CUMBERLAND — Educators from as far away as Maine and Pennsylvania are among the invited guests taking part in a special panel discussion this week on the standards-based grading system, which the Cumberland School District is preparing to implement district-wide.
The panel discussion, which will be moderated by Assistant School Superintendent Robert Mitchell, will be held this Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the Cumberland High School auditorium.
There will be two panels taking part in the discussion. The first panel will focus on why the district is moving to standards-based grading, while the second panel will discuss the new system's impact on college admissions.
Standards-based grading is a system of reporting grades focused on what students know and are able to do. There are three main components to the teaching and learning process – curriculum, instruction and assessment.
Parents, students, teachers and community members had the opportunity to submit questions for the panelists beforehand, and time will be allotted at the end of each session for anyone in the audience to ask questions.
The members of the first panel include Virgel Hammonds, superintendent of schools in Kennebec County, Maine; Dr. Fran Mossberg, a fellow with The Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh; Dr. Alexander Sidorkin, dean of the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development at Rhode Island College; Dr. Brian McCadden, dean of professional studies at Providence College; Dr. Donald W. Holder, associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Bryant University; and Dr. Sharon Lee, with the Rhode Island Department of Education Office of Multiple Pathways.
The second panel will include Nancy Eagen, senior associate dean of admissions at Providence College; Christopher Lydon, vice president of enrollment management and marketing at Stonehill College; Amy Podbelski, director of admissions at Johnson & Wales University in Providence; Jim Richardson, associate director of admissions at College of the Holy Cross; and Anne Clawson, admission advisor at the University of Rhode Island.
School officials say the goal of the panel discussion is twofold. First, the district wants to provide as much information as possible regarding the transition to a standards-based system of teaching and learning. Second, it wants to learn how that system will impact the college admissions process and opportunities for merit scholarships.
Schools now teach to standards (common core standards) as a matter of practice. The instruction in the classroom is grounded in standards. The purpose of standards-based grading is to align the assessment of student learning with standards based instruction and curricula.
The goal of standards-based grading is to utilize a grading system that accurately reflects a student’s level of proficiency around a particular content area.
Learning quality areas such as effort and participation are reported out separately in order to not skew the true measure of what the student knows and is able to do. In addition, grading differences among teachers are minimized.
Standards-based grading assesses a student’s body of work for a particular marking period. Looking at all evidence (homework, quizzes, projects and tests), a performance level is determined that best represents that student’s demonstration of learning guided by standards, rubrics, and exemplars.
Teachers use their professional judgment to interpret the data - mean (average), the median (middle value in list of numbers), and student growth over time are all valid as a process to arrive at the final grade.