By Eric Hawkinson
SOLON– The teachers have spoken.
A committee of Solon teachers met Friday. Aug. 9, to discuss the future of Standards-Based Grading (SBG) in Solon schools. Although the meeting did not result in a comprehensive plan for the year, teacher representatives felt confident with the direction the administration is heading.
The Solon school district administration, and members of the teacher committee, presented their SBG guiding document to the board on Monday, Aug. 12.
“I’m asking the board to approve this document for our work with the idea that this is not going to be our last conversation,” superintendent Sam Miller told board members.
The board unanimously approved the document, and recognized there is still much work to be done. Board member Dick Schwab voiced his sense of urgency over SBG, and a concern that it is somewhat incomplete.
“The drum of this new school year is beating pretty loudly and we’ve gotta move forward with a good grading system,” Schwab said.
Teachers wrote the guiding document at the committee meeting the previous Friday during a long-winded, passionate discussion that lasted eight hours. Conversation centered on themes and action points surrounding the implementation of SBG.
High school social studies teacher Lauren Cannon explained to the board that the committee agreed all returning teachers will use SBG in his or her classroom– recognizing that there are still some exceptions. Cannon addressed the need to address the efficiency of the grading scale and the reporting software PowerSchool.
Cannon also said the committee discussed the importance of strengthening communication about the 4-point scale, clearly defining the difference between a 3, 3.5, or a 4.
“We talked about how important that was to happen before the first quiz, even,” Cannon said to the board.
The committee proposed dropping PowerSchool for other grading services more tailored to SBG, such as Active Grade or Jump Rope, and approved testing them during the 2013-2014 school year, simultaneously with PowerSchool.
“The reason we decided to do that is a lot of other schools who are doing SBG are using grading systems other than PowerSchool to better communicate how kids are doing on different assignments,” Cannon said.
Middle school math teacher Nancy Trow presented to the board on the theme of homework. In the document, teachers decided to stray away from letter grades and to keep homework separate from the final grade.
“Homework, we stressed, was practice,” Trow said. “How do you get better if you don’t practice?”
The committee also devised a specific definition of homework: “Homework is a meaningful task tied to a learning target or standard, and can come in a variety of different formats...”
As opposed to grades, the committee explained student progress will be marked with a green check on PowerSchool (other marks include: C for complete, IC for incomplete, MC for mostly complete). Trow said students must attempt the homework in order to reassess, and work ethic is considered for the final grade.
Other action items included investigation of other ways to calculate a letter grade from a 4-point scale, sending out weekly progress reports to parents, and researching additional resources teachers may need to carry out the desired task of SBG.
Superintendent Miller stressed that because SBG is not a one-size-fits-all system, and with school about to start, the administration needs more time to evaluate the most logical next steps. This caused some confusion for board member, Dean Martin.
“I think you guys did a lot of great work here. Everyone’s talking about it tonight, and I think acknowledged the fact that there’s a lot of work ahead of us, too,” Martin said. “So it’s kind of confusing to me, in a way, why we’re even voting on this.”
Martin was told the board could still approve the document to move forward, although it is not yet finished. The idea is to continue making changes down the line as opposed to a single one-and-done decision at one meeting. The board then approved the document.
“I can accept this document as the next plateau on Standards-Based Grading knowing that there’s more work to be done,” Schwab said.