Monday, March 3, 2014

Assessment Guidelines

Having just finished off the doldrums of February (for me, the toughest time to be a teacher, an administrator and a Canadian-largely due to the cold weather and short days), the light that is keeping me moving (besides the talented staff and students I am surrounded by at JN Burnett Secondary School), is the Assessment Guidelines our school is developing in response to Policy 607 from the Richmond School District.

For the past three years, our school has been engaged in discussions around our Assessment practices.  We have been using terms like Assessment For, Of and As Learning, and going to Professional Development sessions led by speakers like Tom Schimmer.  The school district is now asking each school to produce their own Assessment Guidelines to help make consistent the beliefs and practices of school personnel and share the statement with parents and the public.

J.N. Burnett Secondary has long been very successful with our students.  Our most recent report card reinforces that statement.  1165 student taking 3 or 4 classes each in first semester yielded 3804 course attempts, and our students had only 153 failed classes.  That is a 96% completion rate.  Only 4% of our courses were failed.  This success rate, coupled with the Provincial Exam results (which once again showed our scores to be above district and provincial averages in each of the examinable courses), leave us very proud of the accomplishments of our students.  But there is room for improvement.  The statistic cited earlier (153 courses failed in semester one), leaves us asking, "Did we make every attempt to help these students find success?"  Each one of those failures is a student, someone's son or daughter, who did not meet with the success we want for all our students. What more can we do to support these kids?

The focus of this past Friday's Professional development day was on developing our Assessment Guidelines and within those guidelines lie our school's Steps of Intervention designed to support students who may be struggling.  The Pro-D discussion centered around 20+ case studies that were created by staff members at our school.  The conversation was rich, and the outcome was positive.  Teachers spent a couple hours talking about difficult situations and trying to come up with solutions that would aid the student and become the framework for our school's Assessment Guidelines.

Our first draft generated the following…

The most exciting part for many of us was the sharing and generating a list of potential intervention steps.  We are all incredibly proud of how well our students have done at Burnett, but we also want to be sure that every step possible has been taken to ensure success for all.  Taking the time to formalize and share ideas and intervention steps proved very valuable to our staff and our hope is that it directly benefits our students and their families.

Our next step is to formalize and publish this document on our website.  We are also asking for input from staff and parents.

After the uplifting Winter Olympics (was the greatest moment the unbelievable Women's Hockey Gold medal, Alex Bilodeau's repeat Gold medal or Gilmore Junio's selfless offering of his speed skating spot to Denny Morrison?), we have only two more weeks until a well-deserved Spring Break! We can make it!