jumprope or something similar) so that our reporting is clear to students and parents before making it public.

2.  Allow parents and students to better understand the need to eventually shift to a 1-4 grading scale before we actually do it and how that will work once we do.

3.  Allow 7-12 teachers and others time to make the "mental shift" required to successfully implement a PBL system of learning and align our grading and reporting practices to it.

The "blended grading scale" that will be utilized by teachers in grades 7-12 beginning in the 2017-18 School year will look like this:

Blended Grading Scale

Proficiency Score
A,B,C Score
100-Pt. Score
Proficiency Description


4
A+
98-100
Distinguished - The student consistently exceeds the proficiency requirements for the course level.  Performance indicators show that the student grasps, applies, generalizes, and extends key concepts, processes, and skills independently.
A
96-97
A-
93-95
3.75
B+
90-92
Proficient - The student consistently meets the proficiency requirements for the course level.  Performance indicators show that the student, with limited errors, grasps key concepts, processes, and skills for the course/grade level and understands and applies them.
3.5
B
88-89
3
B-
85-87
2.75
C+
83-84
Developing - The student is progressing toward the proficiency requirements for the course/grade level.  Performance indicators show that the student is beginning to grasp key concepts, processes, and skills for the course/grade level, but demonstrates inconsistent understanding and application of concepts.
2.5
C
81-82
2
C-
77-80


1
D+
75-76
Emerging - The student is making some progress toward meeting the competency requirements.  Performance indicators show that the student is not demonstrating understanding of course-level concepts, processes and skills and requires additional time and support.
D
73-75
D-
70-72
F
60-69
IE
Insufficient Evidence
The student did not turn in enough work to determine his/her level of proficiency.
* Note:  Scores lower than a 60 will not be given to students using this grading scale.

Teachers utilizing this blended scale will track student learning using the 1-4 scale on the far left, but report out that learning to parents using the 100 point system on the right. Students themselves will likely see both scores so that we can assist them in more clearly understanding where they are in their learning and what they need to do to be successful in that learning. For parents, you will likely see very little difference in report cards because teachers will be making the translation for students and for reporting purposes while still reporting out using Infinite Campus using the 100 point scale.

Additionally, teachers in grades 6-12 will report Skills for Life separately from academic knowledge and skills. This will help to create a grade report that can communicate a clearer picture of each student's learning. 

Remember, this is a "step in" approach as well - so for the 2017-18 School Year, 6th-grade teachers will use the "1-4 scale" listed above, while teachers in grades 7-12 will use the "blended scale" listed above. Then in the 2018-19 School year, 6th and 7th-grade teachers will use the 1-4 scale listed above, while teachers in grades 8-12 will use the blended scale. Then in the 2019-20 School year, 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade teachers will use the 1-4 scale listed above, while teachers in grades 9-12 use the blended scale and then finally in the 2020-2021 School year, all teachers K-12 will utilize the 1-4 scale.

WOW! That's a lot of information and once again, I apologize for overloading folks. Please know that we are well aware of the implications of these changes to things like report cards and college transcripts, and school profiles, etc. but I think I have likely exhausted everyone at this time with information so I will save more on that for my next PBL series post.

In that next post, I will focus on talking about how high school credits will be earned, and how we will determine graduation requirements. Additionally, I will talk about how we plan to change our school profile and student transcripts in such a manner as to make sure that our students can continue to get into the colleges and universities of their choice!

In the meantime, I also want to let parents know that I will be hosting a PBL forum for parents of students who will be in grades 9-12 on April 27, 2017 starting at 7:00 p.m. at GHS. At this forum, Principal Brian Jandreau and I will present on the importance of making this shift to PBL, and we will roll out our grading and reporting plan. Additionally, we will spend time collecting parent feedback, questions, and comments and then finally, we will have special guests from Bates College, Colby College, Thomas College, and USM admissions offices present information about how they conduct their admissions processes to help parents better understand how this works. I also have a series of four "dunk and discuss" breakfast meetings planned for interested parents who have questions. Those will be held from 7:30- 8:30 a.m. at Aroma Joe's on the following dates:


  • Tuesday, May 2nd
  • Monday, May 8th
  • Thursday, May 18th and
  • Monday, May 22nd

As always, please feel free to follow up with me on any questions you might have. It is only by working together, with clear and honest communication that we can ensure the best possible system of learning for all our students here in Gorham; one that allows us to make our mission and vision a reality for our students!

Thank you!