Principal: SBG response ‘overwhelmingly positive’
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · November 08, 2013

The principal called responses to an Oct. 4 survey of high school students and staff “overwhelmingly positive” toward standards-based grading.

High School Principal Michelle Lukavsky shared the results with the Board of Education at its Oct. 14 meeting, showing 63 percent think teachers provide “clearly defined rubrics” for lessons and 58 percent “understood the reason” for SBG.

None of the survey questions provided in the report directly asked whether students like or prefer SBG, but one question asked “Is there anything you would like to ask or share that hasn’t been asked?” to which 4.5 percent “described general negative comments about SBG.”

And more than half of students reported that their homework is not “meaningful.”

Also in that open-ended question, 10 percent “described questions/thoughts about individual courses/procedures and homeroom” and 85 percent had no questions or thoughts.

A couple of questions and responses included in the report:

Q. Why do teachers have different meanings for the different letters?

A. There shouldn’t be differences among teachers for different descriptors. If you have courses or concerns about inconsistencies among courses with the definitions of the descriptors, please contact your teacher, Mrs. (Amanda) Hughes, or Mrs. Lukavsky so we can resolve the discrepencies.

Q. Why am I not getting feedback on my homework or assessments?

A. Feedback from teachers is a vital component of SBG and a growth mindset learning process. If you are not receiving feedback on your homework or assessments, please contact your teacher, Mrs. Hughes, or Mrs. Lukavsky right away so that we can resolve the issue and make sure that you get the feedback you need.

Q. Can (teachers) write the traditional grades on my papers?

A. No, teachers will no longer write a traditional grade on your papers or assignments. They will continue to use the SBG descriptors. In order to see your overall grade in the class, which combines all pieces of evidence and their descriptors in the course, go to the overall grade view in ActiveGrade. (A Web-based program for sharing grades with students.)

Q. Standards Based Grading does not pertain to the way I will have to work in college or the real world.

A. While it is true that you may not always have the ability to reassess or redo work in college or in the real world, you will need to learn to produce your best work. The goal of SBG is for you to practice producing your best work, even if that means reassessing while you are still in high school. We hope that, through SBG, you learn the skills and also what academic habits are required of you to produce your best work the first time. It is the spirit of determination and persistence that SBG cultivates that will benefit you in college and the real world.

Some statistics from the survey (some numbers may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding):

• 169 people took the survey: 47 freshmen, 49 sophomores, 42 juniors, 30 seniors and one teacher

• Which proficiency descriptor are you aiming for? Expert 72 percent, Solid 25 percent, Competent 3 percent, Developing 0, Novice 0

• What level of feedback are you receiving about your homework this year as compared to last year? More 20 percent, Less 27 percent, Same 53 percent

• How are you retaining the material you are being taught this year as compared to last year? Better 22 percent, Worse 20 percent, Same 59 percent

• What are you using the reassessment period for? Math 30 percent, Science 8 percent, Language Arts 6 percent, Social Sciences 1 percent, Study Hall 32 percent, Other 23 percent

• The homework assigned this year is meaningful. True 49 percent, False 51 percent

• My teachers are giving me clearly defined rubrics for each assessment. True 63 percent, False 37 percent

• I understand the reason for standards based grading. True 58 percent, False 42 percent

• I have questions about standards based grading. True 38 percent, False 62 percent

• I work to be fully prepared for the first assessment. True 80 percent, False 20 percent

• I use the first assessment as a “study guide” or “practice” for the reassessment. True 52 percent, False 48 percent.

The principal said the survey results give the school district “really good baseline data.”

“I’m very pleased with the answers,” Lukavsky said.

West Branch High School began using SBG this year after it had been implemented at the middle school first.

“Overall, the move is going very well,” she said, though she said the system is “not perfect,” staff will continue to “look for disconnects.”

Superintendent Kevin Hatfield said he found the results “very interesting.”

Curriculum Coordinator and Middle School Principal Sara Oswald said that feedback shows a majority of students are not getting feedback from teachers through ActiveGrade.

“We will meet with a couple of the high school and middle school teachers and write a policy on leaving comments,” she said.

Lukavsky said some high school teachers are seeing the amount of feedback other teachers are leaving for students, which is prompting them to start, or give more, feedback.

“They’re saying, ‘Oh my gosh, if you’re writing that, boy do I look dumb,’” Lukavsky said.

Hatfield said teacher comments should not be vague and should prompt students to “reflect” on their work.

“That’s the whole power in this,” he said.

Lukavsky said some teachers are sending mass e-mails to parents with notes about each class because it is faster than writing comments individually.

Oswald said “some parents only look at the e-mail and don’t log in for more.”

She noted that students can see teacher comments through Google Docs, when electronic homework comes back to them, but parents cannot log in on their own to see those — they would need their child to do it for them.

Lukavsky also said that some teachers see about 25 students, while others have nearly 200.

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