Second Year of Standards Based Grading at Schoolcraft

matt mccullough
Matt McCullough, the new director of Innovation in Teaching and Learning for the Schoolcraft Schools, was introduced to the school board at its July meeting.

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft school board saw a presentation on the continuing implementation of standards-based grading at its August meeting.

Standards-based grading (SBG) puts more of an emphasis on a student’s ability to demonstrate proficiency and critical thinking in a subject. The idea is that teachers, parents and students all will have a better handle on a student’s understanding of the material and will be able to set learning goals based on that.

Last year was the pilot year for implementing SBG in select areas such as secondary math. “We learned some really valuable lessons from that implementation,” Middle School Principal Dave Powers said.

One of the things learned was that the numbers used to show proficiency caused confusion when translating them into a letter grade for students and parents. Staff members put together a rubric, a key for parents that explains what goes into a standards-based grade. The standard and familiar A-to-E letter grades remain, but SBG changes how they are defined.

This year, new goals for the group include the study and implementation of English language arts standards and to strengthen and clarify the math practices.

Helping lead the way is Schoolcraft’s new Director of Innovation in Teaching and Learning, Matt McCullough. He was assistant principal at Onsted Community Schools last year and has been using standards-based teaching for five years.

McCullough noted three of five high schools he’s led through the standards-building process are now in the top 10 in the state. He pointed out he has an excellent network of people for support and information in the complexities of SBG. “When I don’t know something, I have go-to people that are amazing,” McCullough said.

Superintendent Rusty Stitt said staff be working closely with parents and students to educate them about what’s expected.

When putting a grade out for a student, most of the weight of the grade will be based on assessments including tests, papers and projects. “Nothing gets on the report card unless it’s been assessed and been assessed three times,” Stitt said.

Stitt said this ensures time for the student to master the standard and helps them in retaining the information given.

McCullough will be helping lead the way by working to build a proficiency scale. He’ll also be working on professional development along these same lines. McCullough also presented a short video on SBG that has been put on Youtube for the public to view.

Things are moving along on consolidation construction projects. The board got an update in which concerns from last month were addressed. One project, the playground is behind schedule, but things are now moving forward.

Treasurer Kathy Mastenbrook brought up the idea of providing more transparency for the board with open discussions with the public before board meetings. She said she’d like to set aside an hour for the community to come in and ask questions and discuss concerns with board members. “Even if it’s just once every two months,” Mastenbrook said.

New trustee Jennifer Gottschalk agreed saying she’d like to see better communication with the community and attendance at meetings. They plan to look into it further in the future.
Stitt also announced at the end of the meeting that state superintendent Brian Whiston will be visiting Schoolcraft in March 2017. Stitt said they hope to share the school’s achievements and discuss hopes and concerns during the visit.

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