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Measure A

News

8/21/17

 

Change, as they say, is always hard.  Over the last few years, CUSD has been shifting towards Standards Based Grading (SBG) in the elementary classrooms.  While teachers have been explaining this concept for the last few years, it seems many parents still find the new system confusing.  Let’s take a quick look at the foundational ideas and practical uses of SBG.

 

SBG is a “Best Practice” because it brings focus and clarity to grading.  Old style grading gives parents an average grade in one content area, without identifying the student’s proficiency levels in specific areas.  For example, if a student comes home with a 90% on a math test, she might have gotten 100% of the multiplication questions correct, and only 80% of the division questions right.   Increasing the number of standards assessed on a single test makes the results even more likely to hide poor performance in a single area.  In another scenario, a student could come home with an 80% grade on a test having scored 100% on questions related to four standards and getting all the questions related to a fifth standard wrong.  Under the old system, parents would naturally presume the student was doing fine overall, when in fact they are struggling greatly with one particular concept.  SBG helps parents know their child’s strengths and areas for improvement accurately.  With technology, we can now separate and track test questions based on the standard they assess, and assign a “grade” which indicates the student’s level of mastery of each standard. 

 

SBG also separates behaviors from achievement.  Students who do not turn in homework traditionally have lower grades, often based on faulty data.  In a Standards Based system, academic content knowledge is measured separately from learning habits and behaviors.  In this way, we can accurately communicate to parents whether their child needs to focus on building academic skills or changing habits.  Again, SBG is different from the old system, but more precise and useful once parents understand it.

 

Unfortunately, the idea of SBG hits a snag after 6th grade.  That snag is our traditional college entrance / acceptance procedure.  It forces secondary schools (Grades 9-12) to have a system where students earn one letter grade in each class, which the school then uses to calculate a grade point average (GPA).  Colleges will not look at separate content mastery and learning behavior grades.  Instead, they use GPA’s to judge whether students are prepared.  7th and 8th grade become the transitional years where we try to prepare students for this new way of grading.  Unfortunately, that college-driven system labels students inaccurately, and gives students and parents poor information upon which to make important decisions.  

 

Almost 50% of the college students never complete their BA/BS degrees.  They enter college with low content knowledge but high learning behavior skills, and are overwhelmed by the amount of material they must master.  Or, they enter college with high content but low skills, and fail because they are not in the habit of meeting deadlines and instructor expectations.  If we could get colleges to use SBG entrance requirements, their completion rates would, I think, increase greatly. 

 

Parents of students in grades 7-12 can help their child by keeping these concepts in mind when talking to teachers and reading progress reports / report cards.  Ask teachers to help you understand whether lower grades are the result of a learning gap, or a behavioral issue.  Also, make sure you understand the teacher’s grading system.  Some classes put significant emphasis on participation, which is a valid method of grading for certain subjects.  But, make sure your student knows that in college, and the world of work, effort counts to some degree, but achievement lets you pass your class or earn your paycheck.  Even if we cannot use SBG at all grade levels, the concepts allow everyone to see more clearly the real issues at play, and prepare students more thoroughly for the world of today and tomorrow. 

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Contact Superintendent

Newman, Dwayne
District Superintendent

Superintendent's Bulletin

The Importance of School Attendance

“Do as I say, not as I do” just does not work.  Our children learn and act as we do.  September is Attendance Awareness Month.  What are your children learning about the importance of regular school attendance? 

 

Here at CUSD we talk frequently about the importance of “Bell-to-Bell” instruction.  Learning takes time, and we want to send a message to students that learning is important.  Our efforts to maximize instructional time send a signal that there is no time to waste during the learning day.  We know that students have lower overall achievement in classrooms where time is not used efficiently.  Students who miss school, naturally, also have lower achievement.  One year, long ago when I was teaching, I went through all my gradebooks and correlated absences with grades.  Students who missed more than 15 days of my class failed the class 90% of the time.  All my “A” students had fewer than 5 non-school absences.  Since then, as an administrator, I have repeatedly seen evidence that student attendance has a direct impact on grades.  Research on the relationship between learning time and achievement is clear; more learning time means higher achievement.  That is why after school and summer school programs help students learn – they simply have more time to learn.

 

As parents, I think we all try to send the right messages.  We tell our children that school is important and education is valuable.  However, I have seen many situations where parental actions did not match their words.  As a teacher, some years back, I had a student who left class to accompany her parent on a trip to the tattoo parlor.  Many times, I had students tell me they were leaving to go on various errands with parents.  In those cases, it appeared to me that the parents were sending a clear message that school was less important than clothes shopping, housecleaning, or getting a tattoo. 

 

 

I think it important to point out here that school-related absences have overwhelmingly positive effects on grades and learning.  Student athletes are learning about discipline, time management, and motivation on the field or court.  Those skills transfer directly to the classroom, and we find that athletes rarely have issues with learning, grades or achievement.   Similarly, the experiences of students participating in FFA, or FBLA actually enhance learning and achievement despite any missed classes.  Sponsors and coaches push students to compensate for absences with additional time completing homework and self-directed study. 

 

Valuable learning certainly occurs outside the schoolhouse doors.  A once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunity, a shared family experience, or helping out during a time of crisis, teaches young people lessons we cannot match in school.  But, particularly during the younger years, parental attitudes about school attendance are important.  Please help your student by being thoughtful about when you allow them to miss school.  Parents are invaluable in helping build the habits necessary for academic success.  As you think about all the experiences available to young people today, please send a message that school attendance is a top priority.

Superintendent's Message

8/21/17

 

Change, as they say, is always hard.  Over the last few years, CUSD has been shifting towards Standards Based Grading (SBG) in the elementary classrooms.  While teachers have been explaining this concept for the last few years, it seems many parents still find the new system confusing.  Let’s take a quick look at the foundational ideas and practical uses of SBG.

 

SBG is a “Best Practice” because it brings focus and clarity to grading.  Old style grading gives parents an average grade in one content area, without identifying the student’s proficiency levels in specific areas.  For example, if a student comes home with a 90% on a math test, she might have gotten 100% of the multiplication questions correct, and only 80% of the division questions right.   Increasing the number of standards assessed on a single test makes the results even more likely to hide poor performance in a single area.  In another scenario, a student could come home with an 80% grade on a test having scored 100% on questions related to four standards and getting all the questions related to a fifth standard wrong.  Under the old system, parents would naturally presume the student was doing fine overall, when in fact they are struggling greatly with one particular concept.  SBG helps parents know their child’s strengths and areas for improvement accurately.  With technology, we can now separate and track test questions based on the standard they assess, and assign a “grade” which indicates the student’s level of mastery of each standard. 

 

SBG also separates behaviors from achievement.  Students who do not turn in homework traditionally have lower grades, often based on faulty data.  In a Standards Based system, academic content knowledge is measured separately from learning habits and behaviors.  In this way, we can accurately communicate to parents whether their child needs to focus on building academic skills or changing habits.  Again, SBG is different from the old system, but more precise and useful once parents understand it.

 

Unfortunately, the idea of SBG hits a snag after 6th grade.  That snag is our traditional college entrance / acceptance procedure.  It forces secondary schools (Grades 9-12) to have a system where students earn one letter grade in each class, which the school then uses to calculate a grade point average (GPA).  Colleges will not look at separate content mastery and learning behavior grades.  Instead, they use GPA’s to judge whether students are prepared.  7th and 8th grade become the transitional years where we try to prepare students for this new way of grading.  Unfortunately, that college-driven system labels students inaccurately, and gives students and parents poor information upon which to make important decisions.  

 

Almost 50% of the college students never complete their BA/BS degrees.  They enter college with low content knowledge but high learning behavior skills, and are overwhelmed by the amount of material they must master.  Or, they enter college with high content but low skills, and fail because they are not in the habit of meeting deadlines and instructor expectations.  If we could get colleges to use SBG entrance requirements, their completion rates would, I think, increase greatly. 

 

Parents of students in grades 7-12 can help their child by keeping these concepts in mind when talking to teachers and reading progress reports / report cards.  Ask teachers to help you understand whether lower grades are the result of a learning gap, or a behavioral issue.  Also, make sure you understand the teacher’s grading system.  Some classes put significant emphasis on participation, which is a valid method of grading for certain subjects.  But, make sure your student knows that in college, and the world of work, effort counts to some degree, but achievement lets you pass your class or earn your paycheck.  Even if we cannot use SBG at all grade levels, the concepts allow everyone to see more clearly the real issues at play, and prepare students more thoroughly for the world of today and tomorrow. 

more