Sunday, February 26, 2017

Proficiency Based Learning Update Series #4

How Will We Define Proficiency in Gorham 

In my last PBL series post (#3), I talked at length about how our system is structured.  I reviewed that our new system is built upon large standards known as "Cross-Cutting Graduation Standards", which are then made up of smaller skill standards called "Performance Indicators" which are then further defined as to what a "1,2,3, or 4" looks like through things called "Scoring Guides".  If you need a "refresher" on these terms please feel free to go back and review as you'll be hearing them more in this post as we dig even deeper into our new system.

In this post, I wanted to spend some time helping students and parents to better understand how we define what it means to be proficient on specific skills here in Gorham.  Please understand that even as I am sharing this post, these definitions are still not "finalized" and must be approved by the district's Proficiency Based Steering Committee and reviewed by the Gorham School Committee.  Therefore, there may be some small changes to what I'm about to review, however I do not foresee any substantive changes - so I wanted to get this information out to folks as quickly as possible since this school year seems to be going by way too fast! :)

Here is our definition of proficiency:

Gorham School Department Definition of Proficiency
~ February, 2017 DRAFT ~

As Gorham students pursue proficiency in all Graduation Standards, students will have multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency for each Performance Indicator under each Graduation Standard. All Gorham students will be assessed and scored according to the use of a common set of scoring criteria with a minimum of 2 summative assessments determined by each classroom teacher for each Performance Indicator. For students in grades K-5, one of these summative assessments must be a common summative assessment.  If a student's’ score is below a 2 after this minimal number of assessments, then the teacher will provide additional instruction and will work together with the student to design additional assessment opportunities.

Gorham students will demonstrate proficiency for a given Performance Indicator by achieving a score between 2 and 3 after the use of a decaying average for our first year of implementation (2017-18).  For the second year of implementation (2018-19) students will demonstrate proficiency for each Performance Indicator by achieving a score between 2.5 and 3 and for the third year of implementation (2019-20) and beyond students will demonstrate proficiency for each Performance Indicator by achieving a score between 2.75 and 3.  (Note:  for the 2017-18 school year, students in grades 7-12 will use a “blended” grading scale where a 2.0 is roughly equivalent to an 77 on a 100 point scale)

Gorham students will demonstrate proficiency for each Graduation Standard by demonstrating proficiency on more than half of the Performance Indicators under each Graduation Standard during the first two years of implementation (2017-18 & 2018-19).  For the third year of implementation and beyond, students will need to demonstrate proficiency for each Graduation Standard by demonstrating proficiency on ALL  Performance Indicators associated with each Graduation Standard.

Those three little paragraphs are actually jammed packed full of lots of information that I think is essential for students, staff, and parents to understand fully. .. so let's take a minute to dissect this together.

First, some clarification on terms that you see above (Please refer to post #3 for understandings of what Graduation Standards, Performance Indicators, and Scoring Criteria are):

*  Assessments - This is an important term to understand so I'll take more time here.  Assessment is any tool used by teachers to understand what students know and are able to do.  Assessments can be either "formative" or "summative" in nature.  Formative assessments are used ONLY to inform instruction by teachers.  Summative assessments are used to determine whether or not a student has mastered a particular skill or not and if so - at what levels.  Assessments can be observations, discussions, written tests, research papers, projects and the like.  It is how the information is used by the teacher that determines whether it is "formative" or "summative" in nature.
*  Common Summative Assessments - are assessments that are common across grades or content areas.  These types of assessments allow us to build consistency and continuity into our system so that all students at a particular grade level, or within a particular content area are given the same assessments.  
*  Decaying Average This calculation type is similar to a traditional average of scores for multiple assessments, however instead of a straight average, this average assigns progressively decreasing weights to older assessments.  Working backwards, each assessment is worth 66.667% of the teacher-assigned weight, compounded exponentially.  In effect, newer assessments automatically "count more" in the overall score.  This type of an averaging system is used because we know that with additional and new instruction students will perform better on assessments, so we want them to "weigh" more heavily than previous assessments.  Teacher weights still apply.

Below is a visual of the definition shared above for folks to view that might help you to better understand the overall picture (I know I like visuals so I'm sharing).  


As you can see from the definition of proficiency and associated visual above, the Gorham Schools has tried to create a "minimal" interpretation of proficiency by stating we want to be sure that all students demonstrate proficiency on a specific performance indicator a minimum of 2 times before being able to move on.  However, we do not define a maximum.  We don't define a maximum because we want to make sure that students are given the opportunity, with additional instruction and support from teachers to demonstrate proficiency.

We have also created a bit of a "step in" approach in terms of defining a minimum score for proficiency at the Performance Indicator level.  We do this because we do not want to disadvantage students while we move to create this new system of instruction and work out the "kinks" as we go.  We are purposefully starting our definition of proficiency "low" at between a score of 2-3 for the first year and then ramping it up for year 2 by requiring a score between 2.5 - 3 and then settling in where we want to be in the third year by requiring a score of between 2.75 and 3 for students to be considered proficient on any given performance indicator.    It is important to understand that all students will be given instruction that will allow them to achieve a score of 4 on any given performance indicator so going "above" proficient is always possible and in fact will be encouraged for all students in our new system.

In addition to our "step in" approach for defining a minimum score for proficiency at the Performance Indicator level we have also created a "step in" approach for defining a minimum number of Performance Indicators students must be proficient in before being proficient at the Graduation Standard level.

If you remember from post #3, each Graduation Standard is made up of between 3-13 Performance Indicators.  Students must demonstrate proficiency at the Graduation Standard level in order to eventually graduate from Gorham High School.  At the Graduation Standard level, we are starting our definition of proficiency out to say that students must meet a majority of performance indicators for the first two years of implementation and then in the third year, we will expect students to demonstrate proficiency for ALL performance indicators found within a given graduation standard.  This is being done for two major reasons:

1.  We understand that in our first attempt to build this system, we have likely created too many performance indicators and need some time to either "weed" out those that are not necessary or to designate some performance indicators as "high priority" while others are "lower priority" in order to make sure we are creating a system that is viable for our students to complete in the 13 years we have them.

2.  Once again, we do not wish to disadvantage students while we implement this new system and are working out the "kinks" as any new system will inevitably have.

So what does all this look like for my child is likely the question at hand.  Let's see if I can share an example of one fictional student's experiences to help solidify this definition for everyone.


Let's say that I am a 4th grade student at Village Elementary School.  I am working on my Math graduation standards, working specifically on demonstrating proficiency within the following graduation standard:


-  "Reason Algebraically using expressions, equations, and functions".


I have three performance indicators I need to demonstrate proficiency on within that graduation standard - those are:


1.  Use the four operations (+,-,*,/)with whole numbers to solve problems.

2.  Gain familiarity with factors and multiples, and
3.  Generate and analyze patterns.

Now, let's say that over the course of a few months of work in Math I am able to take several summative assessments and I get the following scores:


PI#1:  2.0, 2.5 and 3.5 (decaying average = 2.8)

PI #2:  3.0, 2.5, 2.5, 3.5, and 3.5  (decaying average = 3.1)
PI #3:  3.5, 3.0, and 3.5 (decaying average = 3.3)

Based upon the definition of proficiency above, I would meet proficiency at the Performance Indicator level  because I would have had at least 2 summative assessments for each Performance Indicator and scored between a 2.75 - 3.0 (I'm using the third year step in definition here so you can see our ultimate goal demonstrated).  I also would have met proficiency at the Graduation standard level because I would have met proficiency in each of the performance indicators associated with the graduation standard for that grade level.


Now this is a pretty basic example, but I hope it gives you an indication of how the definition above works for students.  Please know that the instruction required to get students to a point where summative assessments would be given would be plentiful and if students did not meet proficiency, the teacher would simply work to provide additional instruction and supports and then provide additional assessments as needed.


Well, I think that is enough information for now to help you to better understand how we will be defining Proficiency in our new PBL system beginning in the 2017-18 School Year.  Please stay tuned for my next post where, now that you understand how proficiency is defined, I will then describe how we plan on grading and reporting in our new system.


As always, if you have questions, please feel free to reach out to me anytime.  My email is the best way to get ahold of me:  heather.perry@gorhamschools.org.


THANK YOU! 






Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Look Back at the First Half of The Year

It is hard to believe that we are already half-way through our school year here in Gorham!  It has been a great year so far and we have already accomplished so much.  Granted, we've also had our challenges as well (which I'll outline below a little later) but on the whole - we couldn't have asked for more!

We started off the school year having completed a huge amount of facilities upgrades as part of the approved referendum from Fall of 2015 for just over $1 million dollars.  With those funds, plus funds from our local Capital Improvement Plan (CIPS) funds we were able to accomplish the following:

-  Roof replacements and Restorations at GHS and Village Elem.
-  Roof replacement for part of Narragansett Elem. Roof.
-  Boiler replacement at Village Elem.
-  HVAC control & air handler renovations at Village Elem.
-  Lock & Hardware replacement for doors at GMS and GHS
-  Completion of District-wide security camera upgrades
-  Electrical System upgrades for GMS Security and Fire Systems
-  Upgrades to GHS Library
-  Upgrades to Village Elem. Library
-  Upgrades to GHS Cafeteria
-  Upgrades to Village Staff Room
-  Improvements to Adult Ed. Entrance at GMS
-  Upgrades to some brickwork at Village Elem.
-  Replacement of various exterior doors at GHS
-  Maintenance on outdoor bleachers at GHS
-  Upgrades to intercom system at GHS
-  Replacement of flooring at Narragansett Elem.






WOW!  That was a lot of work!  Now, not all this work is highly visible - but please know it is all so important to making sure our schools are safe, secure, and properly equipped for learning!

Once the first day of school hit, the whole fall was a blur!  In addition to our usual educational excellence, our schools also had a banner fall for showing off our athletic prowess!  All of our fall teams (except one) made their respective post seasons with THREE earning Regional and/or State Championships.  Our GHS Golf team, girls soccer, and boys soccer teams won respectively!




I so enjoyed being able to attend two state championship soccer games back to back in Portland, and although it was disappointing not to walk away with at least one gold ball. .. it was still an awesome season showcasing the many athletic talents of our Gorham students!

Also, during the fall, I was able to take some time to visit the Portland Arts and Technology High School to spend a morning with one of our very own GHS students.  Felix was gracious enough to guide my tour by first keeping me company riding the bus into PATHS, then by showing me around his masonry class, and then by actually teaching me how to build a brick wall.  And no - I'd NEVER done that before. .. so you can see what a great teacher Felix was!

 

It was a great day and a great program!  Next time, I'll need to be sure to visit a WRVC program!

Of course, our business is in "teaching" and "learning" and in making sure our students are "prepared and inspired" to succeed in their postsecondary futures - and teach and learn we do - A LOT!  Here's just a few clips of that in action from each of our Schools:

Village Elem. School


Great Falls Elem. School


Narragansett Elem. School


Gorham Middle School 


Gorham High School


What great students we have and what great learning environments we have created with the incredible support of our community, our parents, and with our incredibly talented staff!

Yes, we have our challenges.  There's the constant challenge of funding, there's the challenge of addressing our increasing enrollments, and there's the challenge of just simply balancing all the things that we are tasked to do so that we are able to do the essential things with excellence.  Many of those same challenges are faced by other schools across the region and the state as a whole, but what often separates Gorham from others is our ability to come together as an entire community to support one another and to work together to creatively problem solve and move forward with a focus on achieving our ultimate goal of "Preparing and Inspiring" our youth for their successful futures!

As I look back and reflect upon the work accomplished so far this year, it has been incredible.  We still have much to do - especially in the area of moving towards full implementation of our Proficiency Based Learning System - but the good news is, we have all the "right stuff" to accomplish any goal we set for ourselves because we have an incredibly talented staff, a supportive community, and some of the best darn students in the state!  GO RAMS!

P.S. - My next blog will be the fourth in a series on Proficiency Based Learning where I outline what our system looks like at the classroom level, what our plans are for grading and reporting, and just what it means to be "proficient" and to graduate from GHS with a Proficiency Based Diploma.  Please stay tuned! 





Sunday, December 11, 2016

Proficiency Based Learning Update Series #3




Many people ask me - so how is our Proficiency Based Learning (PBL) System Structured?  Well this sounds like a fairly simple question, but in fact, it is a pretty complex one.  In a traditional school environment, the structures are all very familiar to us.  They are familiar because they are essentially the same as what we experienced ourselves growing up (and what our parents experienced, and what our parents parents experienced)!  We know that students enter school based upon their age (Age 5 by Oct. 15 for Kindergarten, Age 6 for first grade, etc. etc. etc.) and that they often have a single classroom teacher who is responsible to teach students all core subject areas through grade 5.   Then they go to Middle School where they may have a small team of teachers that specialize in a particular content area.  Students are still required to take all the core classes (Math, ELA, Science, Social Studies) but have a little more flexibility in their day.  Then its on to high school where students know they have to accumulate have so many credits in each content area in order to graduate from high school.  In this traditional model, teachers know what they are supposed to teach, they have curriculum and textbooks to help guide them in their teaching, and they assess student performance in each class, giving students an overall grade for each content area.  The expectation is that students pass each "class" in order to move on to the next grade.  For example, a student in 6th grade at GMS might get a 85 in ELA, a 72 in Math, a 93 in Science, and a 90 in Social Studies and know that they are moving on to 7th grade the next year (although none of us would be happy with that math grade darn it)!  We knew all of this, but did we really know what students were learning???

In a PBL system, we are very clear about what students need to be able to do and learn.  Some of the old traditional tenants remain, but there are several significant differences.  For example, in a traditional system, it was the teacher who knew what the curriculum was, and who moved students along through that curriculum.  In a PBL model, we also want students to know what they are learning.  We want students to know what they are learning, why it is important to learn, how we as teachers will know that they have learned it and what comes next in their learning after they have learned it.  This is a core tenant of a PBL model - transparency - and it is there because we want students to become more adept at "driving" their own learning.  We want this because we know that we are preparing students for a very different world out there than what we were prepared for.  In today's world students must know how to think critically, how to set their own goals and how to work hard to achieve them.  The traditional system didn't do a very good job of teaching those skills.  If we stick with the "old" system where the teachers did all the "driving" - well, students in those systems learn more about compliance, they learn that if they just sit in the classroom, participate, and work hard on homework (none of which are bad mind you), they will "pass" the class even though they may not have learned all the essential skills that were supposed to be learned.  Going back to that 72 above in 6th-grade math class.  That student may have been great at basic computation skills, but lacked an understanding of percents and fractions - yet they could still move on to grade 7 because they "passed" the class with an average of 72. This is not what we want in a PBL system, this is not what is best for our children in preparing them for the very different world they now face outside of our schools.

In our PBL system, we still have grades (grade 1, 2, 3, etc.) and we still have classes (ELA, Math, Science, etc.).  We also still have classroom teachers and curriculum and textbooks.  What is "new" is that we have made the expectations for learning much more transparent and clear by creating a clear set of standards that we want our students to demonstrate proficiency in (or mastery of) before moving on or "passing".  We have actually been doing this for several years at the K-5 level here in Gorham, but now we're bringing that clarity of expectation to our Middle and High Schools and strengthening our standards at the Elementary Schools.  All of this in an effort to become more clear about what our students need to know and be able to do and to ensure that they demonstrate proficiency in those skills before being "passed on" to the next piece of learning.

So What Does this Look Like:


The Gorham Public Schools has long been known for its ability to offer our students a comprehensive K-12 educational program designed to advance literacy, numeracy, and citizenship, as manifested in academics, the arts, athletics, and activities to enrich the life of each student.  We have structured our PBL system to ensure that this long-standing tradition continues to provide the best possible educational experiences for all our students.   Here’s a visual representation depicting how our system is built:



Overall, this pyramid must be viewed understanding that the smallest components of the system, our “Learning Objectives” are closest to the day in and day out work with students.  Each component of the pyramid is aligned to the component above it.  For example, Learning Objectives are aligned to specific Performance Indicators, which in turn are aligned to Graduation standards.  

Let's dig a little more deeply into each of the components of PBL structure to hopefully help you better understand what each is, and how they all build to the top of the pyramid, which is where we want all of our students to be proficient by the time they graduate from our schools.

What are Learning Objectives:

Learning Objectives - Learning objectives guide the design of curriculum units that move students toward the achievement of performance indicators.  These are the smallest component of our system and you can typically recognize these by the language we use.  We often refer to our “Learning Objectives” as “I Can Statements”. 


Here’s an example from K-5 music:


“I can compose a piece of music and write it down with musical notation."


And here is an example from High School Chemistry:


“ I can explain why temperature and concentration have an effect on reaction rates at the atomic level and use data to support my explanation.”


When you see a progression of “learning objectives” laid out across a 1,2,3,or 4 score – that document is called a “Scoring Criteria” document.  Scoring criteria allows teachers to see the various learning objectives across from a score of “1” (Emerging) to a score of “3” (Proficient) and even to a score of “4” (Distinguished).  An example of a scoring criteria document might look like this:


Emerging
Developing
Proficient
Distinguished
I can identify a habitat and organisms that live there.
I can make a claim that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
I can make a claim and use supporting evidence to prove that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
I can make a prediction and use supporting evidence to prove that a certain change in an animal’s habitat may have an effect on the animal’s survival within that habitat.

What are Performance Indicators:

Performance Indicators – Approximately 4-6 indicators by grade/grade span or course/learning experience for each content area graduation standard that move students toward the achievement of graduation standards. 



Here’s an example of three Performance Indicators from 8th grade science that are aligned to the “Stability and Change” Graduation Standard:

Graduation Standard 1: Stability and Change: Explain how stability and change shape engineered or natural systems.
Performance Indicators:
Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed. (MS-PS1-4)
Develop and use a model to describe how the total number of atoms does not change in a chemical reaction and thus mass is conserved. (MS-PS1-5)
Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object. (MS-PS3-5)

For each performance indicator you can have a series of learning objectives organized by scoring criteria.  Here's what that looks like for these same performance indicators so you can get a sense of how this builds on each other:


Graduation Standard 1: Stability and Change: Explain how stability and change shape engineered or natural systems.
Performance Indicators
1
2
3
4
Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed. (MS-PS1-4)
I can identify different states of matter.
I can relate changing temperature and particle motion to states of matter.
I can describe the changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed.
I can explain the effects of changing the temperature of particle will effect the rate at which a reaction occurs.
Develop and use a model to describe how the total number of atoms does not change in a chemical reaction and thus mass is conserved. (MS-PS1-5)
I can identify (some of) the chemical symbols and compounds in a chemical equation.
I can read and determine whether a chemical equation is balanced.
I can describe how the total number of atoms does not change in a chemical reaction and thus mass is conserved.
I can balance a chemical equation.
Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object. (MS-PS3-5)
I can define potential and kinetic energy.
I can explain how an object’s kinetic energy can change.
I can support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.
I can quantify the kinetic energy of objects to show energy transfer to or from an object.

Student progress towards meeting performance indicators can be assessed both FORMATIVELY and SUMMATIVELY.  Formative assessments are small assessmens given by teachers to students for the purpose of helping the teacher and student understand where they are in their learning (1,2,3,4) and how they can improve, or dig more deeply into the content in order to move up higher on the scoring criteria scale.  Often formative assessments are not "graded" but are only used to provide feedback to students.  Summative assessments are graded assessments that teachers use to summarize student learning and to provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate mastery of the skills being taught.  These are the "grades" that parents will see.

Performance indicators are generally "mapped" across the K-12 learning experience by grade level. Students in 1st grade science may focus on one group of performance indicators and then in 2nd grade science another group.  As students move along from performance indicator to performance indicator, they are working along what is called a "learning progression" towards ultimately demonstrating they are proficient at the largest and most important learning of all - our "cross-curricular" and content area graduation standards.

What are Graduation Standards:

 K-12 Content Area Graduation Standards – These, along with the “Cross-Curricular” Graduation Standards are the largest components of our PBL system.  There are typically 3-8 graduation standards for each of the required 8 content areas in Maine’s Learning Results (ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies, Health  & PE, Visual and Performing Arts, World Languages, and Career and Technical Education (CTE).   These are what all those smaller performance indicators are working towards.

Here's an example of our K-12 Graduation Standards in Math:


Mathematics
A graduate will be able to:

  1. Mathematical Practices:  Use sound mathematical practices when solving problems.
  2. Number & Quantity:  Reason quantitatively, using computation, estimation and number sense.
  3. Algebra:  Reason algebraically, using expressions, equations, and functions.
  4. Geometry:  Reason spatially, using geometry, visual representations, and coordinates.
  5. Statistics & Probability:  Reason statistically, using data analysis, probability, and inference.
  6. Mathematical Modeling:  Model with mathematics to solve real world problems.

Again, for each graduation standard there are associated grade-level performance indicators and for each performance indicator there are associated learning objectives or "scoring criteria".  Here's an example of what that looks like in High School Math:


(GS):  MATHEMATICAL PRACTICES: Use sound mathematical practices when solving problems.
Emerging (1)
(LO) Developing (2)
(LO) Proficient (3)
(LO) Distinguished (4)
(PI) Make sense of problems, and persevere in solving them.
I attempt to solve every mathematical problem given to me, and can define key concepts and terms used in them.
I can restate given problems in my own words, and continue to work at solving them when confronted with setbacks.
I can explain the details of complex mathematical problems expressed in various forms, and don't stop working on them until they're completely solved.
(PI) Apply appropriate techniques, and then interpret the results.
I can identify whether specific mathematical techniques can be used to solve given 
problems.
I can choose and apply appropriate mathematical techniques to solve problems, and interpret the results.
I can use multiple mathematical techniques to solve problems, and then verify and explain the resulting solutions.
(PI) Use mathematical and technological tools strategically.
When given specific tools, I can use them to solve mathematical problems.
I can select 
suitable mathematical and technological tools to solve 
problems,
 and
 explain why I chose them.
I can combine different 
tools to make conceptual connections, solve 
problems, and optimize solution processes.
(PI) Construct viable arguments, and critique the reasoning of others.
I can state 
my solutions
 to problems, and understand other
 ways of solving them.

I can accurately explain 
how I find
solutions, describe solution approaches of others, 
and
 identify 
strengths 
and 
weaknesses 
of
 each.
I can justify 
my solutions using evidence and sound reasoning, and integrate elements of other solution strategies to improve them.

For Graduation Standards, students typically demonstrate achievement through their aggregate performance on performance indicators which are measured via summative assessments over time.  These will be the items that will be reported on student transcripts when students graduate from Gorham High School.  Parents will also see interim reports on student progress towards meeting proficiency at the Graduation Standard Level on report cards.

What are K-12 Cross Curricular Graduation Standards:

K-12 Cross-Curricular Graduation Standards – These standards, along with the K-12 Content Area Graduation Standards are the largest components of our system.  These standards are identified as “Cross-Cutting” because they do just that – they cut across ALL CONTENT AREAS and in fact, they cut across everything we do within the Gorham Schools!  These standards are also sometimes better known as Maine’s “Guiding Princples”.

Here's what these look like:


Guiding Principles
Each student will graduate as:

A clear and effective communicator;
A self-directed and lifelong learner;
A creative and practical problem solver;
A responsible and involved citizen; and
An integrative and informed thinker.

The Gorham Schools are currently working to inventory our existing performance indicators to see which ones also align with our guiding principles so that we are not duplicating efforts.  Once we have this "map" created, we will work to fill in any "blanks" with specific performance indicators geared towards making sure students are also working and demonstrating proficiencies in these important skills over time as well.  

Much like the K-12 Content Area Graduation Standards, the K-12 Cross Curricular Graduation Standards will also be demonstrated through student’s aggregate performance on summative assessments over time.  These will also be items that will be reported on student transcripts when students graduate from Gorham High School.  Parents will also see interim reports on student progress towards meeting proficiency at the Graduation Standard Level on report cards.

What are Skills for Life:

It is important to understand that we assess “Skills for Life” separately from “Content Area Skills”.  “Skills for Life” are those skills related to student participation in class, completing homework on time, and producing their best.  These are very different skills than the skills required to master content area skills such as solving an algebraic equation.  We separate the tracking of these two types of skills because we know that a student may be proficient in one type of learning/understanding, but they may not be proficient in another and we believe that Skills for Life are equally as important as Content Area Skills.  Therefore, we intentionally teach and intentionally assess student progress in both areas separately.  

Here's what our Skills for Life Look like:

Skills for Life
A graduate will be able to demonstrate:

  1. Preparation:  Students have required materials and assignments are fully completed.
  2. Engagement:  Students report to class on time, engage in classroom activities, and use time productively.
  3. Communication:  Students ask appropriate questions about content and directions, respectfully share ideas, and appropriately respond to communication in a timely manner.

A student leaving Gorham Middle School will be able to demonstrate:

1.     Preparation:  Students report to class in a timely manner, independently engage in class, and independently initiate completion of class work.
2.     Engagement:  Students report to class with necessary materials and with necessary work completed.
3.     Communication:  Students give input and ask questions independently.  Students respond to input and questions independently and seek help when needed.

A student leaving Gorham Elementary Schools will be able to demonstrate:

We are still working on defining what our Skills for Life should look like at the K-5 Level.  That will be completed by the end of this school year.

Well, I think that's likely enough information for now!  Probably overwhelmed you with this. .. SORRY - but I warned you that the answer to the question of how this system is structured was a little more complex than it might seem!  

Remember, one of the overarching purposes to a PBL system is to be clear and transparent about what is being learned, why it is important to be learned, how students demonstrate that they are proficient in their learning, and what comes next in their learning.  This type of transparency allows everyone involved in our educational system (including you as parents)to be a part of the "team" effort needed to make sure our students graduate "prepared and inspired" to move on to the next levels of their life and their learning!  

In my next PBL series post I'll talk more specifically about how students move through our PBL system,  what "grades" might look like and mean for each grade level.  Until then, please feel free to reach out with questions!  My email is heather.perry@gorhamschools.org