So here I am at a workshop last week with my principal, AP, and 3 colleagues. They are all scrambling to fill out their clock hour forms and grumbling while I am sipping a nice cup of coffee and reading my email. “You know you need to do this clock hour form,” an administrator said to me.
“Thanks. I really don’t need them, ” I replied.
The administrator looked shocked. “How can you not need them?”
“I renewed my national board certificate so in Washington, I’m good until June 2019.”
“You mean all you had to do was sign something instead of doing clock hours?”
The administrator voiced disapproval that when I arrived in Washington from another state, I was immediately granted a professional certificate in Science. Only Science, mind you, even though my out-of state certificate has an old Comprehensive Science which was the equivalent of one major science field and an academic minor in 3 others (Earth and Space, Chemistry, Biology, Physics are the 4 fields) each individual cert endorsement, a separate individual endorsement for all math 7-12, and that I have countless hours in both education and the sciences, at the graduate level, 20 years in the high school classroom, a few years teaching at 2 state universities, and am completing a doctorate in science education in a program that required original research in both a science field and science education, and a dissertation with more rigor than I’ve seen completed by doc students at UW. I did go take the Praxis II in Chemistry ( I didn’t miss any questions) and Biology and Physics ( I got the overachiever certificate thingy.)
The conference was a great learning experience for us as we are beginning to implement standards-based grading. Of course I want to “grade” my students in the most fair way, a way that shows everyone’s alignment with standards, in the most accurate and reliable way possible. In reality, I’ve embraced many of the philosophies presented at the conference in a more informal way. I’ve not “graded” homework for many years, as such. Given a few token points for completing it, because this gives students confidence and a sense of accomplishment, but not ever demonstrated a technique on one day and expected students to hand me a perfectly completed problem set the next day. I’ve said to a kid, “No, you are not ready to take a test today. Let’s do yours tomorrow after we talk.” I’ve taken late assignments with no penalty because of some circumstance, like, “I just didn’t get this one – may I have a little longer to work on this?” I don’t give a rip about tardies or attendance so long as the kid can do what’s expected and doesn’t disrupt class by making a grand entrance (yes they have to come in on their own to make up labs.) I’ve marked different assignments “no count”when completing the assignment didn’t seem to impact the student’s real learning and mastery of a standard. I could go on …….
We can’t fix what’s going on in education right now just by changing our assessment methods. It takes a deeper approach, beginning with the engagement of students and holding them accountable for their learning. The learning certainly takes place at a different pace for different students, each student benefiting from different approaches to the standard to be mastered. Although I saw in almost every presentation at the conference that it was important for students to know their learning targets, where they are in the progression of that learning, and how to get to mastery level for each target standard, I don’t think my principal saw that. I think she truly believes that if we just allow late work into infinity and don’t include a mark of zero, ever, that grades will look good and students will be “successful.” I wholeheartedly disagree. Fair assessment is essential and as with my entire teaching practice, I am always looking for a better way – but if there is no learning, what is there to assess?
Apparently, although we as NBCTs attempt to educate our administrators about the certification process and how valuable it is in shaping our practices in ways that lead to above average gains in student learning, we still have work to do. We’ve talked and are not sure that we like the direction our administrators are taking – administrators who were not strong educators and who have no real clue what good teaching IS – and are going underground with our efforts; grassroots, if you will. My plan is to get together a group of NBCTs in my district for some discussion, and I have a few plans in mind. I’ll let you know how it goes.