Grading system focus of SAD 31 meeting

Posted Aug. 12, 2009, at 1:09 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:14 p.m.

HOWLAND, Maine – SAD 31 Superintendent Jerry White wants to see many parents at a meeting tonight in which school officials will discuss a standards-based programming and grading system they will start at Hichborn Middle School in September, he said Tuesday.

Already established for more than four years in kindergarten to grades five at Enfield Station School, the system entails a more individualized approach to teaching and grading student efforts, White said.

“You are looking at effective teaching practices in the middle schools to get teachers to teach at the rate of the individual student’s ability,” White said Tuesday. “It requires somewhat of a different form of thinking on how we teach kids.”

White was calling special attention to the meeting because he wanted to assure parents that the new grading and teaching system would not affect their children’s ability to qualify for high school or college or extracurricular activities.

“There is a concern among parents how their kids are going to learn differently than they learn now and what does that mean when they go on to high school and then on to college,” White said. “I have attended a couple meetings this summer and seen where college professors and programs are now revamping to recognize that public schools are training students in different types of thinking skills and group problem-solving. That’s all part of this.”

The meeting, he said, will be at the middle school at 7 p.m. It will feature presentations from curriculum director Catherine Menard and Enfield Station Principal Laura Cook, among others.

In a standards-based classroom, teachers start with state standards as the basis for classroom instructional planning, rather than starting with a textbook or other classroom materials, White said. Teachers select a unit of instruction that meets the standards and use the standards to determine how the unit shall be designed, assessed, delivered and evaluated.

These defined outcomes serve as the basis for assessment and can help teachers to plan a pre-assessment that can be administered and used to determine starting points and focus for instruction. A summary or final assessment is planned to address both big ideas and discrete ones, thus assessing student performance and the success of instruction and identifying any needed reteaching, White said.

By aligning classroom instruction and assessment with the standards, teachers can ensure that students will meet these high demands. By following a standards-based model for classroom assessment and instruction, teachers will have the tools to track student performance and plan focused instruction to meet the specific needs of students, White said.

“What it amounts to is that teachers start from where the students are and take them forward, concept by concept. Then you find where a student is missing a concept. If they don’t get it, you reteach it until they get it,” White said. “It seems like an oversimplification, but it’s all defined by Maine Learning Results standards. We are not doing anything revolutionary.”

Under the grading system, scores are reported by the percent of pupils scoring in each of four achievement levels – Exceeds, Meets, Partially Meets, and Does Not Meet the standards – as well as on a standards-based scale of 80 points.

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