Friday, April 17, 2015

Why standards-based grading practices align well with PLCs.

Can you have an effective PLC without implementing standards-based grading? I believe our highest functioning PLCs marry the two concepts together.  

Standards-based grading practices partner well with professional learning communities.  PLCs are built upon four questions and these questions assist PLCs in developing standards-based grading practices. Here are the four big questions that encompass a PLC:
  •      What do we want students to know and be able to do?
  •      How do we know they know?
  •      What are we doing collectively to intervene when students don’t know?
  •      What are we doing collectively to enrich students that already know?

Question 1 provides the PLC with a basic guideline and helps them unpack the standard into student and parent friendly terms.  We like to call these I Can Statements.  It is important that each PLC attempt to limit the amount of I Can Statements due to the immensity of data collection.  We have recommended that each subject have no more than 15 I Can Statements.  We are not advocating for a narrow curriculum.  We are simply saying that we are only going to report out on standards that we feel all students must know and be able to do.  There are many things that are nice to know and still worth covering.  Teachers will still collectively choose what should be taught. 

Question 2 focuses primarily on assessment.  Assessment and data collection should be the heart of the PLC process.  How do we know they know? Now that we developed our I Can Statements we are now able to begin aligning assessments to each standard.  This again is done collectively within the PLC.  There are some very important questions to consider: 
  • What does our scope and sequence look like? Are we committed enough to teach and assess at similar times? If teachers don’t cover similar content and assess at the same time we lose the power of PLCs.
  • What scoring system will we use?  Is it a 1-4 scale or a Novice, Proficient, Partial Proficient, Advanced system? (I can tell you that you could have this conversation for days.)
  • What if it is a skill that is developed over the course of the entire year? How will we assess and report?
  • What does mastery look like? Rubrics play a large role in measuring levels of mastery and they will have to be developed along side each assessment. 

Our teachers have found it difficult to match existing assessments found in our current curriculum to our I Can Statements.  There has been a considerable amount of work developing our own local assessments. This is very time consuming and teachers often feel they cannot develop a quality assessment.  

Question 3 and 4 deal with our response to the data we gather from our assessments.  Our highly functioning PLCs have become very efficient at gathering data, analyzing, and developing student groupings. Intervention and enrichment student groupings become solely based on a specific I Can Statement.  

Two years ago our district implemented a weekly late start to embed PLCs into our day for all teachers.  Over the course of three years we have laid the foundation and these meetings are beginning to become data meetings.  Teachers analyze formative and summative data to establish student groupings for enrichment or intervention.  These student groupings are fluid and change week to week based on their level of mastery for that specific skill.   

As you can see standards-based learning processes are a natural fit within a PLC. PLCs that have implemented standards-based grading find the PLC process more rewarding.  It makes their work relevant and worthwhile.

Below is an example from our kindergarten.    

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