DEMONSTRATING GRADE LEVEL WORK CRITICAL TO STUDENTS PROMOTION
After receiving a period of remediation, your child has just failed the second retest for the reading portion of the fifth grade end-of-grade test. You know that he or she can do the work. In fact, your child's teacher and principal agree with you. The next step is to demonstrate that fact to an impartial review committee. The question is how do your teacher and principal convince somebody else that your child can do grade level work? What does grade level work look like?
If anyone knows what grade level student work should look like, it's the teachers and educators in Johnston County Schools. Patricia Hester, executive director of Instructional and Accountability Services for Johnston County Schools, said that the reason her school system is well prepared for the review process is because they've had student accountability standards in place for six years. "Our school system has had promotion standards in place since 1995-96 and that additional time has allowed us to perfect our review system," she said.
The review process is just one of the safeguards of statewide Student Accountability Standards, which affect fifth grade students this year and third and eighth grade students next year. During the review, the student's teacher(s) and principal submit a portfolio of his or her work. Parents also may speak on behalf of their child and present samples of their work. Based on the portfolio submitted, the review team will recommend whether the student should be promoted. Ultimately, it's the principal's decision.
Hester said that a Waiver Documentation Form is given to teachers at the beginning of the school year. Among other things, the form outlines items that must be included in a student's waiver portfolio. "It can't be copies of multiple choice or true-false tests but instead must include writing samples and responses from teacher-made tests that depict problem-solving strategies or different math strands for example. The student samples have got to show higher level thinking skills."
Hester admitted that initially it was difficult for teachers to know exactly what samples they needed to pull to show grade-level work but that now they are experts as to the types of materials they would need to include if a waiver was to be sought. "Nowadays, the review committee almost always approves a waiver that a principal or teacher brings before them because they know what type of work they are going to have to show to prove a child is at grade level."
Until recently, few collections of student work, or specific assessment tools to define quality work, existed. To address this concern in preparation of the fifth grade gateway, the Northwest Regional Education Service Alliance (NW RESA) staff, teachers, and curriculum directors spent the past year developing assessment tools, administering prompts to students in reading, writing and mathematics, and evaluating student samples all in an effort to compile regional samples of grade-level student work.
Dee Hanlin, a mathematics consultant for the NW RESA, said that in late spring the NW RESA distributed to member school systems a notebook of student work samples depicting grade-level work for students in the first through eighth grades. "We wanted school systems to be able to use the notebooks to train review teams, teachers, and students with consistent expectations," Hanlin said. Hanlin said she expects this effort to continue as the Northwest region strives to establish consistent grade level expectations for both novice and veteran teachers.
The Department of Public Instruction has an Evaluation Brief on its Web site, "Defining Proficiency as High Quality Work," that discusses this issue in greater detail. You can review the brief at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/accountability/evaluation/index.html. For additional information on the review process itself, please go to DPI's Web site and click on Student Accountability Standards under "What's Going On." Many local policies are included at this site address.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.