In my work with our district and in consulting with several others over the years on the topics of professional learning communities and standards-based grading/reporting, the topic of aligning standards horizontally and vertically frequently comes up. Before I share a sample process of this alignment work, I thought it might be helpful to answer two frequently asked questions:
Who should be involved in writing, creating, revising the standards we will report to students and parents?
My first response is almost always, "teachers!" Teachers are the professionals closest to this work and I believe they should play a large role in this decision-making process. While the district office can provide protocols and templates, we're not teaching these skills and concepts, so it doesn't make sense for us to mandate an arbitrary list without significant teacher input.
Wouldn't it be easier if we copied another district's report card or list of standards?
Sure, it might be easier in the short term. When the standards are written in a way that doesn't make sense to those teaching them, it becomes easy to throw the standards under the bus. When the reporting standards need revision and they were written locally, a solution becomes obvious: we can revise them! It is also important to note that in all of the schools I have worked with, teachers report the most benefit from doing this work. They learn more about the intent of the state/national standards. Teachers dig deeper into the wording of the standards and pay closer attention to what a thorough understanding might look like as a result of the cognitive dissonance this process can create.
Now that we hopefully agree teachers should play a prominent role in drafting reporting standards, it only makes sense to share with you a process that seems to be gaining some traction. It is far from perfect, but I hope it assists at least one person. (If you find this literacy example beneficial, I'd love to hear from you in the comments).
- Example 6th grade reading parent/student-friendly language (from Waukee Middle School, Iowa)
- Look at the assessments you are already giving to students.
- Match up prompts/questions that elicit students' understanding.
- Administer and score at least one of the assessments you identified in Step #3 to discern the coarse or fine grain-ness of the standards (see note below).