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Year 2: Standards Based Grading in the Osseo School District

District 279 enters its second year of the implementation of the new grading system with a few new changes.

In the second year of implementation new standards based grading system in the Osseo School District, some changes have taken place district wide.

Standard based grading is a “new grading and reporting system for all students,” according to the District 279 website which states, “Standards-Based Grading (SBG) means that students are graded on what they know and have learned how to do after they were taught a specific concept or skill (a ‘standard’).”

The system was implemented in the Osseo School District during the 2011-2012 school year.

At a listening session in May, community members and staff shared their feedback with the school board about the new grading and reporting practice in the district.

“Based on the listening session in the spring, we’ve made some significant improvements to some of our documents and communication plan,” said Wendy Biallas-Odell, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Educational Standards, in a September interview with Patch.

Those changes resulting from feedback or planned implementation started at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.

Here are highlights of the changes.

Grading

For classes, with the exception of social studies, the grade book (SchoolView) “will show the specific standard in which a student is being assessed,” according to Biallas-Odell. “Within that standard, there will be task grades. Parents will receive a revised rubric that they can refer to as to what those things mean.”

For example, if they have a 3.5, parents can look and see that is similar to B+ on a particular task. If a student did a research paper in the past and got a B, they “might not know what kind of things the student would need to work on in order to increase their achievement,” according to Biallas-Odell. The research paper, for example, could actually be listed under two or three standards.

“Task grades give students, parents and teachers the ability to target what specific areas kids have to work on,” Biallas-Odell said. “You can see what areas the students do well in and what areas need support.”

Communication

New documents were posted on the District 279 website as of Sept. 13 which highlight the first year of in the standards based grading in the 2011-2012 school year and changes for the 2012-2013 school year at both the elementary and secondary levels.

Elementary students received the update in their Wednesday envelope at the beginning of the school year along with a revised and updated grading rubric.  

At the secondary level, principals were given the discretion how to distribute the information and rubric to families, whether it be sending home with students or at conferences. Each school was required to send an school message call to each student’s home with dissemination plans and where parents could find the information on the district’s website.

“That was another thing we heard last spring was that the communication was not consistent and vague in some places,” Biallas-Odellsaid. “We really wanted to make sure that we were sending a clear message to everyone in a manner that they could receive.”

On the new documents, parents will see a more detailed description of what it means for a one, two, three or four.

“One of the issues that we heard last spring from elementary parents that they felt that their children were doing well, but never achieving a four. We’ve taken care of that now and helped teachers understand that a four means a high quality work – which could be translated into 90-100 percent.” Biallas-Odell said.  “What we heard was that students were getting 100 percent on some assessments, yet getting a three. That was never our intent. We want to make sure we are reflecting what students know and what they are able to do. If they get 100 percent – that is a four.  It doesn’t have to be 100 percent to equal a four, it just has to be consistent, high quality work.”

Teacher Consistency

For two days prior to the 2012-2013 school year, the district spent two days working with teachers about standards based grading and “sending a consistent, clear message.”

“Everybody got the same message via screen cast, so there was no misrepresentation by presenters at all,” Biallas-Odell said. “The feedback from teachers was positive, how nice it was to all receive the same message.”

The retake procedure, referred to as the multiple opportunities, was revised prior to the start of the school year.

“Last year we said, as a district, that kids needed to have multiple opportunities to show what they know. As a system, we never said that it had to be retakes,” she said. “So, some teachers were experimenting with retakes policies on their own and they were inconsistent. And, that was very frustrating to kids and parents.”

As a result, a district wide procedure was developed regarding multiple opportunities options and a guide created for parents.

Feedback

If parents or students have questions about a particular score, Biallas-Odell encourages clarifying with the teacher what has happened.

“Quite often, it can be taken care of with the classroom teacher,” she said.

Unresolved concerns with teachers can be communicated to the building principal and to Biallas-Odell if resolution isn’t received at the building level.

More information on the standards based grading can be found on the Osseo School District website.

Editor's note: What do you think of year two of the standards based grading implementation in the Osseo School District? How do you feel about the changes from the first year? Share your thoughts in comments.

Joanne Simons October 19, 2012 at 07:57 PM
What a total bunch of nonsense. Ask yourself: are they doing this in excellent private schools? Of course not. Talk about removing the joy of learning and teaching. Who came up with? Sure as heck wasn't an educator. Think about when you learned a new skill and the pride you felt when you accomplished it. it wasn't because you spewed back step-by-step 'standards.' Learning isn't an assembly line. When in heaven's name are we going to quit listening to fools that spout this ridiculous, primitive manufacturing model? Kids aren't widgets. The brain doesn't operate in linear fashion. Teaching is an art. Stop this insanity now.
Robert Gerhart October 20, 2012 at 04:20 PM
As a candidate for school board, I have posted a blog entry about my position on SBG. The short version is: Fix this and fix it NOW, or admit failure and get rid of it before any more harm is done. http://blog.electgerhart.org/2012/10/standards-based-grading.html
Kenoc November 03, 2012 at 01:50 AM
"Think about when you learned a new skill and the pride you felt when you accomplished it." Exactly the point Ms. Simons - sbg is about giving specific information about strengths and weaknesses so ALL involved can help the student achieve at higher levels. When I go for a lesson the golf pro isn't interested in my score for my previous rounds - he or she wants to know about things like fairways hit, greens in regulation, number of approach shots, number of putts, etc. Then they know what they can do to help me improve. Same with sbg and reporting.

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