Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Step Backwards

I've been blogging about our school's journey the last four years towards being standards (outcome) based.   Recently I feel frustrated as I believe we are being pushed backwards into standards referenced.   Currently, and for the past two years, we have been truly standards based where a student has to meet the basic requirements on ALL outcomes in order to receive credit for the class.  It was at a supper meeting with Ken O'Connor where we decided to do this.  He asked us why we were allowing students to not meet a requirement in all outcomes.  When he said it, it seemed like a no brainer.   Robert Marzano promotes standards based.  Other researchers have done work with standards based.  We have worked hard as a department to promote and implement this.  Students have risen to the expectations we have set forth.  I know in my gut there are successes from this, and the data is beginning to show it as well.  More students are being successful.   A comment today in our math PLC was that students in the 30 level classes are doing very well.  It was almost a surprise to some.  Then when we thought about it we realized that it is likely because we have expected these students to learn ALL outcomes to a basic level in previous classes.  You now have students who just need a review of the pre-requisite skills, instead of needing to be taught them because they never learned them before.   Sure there have been a few hiccups along the way, but that is to be expected.  All in all, this system has been better for the students.  They are earning their credit, and even if they don't retain all of the math skills, they are learning work ethic and the satisfaction that they earned what they got.  They are no longer able to ignore something because it is a little difficult for them.  Education is about doing what is best for all learners and from what I have seen the past two years, this is a better system for the students.

Recently we have been informed that our expectations may not follow Ministry regulations and that we might not be able to expect a minimum level on all outcomes, thus not allowing us to be standards based.   We have researched and looked through Ministry documents and really can't find anything that doesn't support what we are doing.  We found a document, Renewed Curricula that the Ministry put out, and on page 12 found this statement:

Outcomes define what a student is expected to know and be able to do at the end of the grade or Secondary 
Level course . Therefore, all curriculum outcomes are required . Indicators clarify the breadth and depth of each 

To me, this is stating that all outcomes are required.  Today, at our meeting we discussed communication from the Ministry that stated a 50% is required to receive credit, but nowhere did it say how the 50% was to be determined.  It did NOT specify that it needed to be an average, or the mode, or the median.  It was just 50%.  Thus I don't think what we are doing contradicts anything in Ministry documents.  I would love for someone to show or explain to me how we are.  Until someone can do this, it saddens me that we might have to move away from standards based.  We have seen success in the past two years with it, and there are multiple research studies showing the benefits of this system.   It's a little frustrating to think that we might be taking a step backwards.  I'm open for change, but I want the change to be forward thinking, not backwards.  I am hoping that this is just a conversation that is happening and it will not become a reality.      


  1. I completely agree with you Carey. And I am open to change too. Especially if the proposed change is what is better for students' learning. By allowing students to achieve a credit without achieving understanding on all outcomes what message are we sending? And what does that credit represent?