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!















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!