Plano Academy High School Grading Vision
Plano ISD Academy High School was founded on the principles of Project Based Learning, STEAM, Collaboration, and multi-disciplinary learning. Authentic learning experiences are at the core of Academy High School. Authentic learning is a cycle of creating need to learns, exploring information related to the questions, and demonstrating learning via facilitator-created and learner-created experiences. Each experience is designed with a learning goal or outcome. Facilitators use essential knowledge and skills as a foundation for learner demonstration of learning based on prioritized themes within the content standards. Learning is a process, rather than a destination and therefore learners are offered opportunity to “learn forward” as they experience key concepts within a discipline throughout a semester and throughout a year.
Learners are expected to honor due dates and expected outcomes shared by a facilitator. Facilitators work to intentionally weave themes and concepts within and between projects during a semester and a year so the learner has multiple opportunities to demonstrate growth in learning around a critical concept in each content area.
At the end of a semester, grades are reported holistically and in letter form rather than numeric form. Grades available are A, B, C, F. Each grade determination is founded in the cognitive level of the learning demonstration. Facilitators provide scales for learners to use as a guide for expected outcomes. Learners are expected to take feedback from an assignment or experience and apply it forward to new assignments as they demonstrate learning within a theme or concept during a semester/year. Learners will not necessarily “redo” an assignment to “get a higher grade” because growth in learning is the focus of Academy High School rather than focus on completion of a specific assignment.
Semester grades are not an average of numerical assignment outcomes, rather a demonstration of a semester of learning. Learning progress takes place throughout the semester and it is the complete learning demonstration which is the foundation for the semester grade. Learning progress can be seen based on assignments in Canvas and also based on the 9 week progress report sent home with the learner.
Ideally at Academy High School all feedback will be provided within the language of a scale. Learners will be given clear outcomes for academic performance at the beginning of an academic experience and will be given multiple opportunities to demonstrate learning around a concept. A semester grade for a learner is a demonstration of multiple data points of learning, and growth in that learning, over time. It is accurate based on learning, rather than other factors, and is understood by the learner as a demonstration of their growth over time.
Guskey, T. R., & Bailey, J. M. (2010). Developing Standards-Based Report Cards. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Heflebower, T., Hoegh, J. K., & Warrick, P. (2014). A School Leader's Guide to Standards-Based Grading. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research.
Vatterott, C. (2015). Rethinking Grading. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Mastery-based Report Cards and Grading Practices: Hanover Research
What can I expect as a parent?
Learner assignments and progress will be maintained in Canvas. As a parent you are able to create an account as an “observer” so you are able to see assignments and feedback shared by facilitators. There will be an official progress report sent home with your learner at the end of each 9 week learning period. Grades for courses which are one full credit courses are transcripted in December and in June. Grades for courses which are a half credit, or a .5, will be transcripted in June. These courses will be reported on the report card, which is sent home, so you are able to understand the progress of your learner in those courses even though they may not be transcripted in the first semester.
How can I track learner progress?
Learner progress will be tracked in Canvas. Progress cannot be tracked by monitoring a numerical grade, it must be tracked by understanding learning experiences and their impact on final deliverables. Learners are regularly engaged in assessments or learning experiences. The facilitator will be inviting your learner to a 30 minute learning tutorial with them during lunch on an assigned day. We have created this time so that each essential learning experience is taken seriously by the learner and so they are able to maximize opportunities for feedback. If you have a question about academic progress for a learner please contact the facilitator directly. We will also continue to publish our “Project Parent Letter” at the beginning of each project which includes an overview of the project, the anchor document, important dates, how you can be involved, and questions for the dinner table.
How do I know if my learner needs help?
Progress will be reported using Canvas. You can track learner progress on assessments. Over time, if you discover your learner has a trend of only level 2 achievement, you can reach out to a facilitator for clarification around learning growth and support for your learner. You will also receive a report of progress in the form of an official progress report three times in a semester, about every four weeks. This report will indicate holistically whether your learner is on pace, approaching pace, or below pace based on identified learning goals and standards. Lastly, you can anticipate regular communication from the learner’s facilitator if their progress changes in a negative way. Facilitators are engaging in strategic support and feedback related to learning goals and will be the first to recognize challenges for a learner.
What does each number in the scale represent?
A score of (4) would indicate that a learner exceeds a standard by consistently demonstrating an advanced level of understanding and/or the ability to apply their knowledge at a higher level.
A score of (3) would indicate that a learner has independently achieved the standard. The learner demonstrates proficiency with regard to the standard.
A score of (2) would indicate that a learner is developing an understanding of a standard, but still may be in need of additional instruction and/or support.
A score of (1) would indicate minimal understanding of a standard. The learner shows limited evidence of understanding the standard.
How does my learner get an “A”?
A learner is able to achieve an “A” by performing consistently above the identified standard. In essence, the learner is able to fully understand and remember basic vocabulary and concepts related to a learning goal, apply those concepts in an intentional and meaningful way, and create something new based on their learning. A learner will always be on a continuum of understanding. It is important to remember that a learner receiving reported feedback of a “2” on a learning scale does not mean they have failed an assessment. It means they are working to fully acquire necessary vocabulary and understanding which will allow them to demonstrate application and deeper knowledge toward the learning goal.
What does an official progress report mean?
In each semester, there will be three official reports of progress sent home with learners for parents. The most important consideration with each report is that they do not average to become the learner’s final semester grade. Each report, including the 9 week report, is simply an indication of progress toward learning within that semester. It is important that you discuss progress with your learner as each report comes home. If you have questions about progress the facilitator is the best first contact.
Why does this grade reporting practice feel so different from what I am used to as a parent?
The most clear difference in a standards-based reporting system is the specificity with which learning goals and progress can be communicated. In communicating clear opportunities for growth and learning there is also time given in this system for learning to occur. Rather than each assessment standing alone and averaging toward an end, it is acceptable in a standards-based system for a learner to take the time to work toward greater understanding of a learning goal.
The other clear difference is that demonstration of cognition and learning is at the foundation of progress within a scale. The system honors both the process of learning and the outcome produced. This is not a system where simple completion or compliance will result in a high example of performance. Learners will be given multiple opportunities within a semester to show growth in cognition toward standards and learning goals. It is important that learners continually apply learning forward and continue demonstrating growth in authentic ways.
What do I do if my learner is getting progress scores below what I expect?
The first place to begin is with a conversation with your learner. In this system, it is the learner who holds the responsibility for growth and achievement. There is not a way to cram for a test or complete one project with/for the learner to improve their grade outcome to an “A”. The learner must demonstrate consistent progress toward the identified learning goal. Most importantly, you and your learner need to have the same goals and vision for expected outcomes. As a parent, if your expectation is for the learner to be achieving at a high level, getting an A, then the learner also needs to have that expectation of themselves. A learner working toward that level of achievement will be submitting all evidence opportunities on time, they will be taking facilitator and peer feedback forward on assessments and can communicate about doing it, they will be independently seeking facilitator support when they do not understand, and the learner will have an intrinsic understanding of the best next step toward their goal of progress above the standard.