Saturday, November 22, 2014

High School Report Card Delay Advisory Update

Dear Colleagues and Manchester Families:


I would like to update everyone on the recent district report card delay and offer some clarification on what has happened as there seems to be a fair amount of mis-information “on the street”.


In a May report published by the Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, author Julia Freeland writes: "In 2005, the New Hampshire Department of Education mandated that all high schools measure credit in terms of mastery of locally selected competencies, rather than by time-based metrics.  Removing seat-time from state regulations opened up more opportunities for students to advance upon mastery and for educators to measure student progress in terms of authentic learning, rather than in hours and minutes.  Under the 2005 regulations, New Hampshire school districts were required to create competencies and begin measuring credit in these terms by the start of the 2008–09 school year " (Policy to Practice, Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, May 2014).    


In 2009, Manchester was at the forefront of this statewide effort in adopting competency based grading.  At that time, our grading systems were not capable of capturing these standards so our software vendor wrote special programming to automatically factor in an equal weighting of the standards into the traditional grading formula.   This was intended to be a temporary solution until the systems evolved to accommodate true standards or competency based grading.  As systems evolved and other districts around the state, and around the country implemented true standards based grading, Manchester continued with the automated grade scoring. By mid 2013 our software vendor Follett (Aspen is the Follett product name of the Student Information System) had fully supported standards based reporting capability within the grade book.


In January of 2014, the Manchester School District administration, under new leadership and with a renewed strategic vision to improve instructional practice, made the decision to move forward with true competency based grading and leverage the built in Aspen capabilities.  As a first step toward this goal,  the programming that had automated the grading process since 2009 had to be abandoned for a more authentic standards based model, one in which the system in its current version is intended to support.  


This process was begun in April of 2014 and initial training was rolled out in June of 2014, with the aim of supporting this new grading methodology for the start of school in September 2014.   I want to be clear that the disruption caused this 1st grading quarter was a result of a process and training change, and was NOT related to a technical system failure.  The system is working as designed.  We recognize that all teachers may not have had enough time or notice at the school level to learn this new grading data entry procedure and as a result we needed more time to get all teachers up to speed on their training.  This was the first step.  We needed to align the grading process steps with the grading methodology.  The goal is to institute a true standards based report card for the start of the 2015 school year, but this first step was necessary in moving forward to achieving a true competency based report card.


It is important to understand that a true competency based report card is quite different from a traditional report card.   In addition to showing traditional A, B, C, D point score, it goes into much more detail about mastery of specific competencies as a supplemental report.  This is all designed to help learning become more student centered and allow students to advance their learning with more relevance to their individual needs.


For the remainder of the school year we will still be calculating a combined standards/traditional grade by running a program at the end of the quarter to merge the two grading methods.   This will give teachers ample time throughout the year to develop the “habits of mind” in adopting the grading method of a true competency based model. This step also enables MSD to leverage increasing capabilities of our vendor software upgrades by eliminating customizations which constrain our ability to keep current with the vendor's software development roadmap.


I hope this announcement has provided some clarification on the matter and if anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me.  My contact information and detailed information about our technology strategy may be accessed from our website at trc.mansd.org as well as from my signature below.


In addition, for those who would like to learn more about NH's competency based education history, here is an informative link.




Sincerely,


Jeffrey F. DeLangie Sr.
Director
Technology Resource Center
Manchester School District
195 McGregor Street, Suite 201
Manchester, NH 03102
603-624-6300 x162
jdelangie@mansd.org
Read about our technology vision - http://trc.mansd.org/tlf
Follow our tech plan - http://trc.mansd.org/living-tech-plan

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