TTWWADI the Sequel

Donnie Dicus Uncategorized

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I'm sure everyone has heard someone whine this! "That's the way we've always done it! Why change!" My fellow blogger, Mike Lee, wrote a great piece about hunting these TTWWADI's! You can read it at  http://www.storiesfromschoolaz.org/2010/08/ttwwadis-exposed.html

My district has been hit by (in my opinion) a major TTWWADI!  In the fall, my district adopted a brand new report card for grades k-8.  In the past, we have had three different report cards for these grade levels. Kinder and First grade used a 1,2,3, and 4 rubric. Second and third grade used a Needs improvement, Satisfactory, and Outstanding grading scale.  Then, the rest of the grades used the traditional A, B, C, etc scale.  This year, the powers that run my district decided to start using the 1, 2, 3, and 4 rubric for grades K-8.  I didn't like this change at first.  I had to create many assessments for many very specific skills.  However, after two grading cycles, I thought that this report card gave my parents a parent view of their child's ability than the previous N, S, or O's that I gave in the past.  I became enthralled with how comprehensive this new grading scale became.  However, my excitement was not to last.  There was a storm brewing in the northern part of my district and it was going to have a big impact on our whole district. 

Now before I go on, let me describe my district.  My district covers the largest land area in my city.  We have families on the southern end that live in trailer parks, apartments, and run down homes.  We have families that live in middle class neighborhoods.  We also have families with multi-million dollar mansions in the northern part.  You can see the socio-economic status grow as you head north in my city.  We are a very financially diverse district. 

After the first report card went home this year, we sent out a survey to all parents asking them their opinion.  In my classroom, I got back one of those surveys.  (I think my parents didn't have a problem with it because I teach 2nd grade and this was the same report card they saw in first grade.)  However, one school in my district got back a resounding 400 surveys.  Their surveys were not in favor of the new report card.  Their reasoning. You guessed it. "That's the way we've always done it!" Plus, they were worried that this new system didn't allow for honor roll or high GPA's. How would their child get into a good college if they didnt have a 4.0 in 7th grade! These parents became a force to be reckoned with! They went door to door signing petitions. They threatened to move their kids to a new school. (They obviously did not know that we were the last district to switch to this grading scale in our city.)

Their noise worked! Right after Thanksgiving, we began drafting a new report card.  This report card was finished after Christmas. (I really wish these parents would have been as active and effective last year when we were cutting teachers. What if they were more worried about their child being in a smaller class than with whether or not they got an antiquated B?)  I found out three days ago that I MUST use it for this new grading period.  Grades are due in three weeks.  Now, I'm all for change if it's for the better.  However, this new report card is made up of two types of grades.  Students now will receive a grade of 1-8 on specific skills but will also receive a letter grade for general subjects like math and reading.  I had just gotten used to giving a number grade and loved it. Now, I have to give a number grade AND a letter grade.  I looked in my grade book.  It's full of numbers, check marks, pluses and minuses.  There are no letter grades in my book.  I have no idea how to grade a second grader with a letter grade.  I don't even know if it's an accurate measure of their ability.  I learned quickly in high school and college how much homework or extra credit I had to do to get a B or an A.  That grade did not show what I knew but how many points I earned and how much work I completed correctly. 

So if someone has any ideas on how to give a letter grade to my students that accurately measures their ability and the content/skills they have mastered, please let me know. I'm in a bind!  I have three weeks to assess my kids and give them a grade! Help!

 

Donnie Dicus

Tucson, Arizona

My name is Donnie Dicus and I have been teaching in Arizona for 12 years. I came to Arizona from Southern Illinois to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. I graduated in 2003 and began teaching second grade. I taught second grade in Tucson for 8 years before moving to Phoenix. I now teach third grade. I achieved National Board Certification in 2012 and I received my Master's Degree from Grand Canyon University in 2015. I achieved a National Board Certificate in Middle Childhood Generalist in 2012. I’ve been teaching mainstream and SEI 3rd grade classrooms in the Cartwright School District in Phoenix since 2013. I taught 2nd grade and was a math interventionist in Tucson in the Amphitheater School District. I’ve been a technology coach and have helped teachers apply technology to improve instruction. I facilitate coaching cohorts for teachers going through the National Board process and organize peer groups at my site to pair new teachers with experienced teachers. In 2010 I was nominated as a Rodel Semi-Finalist for Exemplary teaching in 2010 and featured as a Teacher Leader in February 2016 by the Arizona K12 Center. I have class pictures of every single student I have taught behind my desk on my wall. After 12 years, that is approximately 350 students. My students know that this is my Wall of Accomplishments. I am so proud of the difference I made in their lives. I became a teacher to make a difference and I strive to do so every day.

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