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Not Just a New Year: Project 180 Guest Post

5…4…3…2…1…Today, December 31, the stroke of midnight will bring more than just a new year, more than just a new month, more than just a new calendar.  It will also bring some new changes to our LA 10  grading policy journey.  Yes, we are only four months in.  Yes, we still have 16 days left in the first semester.  But by living our “do, reflect, do better” motto every day, we realized that changes needed to be made.  Not just for next semester, but for this semester, even before it ends.

Of course, I still believe in what we’re doing and our grading approach.  But after Thanksgiving break I started to panic.  Despite the best efforts of my students and me, at that point I didn’t even have a handful of kids who had met proficiency on all four of the must-meet standards.  And it wasn’t for a lack of trying.  I was constantly modifying my instruction.  These students were doing all the work, asking questions, and taking performance retake after retake.  Their scores were improving.  I could see growth and improvement, but proficiency still hadn’t been reached.  So, after days of struggling in silence I felt a need, maybe more of a desire, to raise some questions during one of our morning collaboration meetings:  “What is more important?  Sticking to our initial plans to the bitter end or modifying our plans now to recognize and honor the hard work and learning that our students are doing?”  

Initially the answer was easy.  We knew we needed to adapt and change now because that is what is best for our students.  Initially, maybe we set the bar too high.  Maybe the end goal was unachievable.  Maybe we were reaching for the stars.  However, I do know, without hesitation, that we would not be where we are today, New Year’s Eve, if we didn’t make that decision.  We would not be on the verge of new changes, new decisions, and new policies if we hadn’t initially said, “Students must meet proficiency on all must-meet standards in order to select and defend a grade”.  So, now what?  What are the changes that we will be making?  

Even though we are still in the process of finalizing these new changes, there are some basics that we have already agreed on:  

1)  Students must have made an honest attempt on all performances.  (In traditional language, there can be no missing tests.)  2)  If a student has only received a 1 (or 1+) on all performances, they will automatically get a D and cannot argue for a higher grade.  (They have shown no improvement and/or made no effort to grow as a learner.)  3)  The amount of growth and improvement in performance scores will determine what letter grade students can select and defend.  There will also be other factors that can be taken into consideration.  

While we still need to finalize all the details of these new changes and communicate these change to our students, I am excited to embark on this new path of our grading journey as the new year approaches.  I am excited to see what happens in our last 16 days.  And I am even more excited to write about it in my next blog post at the end of January, one month into the new year!

Do. Reflect. Do Better.

Jenna Tamura is an ELA teacher and department chair at Cheney High School. You can follow her on Twitter @JennaTamura


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