Thursday, 22 March 2018

Modern Learners podcast on grades

After a panui from Andy (our Principal at Haeata) recommending the Modern Learners site, I joined up and read their White Paper which I really enjoyed and related to, then we had another panui about this podcast. I was so inspired and excited, I took notes and thought I would share them. I do recommend you listen to the whole thing though (51mins) and read through their site.
Competency based assessment rather than numbers or grades.

Scott Looney - headmaster in Hawken HS in Ihio for 12 years. Changed the systems and culture of what learning looks like in his school.
He is founder of
Making a network of schools trying to get rid of grades in high school

What is Mastery about?
Didn't start out to change grades, just wanted to create a second high school within his own school. Built a strand that was completely based on education research and ignoring every convention. If they had a blank slate for education what would it look like? "It's problem and project based, interdisciplinary, intergrade level (9th graders in with 12th graders) and all built on real world problems. The teacher assumes the role of master to the student apprentice."
Built a few courses on entrepreneurship. Grades and content of courses got in the road. Needed a non graded course - find one.
37000 HS in the USA. They said what you want doesn't exist. One school didn't have grades but found that they still had to make up a GPA! Had a great assessment knowledge but had to have the GPA for college.

Created their own prototype. Unique transcript - employers said if you have something different, I don't have time to look at it and work it out. But if lots of schools did it, then we'd have to learn how to read them. That's when Mastery consortium.... was born.
160 schools from 15 different countries.
The high school transcript aims to assess student progress and performance, but it is a broken instrument that underserves students, teachers or the world outside our school walls.
Most schools don't have the courage to change this.
How do you break this?
Not stupid for a school to say it's broken but what can I do? Dangerous to go your own way. What gives people courage is numbers.
How do colleges and employers know it is rigorous?

There is ZERO research in the world that supports letter grading. NONE.

It's never been legitimate. Designed to be a bell curve originally.
International Baccalaureate was one direction that schools took.
Mastery hasn't done either. Has done zero outreach. Very new - 2 full time employees. Not ready to take on the world yet.
IB seems to be possible for partnership as some philosophy is the same. 6-8 years away from getting the transcripts ready.

Public sector way ahead of schools with competency and efficiency based assessments. What they are trying to do is get students to persist to mastery not just move when teachers tell you to.

Pilot, will select some schools to pilot their transcript. not there yet, probably 6-12 months. 80 school districts have indicated they are keen.

NZ very well placed - would be surprised if they didn't show interest. Broadening their outlook. NZ at the top of the list. They are well ahead of any other country when it comes to mastery based assessment.

All the concepts at the moment are just examples (see one here). Designing 15-20 different visualisations to play with and eventually settle in on one. Mastery transcript format has to be the same for admissions. Needs to be consistent.

All about abilities and dispositions, not content knowledge. MTC agnostic on that question - Hawken just does skills and habits of mind, not content. Different schools may have Science. They won;t dictate. Will open up space on the transcript. Can get credit for public speaking. Has to write a mastery threshold and have a way of assessing. Will not be standardised across schools. Each school will make own credits but the transcript will be standardised.

We are so content and discipline driven in schools. Will Unis make that something that they want to see? Nothing on the transcript that does this. College presidents will be among biggest fans. Make this accessible for ALL students, including underpriviledged.

Colleges don't read files anymore on paper - why can't your transcript be a living document that has all that rich data attached.
Colleges have been asking for "creative, analytical, risk-taking kids who can solve real-world problems and work in groups for a year" and the system they use for selection at the moment gives them exactly the opposite of what they are asking for. Students now are not risk takers, they see the entry as a game you play, taking the right courses, working towards As and the world is your oyster. Valedictorians are not being chosen and are not the best students, often going to College with anxiety and stress disorders due to the pressure to get top marks.

He asks teachers to raise hand if they have seen a HS kid break into tears after getting an A- and every hand goes up. Is that OK? No.

More reading on testing:

Non college entrants - going to internships. Should kids do 13 years at school?
If you look at those that don't persist, so are life circumstance. Many leave because the system is against them. The biggest reason they quit is they come in with something that needs remediation and at the moment they get moved on based at the timing of the teacher, so if you happen to be bat the high end, you get bored, and if you are at the low end you are likely to quit.

System that allows kids to persist to mastery and allow them time to do that. Some can take a long time but once they master it they retain it. Didn't quite make 1st grade so now we'll start second grade and they get further behind. 3rd and 4th grade they work out school is not working for them.

No timestamp on mastery transcript - can take ages for some people. Only get judged when you ask to be
Teacher only job is to build a portfolio of evidence, feedback is that they are getting closer. Encourages them to persist and not give up.

Micro credentialling and badges
To employers - here's a link. Click on my leadership badge and you can see the testimonials from my team who talk about what a great leader I was. Need to take a large variety of digital inputs and outputs in their platform.

Can students design own credits? Up to sending school. School in charge of what credits they can provide. Mastery credits - foundational eg algebraic reasoning credit they must have before graduating at Hawken. Some others are advanced credits - 80 next to it means 80% of students have earned the credit. Rare credit may be 2% get a certain habit of mind skill. 
Socio-emotional growth being assessed.
School sets the mastery threshold. Can never master things, but mastery threshold in basic public speaking may be the basics, advanced threshold has to be set at a level that is available for all students to achieve but can be at a high level.

Some classes they can take all day every day for 3 weeks.
Bought an extension campus in the city. Take them there for 2 days, 4 days, go to different opportunities. 
Find your resources.
Get everybody on the same page. Hire talent. Then things will work.
If you don't like it all, go to different school. Don't be afraid to be specific to a core set of beliefs that you might expel some families. Can't be all to all. Either to faculty or parents.
Inspirational leadership!
2 ways to mobilise people - hope or fear. People get frustrated at first, some will start building, then bell curve will join in. Self generating now.

"Education in America is fundamentally broken"
This was an echo-location piece. Sounding people out. Wasn't designed to send out to the world, but wanted a sense of how ready people were to do the change. Told the Board about it and wanted to see what came back. Got most support from least likely. Current students least receptive. Triggered the dialogue.

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