As stated by the Arizona Department of Education, “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards are the culmination of an extended, broad-based effort to fulfill the charge issued by the states to create the next generation of K–12 standards in order to help ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy and mathematics no later than the end of high school.”
As a public charter school, Odyssey is required to teach the ACCR standards and does so with fidelity. These standards are a not a prescribed curriculum but a set of rigorous skills that each child is expected to master at the end of each grade level. These standards are taught through the Odyssey’s chosen curricula. For a complete set of Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards please visit: http://www.azed.gov/standards-practices
Standards-Based Grading: What Parents Need to Know
How is my child really doing? What are they good at? What can I help them with at home?
If you are like most parents, these are the main things you want to know about your child’s progress in school. You are not alone!! At TOPA, we have been working to create a more complete and concise way to communicate with parents their scholars’ strengths and areas where their child could use more support. We are extremely excited to implement standards-based grading this year as a way to allow parents and teachers the ability to dial in on the specific skills each child needs to learn at their grade level to give parents a more complete picture of how their child is really doing in class.
What is Standards-Based Grading?
Standards-based grading, sometimes called proficiency grading, is a method for teachers to measure how students are doing in meeting the learning goals for their grade level as determined by their state’s standards. Learning goals, sometimes called learning targets, objectives, or standards, are the academic skills your child should know or be able to do for his grade level by the end of the school year.
Standards-based report cards give a grade for each learning goal, so students receive multiple grades in each subject area. In 5th grade math, for example, you’ll see the subject broken into several categories, such as operations/algebraic thinking and fractions. Under each category, you’ll see a list of math skills your child should be able to do, as well as a grade showing how your child is doing.
How a child performs on academic tasks such as assignments and assessments are not the only factor contributing to their success in school. Work habits and behavior—what TOPA and the IB program call Approaches to Learning—are graded separately to take into account not only academics, but how each child navigates the skills they need to be successful in school. Behaviors such as completing tasks on time, going to class prepared, working cooperatively with others and contributing positively to class discussions are as equally important to building a child’s success in school as is how they do on a math test. This year, you will see how your child is progressing on these work habits, behaviors, or Approaches to Learning (ATLs) in addition to the typical subject specific grades. This ability to look at how your child achieves on academic tasks as well as work habits will allow you and your child’s teacher to provide more targeted and specific support exactly to any areas with which a child may be struggling, ultimately allowing a child to get back on track more quickly.
How Standards-Based Grades Differ From Traditional Letter Grades
Providing grades for academic proficiency and work habits gives parents more information about the areas in which their child needs to improve than the traditional letter grading system. The traditional grading system combines many elements—test scores, quizzes, completed homework, classroom participation, coming to school on time, extra credit—and averages the semester’s work into a percentage that correlates with a letter grade.
Miguel Boriss, an 8th grade science teacher in Bellingham, Wash., explains letter grades this way: “One student might bring home a B because she did all the work, turned in all her homework, and participated in class but didn’t quite understand the concepts. Another student might bring home a B because he aced all the tests and quizzes but didn’t do any of the homework and didn’t participate in class,” he says. “Each student earns the same grade but for very different reasons, and the grade doesn’t tell parents very much about what the student knows.”
Because standards-based report cards separate the two, you can see if your child needs help with an academic concept or can’t remember to turn in homework. Both should be addressed. An overarching goal in education these days is to develop students who not only master academic content but also demonstrate attributes for successful learning beyond school.
How Progress Is Measured
This year, TOPA will begin to use a four-part scale to denote levels of achievement with descriptors such as:
- Highly Proficient (4)
- Proficient (3)
- Partially Proficient (2)
- Minimally Proficient (1)
Approaches to Learning (Behaviors) will be graded using the following scale:
- Exceeds Grade Level Expectations (4)
- Meets Grade Level Expectations (3)
- Progressing Towards Grade Level Expectations (2)
- Far Below Grade Level Expectations (1)
While there will be standards (or learning targets) that scholars work on all year long, they will be graded each quarter on what they are expected to know by the end of the quarter. So, for example, if your scholar’s learning target is to learn her multiplication tables by the end of the year, her proficiency grade in the first quarter might be to have learned tables 1-3, in the second quarter to have mastered tables 1-6, and so on.
How Do You Know How Your Child Is Doing?
Keep in mind that a 3 or “proficient” isn’t the same as a B. It means your child has met state standards, and that’s good! (In fact, The new Common Core standards will be raising the academic bar.)
Also, even top students can earn a 2 or “approaching proficiency” grade, which can be a shock for some families. But it’s more important to know if your child is struggling with a concept than to see a slew of top grades because of stellar work habits. On the upside, early low scores aren’t averaged into the final grade—so once your child masters the concept, her final grade shows that. Along the way, TOPA recommends checking your school’s online reporting system and communicating with your child’s teachers before problems go too far. “The report card should never come as a surprise,” he says.
Level 4, or the top level, may be the trickiest to understand. If your child earned A’s on traditional report cards, she may have received them for meeting the teacher’s requirements, not necessarily for excelling at or going beyond grade level according to state standard. In the new system, 4’s may be harder to come by (and 3’s should be celebrated). However, earning 4’s should be achievable in the classroom, In each TOPA classroom, the teacher will offer opportunities for students to excel and reach level 4 when applicable. Communicating with your child’s teacher will be key to understanding their progress towards grade level standards.
The important thing is that your child is learning and making progress. Celebrate learning, and the grades will follow!
Click Here to view the Grading Parent Night presentation
Click here to watch a video on how to use Parent Vue with the Standards Based Grading.
What is Core Knowledge?
The Core Knowledge Sequence© is a detailed outline of specific content to be taught in language arts, history, geography, mathematics, science and the fine arts. It is a guide to coherent content from grade to grade, designed to encourage steady academic progress as children build their knowledge and skills from one year to the next. (from Core Knowledge Sequence©, The Core Knowledge Foundation, 1998).
Core Knowledge is:
Many people say that knowledge is changing so fast that what students learn today will soon be outdated. While current events and technology are constantly changing, there is nevertheless a body of lasting knowledge that should form the core of a Preschool-Grade 8 curriculum. Such solid knowledge includes, for example, the basic principles of constitutional government, important events of world history, essential elements of mathematics and of oral and written expression, widely acknowledged masterpieces of art and music, and stories and poems passed down from generation to generation.
Knowledge builds on knowledge. Children learn new knowledge by building on what they already know. Only a school system that clearly defines the knowledge and skills required to participate in each successive grade can be excellent and fair for all students. For this reason, the Core Knowledge Sequence provides a clear outline of content to be learned grade by grade. This sequential building of knowledge not only helps ensure that children enter each new grade ready to learn, but also helps prevent the many repetitions and gaps that characterize much current schooling (repeated units, for example, on pioneer days or the rain forest, but little or no attention to the Bill of Rights, or to adding fractions with unlike denominators).
A typical state or district curriculum says, “Students will demonstrate knowledge of people, events, ideas, and movements that contributed to the development of the United States.” But which people and events? What ideas and movements? In contrast, the Core Knowledge Sequence is distinguished by its specificity. By clearly specifying important knowledge in language arts, history and geography, math, science, and the fine arts, the Core Knowledge Sequence presents a practical answer to the question, “What do our children need to know?”
Literacy depends on shared knowledge. To be literate means, in part, to be familiar with a broad range of knowledge taken for granted by speakers and writers. For example, when sportscasters refer to an upset victory as “David knocking off Goliath,” or when reporters refer to a “threatened presidential veto,” they are assuming that their audience shares certain knowledge. One goal of the Core Knowledge Foundation is to provide all children, regardless of background, with the shared knowledge they need to be included in our national literate culture.
A balanced education that includes the arts, music, foreign language, and physical education is a hallmark of The Odysssey Preparatory Academy. At the elementary level, PE is held daily, Spanish and Music are held two times a week, with all specials classes being taught by educators whose practice is dedicated to their content area. In music, Kindergarten through 2nd grade scholars are provided with opportunities to pursue vocal music that aligns with the Core Knowledge curriculum. 3rd through 5th grade scholars begin exploring their talents in band and strings classes and build a foundation for performance in Odyssey’s middle school. Spanish classes explicitly teach vocabulary in the younger grades and build to conversational Spanish in the upper grades. Scholars leave our elementary setting with the solid foundation necessary to seemlessly transfer into our IB World Programme. Expectations for student accomplishment in each of our specials areas and across grade levels are high and scholars emerge well prepared for their future endeavors.
Each Odyssey morning begins with Morning Meeting. Morning Meeting is an engaging way to start each day, build a strong sense of community, and set children up for success socially and academically. Each morning, students and teachers gather together in a circle for twenty to thirty minutes and interact with one another during four purposeful components:
Students and teachers greet one other by name and practice offering hospitality.
Students share information about important events in their lives. Listeners often offer empathetic comments or ask clarifying questions.
Everyone participates in a brief, lively activity that fosters group cohesion and helps students practice social and academic skills (for example, reciting a poem, dancing, singing, or playing a game that reinforces social or academic skills).
Students read and interact with a short message written by their teacher. The message is crafted to help students focus on the work they’ll do in school that day.
For more on the key principles and practices behind Responsive Classroom, visit https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/