Parents, Admin, and SpEd

Everyone I’ve talked to about going gradeless has thought it was radical and interesting, and once I’ve explained it to them they’ve thought it was a neat and positive solution to one of the very real problems we have in education.

The first thing I did, before doing anything else at school, was talk to my admin. She was against the concept at first because she thought I was suggesting it for the whole school. Once I explained that I would be giving kids progress report and report card grades and that I was only referring to my own class, she was on board.

Next I had to speak with our SpEd department and the parents. More than half our school is Latino and of them, a large amount speak only Spanish at home.

It’s rather hard to talk to parents when one’s Spanish is as limited as mine, and the district also has parents who speak only Chinese, or Tagalog, or Arabic, or one of a handful of other languages. So there’s that.

However, we do have a Spanish interpreter who is our┬áparent liaison at my school. She was a teacher herself and she’s a great interpreter who has made communication so much better at my school. I knew I needed to meet with her and explain what I was doing, since the Spanish-only parents will be contacting her with questions.

I wrote a letter to the parents and had Google translate it into Spanish. Then I met with her for about 40 minutes. I explained the whole process. She had tried to do standards-based grading when she taught, so she was familiar with the basic concept and she was enthusiastic about what I’m doing. She asked me several great, challenging questions that made me think of future issues I might have. I showed her my gradebook, explained the codes I’ll be using, and described the research I’ve been doing.

I wanted her to feel comfortable handling routine questions that come up. Not because I don’t want to handle them myself, but because it would be easier and more timely for everyone (especially including her and the parents) if she can answer simple questions immediately instead of having to set a parent conference for a 5 minute discussion. Our parents work hard and often must give up pay to come to school to speak with teachers, so it matters if we can limit parent conferences to what’s necessary.

I told the students that I would have a letter they could take home to their parents so that their parents understand what’s going on and why Schoolloop is inaccurate. Students should have no grade in Schoolloop, but right now Schoolloop is displaying their 3rd quarter grades. I also want parents to have the chance to ask me questions. I’m certain I can get the parents on board, and I look forward to their more challenging questions because they’ll help me further develop and perfect this system now, instead of during 8th grade next year. But I don’t have the letter yet because it’s still going through translation. I anticipate sending it home with the kids on Monday.

I also told the kids it was important that they give the letter to their parents and then watch their parents read it. Too often we send letters home and the parents don’t read them, or sign without reading and return letters. It’s crucial parents understand what’s going on because this is a big shift, and the people best able to make sure their parents read the letters are the kids. The kids understood the importance of giving their parents the letters, so there’s that.

I will be assessing how well this system works over the summer and generating a new letter at that time. I’m hesitant to post my current letter for that reason.

I also need to set up a meeting with our SpEd department. Currently we have two full-time RSP teachers, one SDC teacher, and one moderate-to-severe teacher (I don’t teach his kids). Plus we have a school psychologist who’s a part of the SpEd department. It’s very hard to set up a meeting with them because they’re busier than I am, so I may send them an email and indicate times I’m free if they want to meet to discuss certain points. But it’s important to me to have the SpEd department know what’s going on because of the way going gradeless could impact IEPs and 504s. I don’t, for example, know if it’s legal to make progress toward goals an assessed part of my classroom. Maybe that would be a wonderful idea. Maybe it would be terrible. I need to talk to them.


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