District 279 Says Professional Development, Teacher Input Will Help Address Grading Concerns
Superintendent Kate Maguire says that recent concerns about Standards Based Grading brought up by teachers at a January school board meeting are being evaluated.
Osseo Area School officials say that they are working hard to listen to teachers after hundreds of employees came together at a recent school board meeting, asking for changes to be made to Standards Based Grading practices.
Teachers said that the 0-4 grading scale, acceptance of late work and amount of time focused on re-testing is causing a negative impact on student learning.
In one of four, unsigned letters given to the school board, employees said that “District 279 teachers share concerns about current workload, communication, implementation decisions and special education practices that are having a huge negative impact on the climate and morale of many staff.”
Secondary teachers in District 279 wrote that the actual practice of Standards Based Grading is not the problem. Instead, teachers wrote that the implementation of the grading practice, combined with poor communication, is causing less consistency across classrooms.
District 279 Superintendent Kate Maguire said that receiving feedback and looking at how to do things better is part of her daily job.
“We have shared goals,” Maguire said, “and it’s our responsibility to listen and then take action to help support our teachers.”
Wendy Biallas-Odell, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Educational Standards, said that the concerns raised by teachers about Standards Based Grading are not new issues. Biallas-Odell said that for the last few years, a selection of teachers from each of the district’s buildings have been working on the Standards Based Grading Committee, a group looking to address issues with the new practice.
“When you make changes to instructional practice, it’s complex and difficult,” Biallas-Odell said. “It takes high levels of new learning and continuous work in order to effectively implement change.”
While the district has no plans to stop Standards Based Grading practices, Maguire and Biallas-Odell said that professional development will help teachers better understand how to work with students using the new assessment methods. On Feb. 1, the district is hosting a professional development day where staff will focus on Standards Based Grading and work through issues surrounding it.
“In a teaching and learning organization, where we’re responsible for continually improving instructional practice, we can’t afford to not develop our staff,” Maguire said, noting that looming budget cuts won’t mean a decrease in professional development. “We’re going to preserve some dollars in order to continue to do professional development.”
As part of the current budget reduction process, the district proposed restructuring the curriculum department for the next school year in order to provide a job-embedded form of professional development. This type if professional development will allow teachers to continue to learn, but will also save the district money. Adding teachers to various district teams is another solution that Maguire thinks may lead to better communication between district leadership and teachers.
“While we’ve strived to make sure that we’re listening to perspectives,” Maguire admitted. “We may be doing it well in some places, and not well in other places.”
Bringing teachers into discussions at the leadership level was one idea that Maguire thought could improve communication. Though the district currently involves staff on teacher leadership teams, Maguire mentioned that adding more teachers to those team could be beneficial.
“One of the core values of our organization is that better decisions are made when multiple perspectives are considered in a collaborative process,” Maguire said. “We try to make sure that we’re living by those core values.”