What do standards, report cards have to do with education? | PostIndependent.com

What do standards, report cards have to do with education?

Fred A. WallRoaring Fork Re-1 School District

With the release of the latest round of CSAP (Colorado Student Assessment Program) Testing in late July, and the start of a new school year, it is an appropriate time to spend some time discussing the concepts of standards-based education and standards-based grading.The state of Colorado, through legislative action, has set the direction of standards-based education through the development of content standards, as well as the direction for the educational assessment process through the development of the CSAP.The past two governors of Colorado, one Democrat and one Republican, were in agreement that the development of standards in the content areas was of highest priority, and the assessment of student progress in every school district in the state would take place to assure citizens that our students are being appropriately prepared in our public schools. The current standards-based movement started as a political response to the “Nation at Risk” report written during the Reagan administration in 1983.Diane Ravitch, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former assistant secretary of the U.S Department of Education, summarized the need for standards in education. Standards govern construction of buildings, bridges, highways, and tunnels; shoddy work would put lives at risk. People expect stringent standards to protect drinking water, food and the air.In education, “standards can improve achievement by clearly defining what is to be taught and what kind of performance is expected,” Ravitch wrote.The Roaring Fork School District, like all school districts in Colorado, has adopted standards in all learning areas through school board action.Teams of teachers have spent countless hours defining benchmarks or proficiencies that will ensure that the district perform to an acceptable level of proficiency on the CSAP. The overarching goal of standards is to ensure that there is continuity between the defined standard, the actual instruction, and the overall assessment.As a result of all this work, there is a level of confidence that our teachers in the Roaring Fork School District are providing an education to our students that is continuous from classroom to classroom and grade level to grade level.Report cardsThe purpose of any reporting system is to provide information to the student and to his/her parents about the level of performance in the subject. This is no different in a standards-based system.The state of Colorado in the CSAP test uses descriptions of performance that are not based on the traditional A-F grading system. The system that is reported to the public uses a scale with the terms of unsatisfactory, partially proficient, proficient and advanced.Any grading systems gives a snapshot of how a student is performing a given task.But more important than a brief glimpse of performance, parents want to know if their child has mastered the skills necessary before they move on to higher and more difficult skills.The Roaring Fork School District has developed a standards based reporting system for the elementary schools, and will begin using the new system this month. This reporting system is focused on making progress reports meaningful by providing very specific information for the parent and the student.The learning process, from kindergarten through fifth, is clearly defined and based on state standards. This reporting system provides information so students and parents know what skills and content need to be learned at each grade level in each subject.For example, the report card for kindergarten, under Standard 1, lists phonics as a proficiency area. With the report card, the parent knows for a student to be proficient at phonics in kindergarten he/she must:-Know all of the letters of the alphabet.-Know 19 out of 21 consonant sounds.-Know how to blend sounds to form words.-Apply their knowledge of phonics as they read words, sentences and text.The purpose of the Standards Based Report Card for our elementary schools is to provide more information for the parent to know exactly what the student needs to know and if the student is able to demonstrate that learning.As the student gets older, it also allows them to know exactly what they need to learn in order to be successful in school. With the use of proficiencies, the learning targets for students are clear for teachers, parents, and students. They do not change from year to year or teacher to teacher.We base so many critical events in our lives on a standard. For instance, we demand that to get a driver’s license there is a performance test that needs to be passed by a defined level of proficiency. We expect that the person who gives us a haircut took some sort of performance examination to demonstrate proficiency.It is also important that our students demonstrate a level of successful proficiency on established standards in our classrooms. Fred Wall is superintendent of the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District.

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