Wednesday, September 13, 2006

So much to say . . .

. . . let's break it down by the numbers.

Have you heard about the insane amount of change and stuff going on at Apple Computers these days? Now you can download movies, along with the music, podcasts, and TV shows that you could download last week. Also, they've lowered prices on older iPods, eliminated the 60 GB iPod in favor of a 80 GB model, completely redesigned the Shuffle into some sort of refrigerator magnet, AND rolled out iTunes version 7.0.

Since I haven't the authorization or money to upgrade my iPod, I am enjoying my new version of iTunes. The overall look of the interface page is different--more "polished" somehow. But what I like the most is the new Album Art mode, where you can flip through your Library and the Album Covers flip past you like they did in those 1990s era jukeboxes that you could see at Pizza Hut. It is a bit mesmerizing and a major time suck.

Look at this screen shot of my iBook to see what I mean:

You can read more about all of the Apple news here.

Lynda and I went to Sarah's elementary school last night for Curriculum Night--an opportunity for parents of the 1st and 2nd Graders to listen to the principal and have classroom sessions with the teacher. You may recall from my last post that Lynda and I were a bit angsty about the teacher, but last night made us feel better about things.

We got to hear from the teacher about rules, classroom procedures, and got to ask questions. Sarah's teacher has a very strong emphasis on reading and has almost three decades of teaching elementary school. Bottom line is that we are reassured.

But the REAL interesting news that came out of that night is that Sarah won't be getting (what I would call) traditional report cards while she goes through her schooling. In an effort to better track student progress in meeting the all-important state standards, the reporting structure for our school district in our city has been redesigned as follows.

(This is taken from the brochure "A Parent's Guide to the new Elementary Standards-Based Achievement Record" which Sarah brought home from school today.)

Information about the Standards-Based Achievement Record

Standards are statements about what students should know and be able to do within each content area, at each grade level. This curriculum is identified in the Ohio Academic Content Standards developed by the Ohio Department of Education.

The purpose of this new reporting system is to provide accurate information about student performance on the Ohio Academic Content Standards to parents, teachers, and students. The goal is to communicate student achievement progress. Attendance, effort, and work habits are very important areas, but are reported separately from this achievement information.

The ____ City School curriculum has been aligned to the Ohio Academic Content Standards in all content areas. A student's individual achievement on Standards is now measured on attainment of these learning goals.

Children and their learning are too complex to be reduced to a simple letter grade. Our new reporting system is not a grade card in the traditional sense. The achievement marks indicate a child's progress towards achieving specific grade level standards as identified by the Ohio Department of Education. This shift in thinking from traditional A, B, C, D, F grades to the new E, M, P, L markings is that an M is the goal for the grade level and should be celebrated.

Traditional Report Cards
Subjects by name
Letter grades reflect an individual teacher's expectations on student effort and achievement
Curriculum and instruction are teacher centered, textbook driven, and may not be aligned to the Standards
Students are compared to one another by the teacher's criteria

Standards-based Reporting System
Major subjects defined by content standards and grade level indicators
Reporting levels indicate the degree of achievement of the grade level. Standards Achievement and effort are reported separately.
Curriculum and instruction are student centered and aligned to Standards
Student performance is compared to the Standards and measured by performance levels


Achieving significantly beyond grade level standards and is self directed.
  • A student earning an "E" independently uses and applies knowledge in ways that demonstrate high level thinking skills.
  • Typically, VERY FEW students perform at this level.
Achieving grade level standards successfully, clearly on track.
  • A student earning an "M" demonstrates understanding of grade level skills and concepts and requires minimal support.
  • An "M" throughout the school year indicates strong, excellent work at grade level.
  • The "M" mark is the GOAL for the grade level and should be celebrated.
Progressing toward achieving grade level standards with some support.
  • A student earning a "P" has not yet met the standards but is progressing toward achieving skills and learning grade level concepts. Moderate support from teachers, parents, and/or peers is needed.
  • A "P" indicates ongoing growth.
Skills are limited, frequent support needed.
  • A student earning an "L" is currently not meeting the grade level standards. The student demonstrates an inconsistent understanding and application of knowledge.
  • Intervention is needed from teachers and parents

It all sounds a bit kooky and new mathy, but I don't really have TOO much of a problem with the structure--with the following exceptions.

a.) The amount of assessing, reevaluating, and record-keeping for the teachers just skyrocketed to meet the new reporting style.
b.) Everyone who wrote the brochure . . . and everyone who tried to explain it to the parents last night (who don't have the benefit of working with state standards EVERY day) seem convinced that there are NO students who will meet the "E" level. Your kids has to be freakin' Albert Einstein, before they are going to notice someone demonstrating Exceptional levels of cross-subject and cross-curriculum learning.

That troubles me not because I am convince my kids SHOULD be E+(?) students, but rather how can ANY student learn to be exceptional if the people shaping the learning are conditioned NOT to see it happen? But then No Child Left Behind isn't about creating Exceptional children but for lifting the ragged out of the dust . . or some such falderal.

We are in the middle of what you call a paradigm shift. I'll know that my kids are achievers if they are receiving E(2)s and M(4)s. Sure, I'll think they are either in the military or a secret British intelligence agency with a license to kill . . . but maybe they'll get into Princeton by saving the Dean's daughter from Russian spies!

Next post . . . the final entry in my Fall TV previews (probably just in time for November sweeps!)

If you have been interested in the continuing story of how to survive disasters of all sorts, then don't forget to check out this link.

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