All schools operate in a culture where all students are engaged in a rigorous and relevant curriculum and where all students are successfully learning.
Performance-based Learning will impact every student, every classroom, and every parent as District 51 transforms over the next few years. The district will work collaboratively to answer numerous questions during the transformation process – from determining how to weave important life skills into the academic setting to deciding how teachers will determine whether a student has proven he or she understands a piece of curriculum and is ready to move onto the next piece of the content puzzle.
It will take time to answer all of these questions. For now, here are some questions that have been answered.
Mesa County School Dist 51 FAQ
Why the need for change? This isn’t how we were taught in school.
Everything in our world has changed since our childhood except for the way we educate a lot of our students. Technology has rapidly advanced, our economy has become increasingly global, and the jobs of tomorrow require a much higher set of skills. Across the country, there are many efforts underway to remodel our education system to better align it with modern needs, in the same way that we would rewire a hundred-year-old farmhouse to bring it up to code. A shift to a Performance-based Learning system is one of the most important changes under consideration.
Will there be letter grades and Grade Point Averages like we are all used to?
Performance-based Learning systems do not rely on traditional letter grades to measure student progress. Instead, student performance on individual skill levels is measured on a scale based on level of mastery (from 1-4, for example, with 4 demonstrating the most proficiency). The resulting performance record gives an accurate description of the depth and breadth of learning each student has achieved. Some schools nationwide are translating their evaluation systems into GPA equivalents, while others are using different approaches to communicate overall student performance.
How will colleges and universities react to our transcripts?
We will continue to provide the classic transcript, but over time, we will also be providing a translated version that is applicable to Performance-based Learning. We believe our students need to be presented on an equal playing field regionally and nationally. For example, we will continue to include weighted grades for AP classes. Additionally, we are working with colleges and universities to help them understand a Performance-based system.
What about the standards – are we ignoring them?
In District 51, we will still be teaching on all Colorado Academic Standards. We have an obligation to do so, believe standards are important and are designing a highly rigorous system. We will seek ways to engage students in how they learn and show mastery of those standards.
How will students be assessed/ what do we do about mandated tests?
We will continue to take mandated tests, and use the results as data points. We will also put a greater emphasis on timely classroom assessments that track progress and provide the right type of personalized feedback to our students.
Aren’t we already seeing whether students are proficient through papers and tests?
While tests and papers are valuable ways to measure how much a student knows, they are just two methods for demonstrating proficiency. Every student learns differently and every student can show how much they’ve learned in a different way. Traditional unit tests allow students to pass on to the next unit without mastering every key concept in the unit. A student may get seven out of 10 questions right on a math exam, for example, and still pass. Those three incorrect answers may have all pertained to one concept that the student just didn’t “get.” In a performance-based system, the student would have to show he or she understood that missing piece of the unit before moving on.
Can teachers teach whatever they want?
As professionals, teachers know their students the best and can artfully customize instruction. Teachers will still be held to Colorado standards and District expectations. A teacher will have great flexibility to respond to individual needs and set a personalized pace for their learners.
Will technology replace a teacher?
No. Blended and online learning will allow students to utilize Performance-based Learning more creatively and effectively, but teachers will still deliver content, teach, facilitate, and be participants and leaders in a classroom.