Now that you are picturing a whole bunch of kids sitting around in bean bag chairs and talking about their feelings, you may be wondering how we are going to measure outcomes within a completely flexible and integrated system.
You are right about the beanbags…they are on order. However, it is important to note that there are many positive ways to give students feedback without actually assigning arbitrary letter-grades or confusing percentages. The answer, surprisingly, is standards. DON’T CLICK AWAY! We are not talking about the common core. Please read on for a slightly technical explanation of how we will provide feedback to the students and parents of Peace Valley School.
In a small school setting of twelve students, frequent and meaningful feedback based on learning goals (which is another way to say standards) is possible not only in a formative (frequent verbal and written support in the midst of an assignment or unit) but also a summative (a final assessment of student’s performance on a task) sense. But what about grades? At some point, you have to tell a kid whether they have succeeded in accomplishing the task and where improvement is needed, right?
You are totally right. This is where Peace Valley School makes education real. When young Yolanda or Maddox goes off to work in the real world, they are not going to get gold stars, or straight A’s, or a 5.0 work point average. Instead (we hope) they will self-monitor and determine where they can improve (at cooking, driving, paying taxes, showing up to work on time and ready to do what is required of them.) That is what Peace Valley’s model centers on: responsibility in the real world. We use a feedback system called Mastery
[Mastery Rubric] Here is a mastery rubric from the end of the sample project to help you understand how summative feedback will work on a final project. There will also be “report cards” and other parent and student communication regarding progress along the learning path (though students co-write the reports and we just call them reports and give them different adjectives based on the data they are reporting.) In larger schools, there are often “parent portals” where family members can log in and monitor a student’s progress in terms of letter grades. There are several learning management systems available which similarly allow parents to monitor a mastery student’s progress toward his/her learning goals.
In the real world, we don’t have different classes, or letters which represent how we are proceeding in them. We have personal or professional goals and feedback regarding our progress toward mastering those goals. That is how Peace Valley works. There are several mastery-based “grading programs” where instead of selecting a subject, you can upload learning goals or standards such as “communicates across differences with respect and demonstrates good listening skills” or “appropriately applies and explains the principle of water displacement in ways that a younger learner can comprehend and reproduce.” Below are the top three programs we are evaluating to see which one might serve the unique model of Peace Valley School best:
Jumprope https://www.jumpro.pe/ A fellow educator and huge advocate of mastery feedback recommended this one. It is free and flexible and right now is in the lead.
Active/Haiku https://www.haikulearning.com/ this is the learning management system (or learning platform) which supports Active learning, the mastery grading program mentioned in the Edutopia article referenced above.
Kiddom there have been many bloggy reviews of this one, including this one. This follows same basic idea: upload the standards you establish and then monitor according to the descriptors established by the educational institution.
Our mastery descriptors which vary with specific criteria depending on the student, the area of knowledge, and the project are:
Emerging—Student demonstrates limited or inconsistent skills and understanding, and makes an effort to improve skills and understanding.
Developing—Student consistently demonstrates adequate skills and understanding, and continues to make efforts to improve.
Accomplished—Student consistently demonstrates substantial skills and understanding, can comfortably guide others to improve understanding, and still makes efforts to improve.
Mastery—Student consistently demonstrates excellent skills and understanding, is able to replicate results, teach others, and reflect on maintaining and practicing skills over time.
With the help of the mastery apps discussed above, of this can be easily converted to a transcript with a traditional letter and number grading scale. For the school’s and the students’ purposes, feedback will be genuine and tied directly to mastering a skill (not how many assignments were turned in during a limited time period, or what percentage was earned on a 10 point multiple choice quiz). The applications listed above make data tables, transcripts, and reports based on those skills much easier to communicate to everybody and will allow Peace Valley to generate a transcript consistent with the skill level of the student. Other, external assessments, such as the SATs, the AP exams, and MYP assessments will also work to measure learning outcomes in a way that will make Registrars and Admission’s officers happy. Part of our school improvement plan is to frequently monitor data for internal and external consistency.