Archive for Friday, December 2, 2011

First Bell: ‘BIPE’ founder believes in standards-based grading; cameras keep eyes on (bomb) threats; will Free State need a makeup day?

December 2, 2011


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By now you’ve likely heard about opponents of the Lawrence school district’s use of standards-based grading for sixth-graders new this year to middle schools.

But what about the folks behind an alternate effort, a petition that actually supports the use of such grades? According to the online petition, the effort’s sponsor is a group known as Believers in Public Education, or BIPE.

Here’s some advice: Don’t bother looking for it on Google.

“It’s just something I made up,” said Julia Rose-Weston, who teaches art at Cordley School and created the online petition early last month. “There was a space there, and it was blank. I decided to come up with something. ...

“It was creativity.”

The petition and its electronic signatures, however, are very much real. Rose-Weston and some of her teaching colleagues are working to counter recent opposition to the grading system, a standards-based model that has been in use in Lawrence elementary schools since 2003.

This year, the system moved up into middle schools with the arrival of sixth-graders. This year’s sixth-graders continue to receive the same standards-based grades (S, M, T, and E) as last year’s sixth-graders did. They’re also receiving the same overall letter grades — A, B, C, D or F — that sixth-graders received last year, and that seventh- and eighth-graders continue to receive this year.

Folks on both sides differ on what the traditional letter grades mean, as they also disagree on the benefits or drawbacks of the standards-based system.

One other difference: While the opponents’ online petition, with each new signature, automatically generates and sends a notification email to members of the Lawrence school board and select administrators — and at last count, the opponents’ petition had more than 200 names — Rose-Weston’s effort does not.

Instead, the art teacher simply plans to forward the entire document to board members when the time is right, likely later this month or in January when board members plan to discuss the issue and determine whether to continue with the system for sixth-graders.

She’s hoping that the district will continue to support the use of standards-based grading, no matter what opponents might say.

“They want to treat a sixth-grader like a high schooler,” she said. “These kids are 11 and 12 years old. I think they still need the standards-based (grades). They’re still kids. …

“I’ve always said kids handle change much better than us adults do.”


I’ll say this up front: I have no idea who made a bomb threat Thursday at Free State High School, forcing the building’s evacuation, canceling classes for more than 1,500 students and triggering a meticulous search for explosives inside the 257,000-square-foot building.

But I do know this: The Lawrence school district has 530 security cameras, some of which certainly are focused on the parking lot and sidewalks and doors of a building where more than 13 percent of the district’s students attend.

And those cameras don’t include the private security cameras in place at other buildings nearby that might have been running when some person or people arrived at the school, approached the front entrance and taped a handwritten bomb threat on the front door.

Lawrence police have the note. Investigators certainly are reviewing the tapes. Douglas County Crime Stoppers has its hotline open, with anonymous tips carrying the potential for an award of up to $1,000.

Could it be a student? A former student? Another young adult? Someone else?

“It could be any number of people,” said Kyle Hayden, the district’s chief operations officer.

Folks interested in providing tips for authorities may call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 843-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers does not use caller ID.

Anyone with information about the crime also may call the police department at 832-7650.


There’s no word yet on whether students at Free State will need to make up their lost time in class.

Kyle Hayden

Kyle Hayden

Same goes for teachers.

Administrators need time to figure out just what might be required as a result of the bomb threat and the subsequent canceling of classes just before the bell rang Thursday.

“It’s yet to be determined,” Hayden said.

Among factors to be considered: The district is required to provide a baseline number of hours for classroom instruction. That’s why districts often plan ahead for snow days, so that they can ensure that students will reach the minimum number of hours without having to extend or otherwise rearrange school schedules.

How to account for employees’ time at work also remains to be determined. Administrators plan to consult the district’s Master Agreement for teachers before making a decision.


GMom05 6 years, 6 months ago

++++1 DIST.

Their petition currently has 46 signatures. 9 withheld their name and 8 were from individuals living in other states and countries! 37% solid Lawrencian (at least Kansan) votes. Um, not too convincing.

T-Targeted for growth. You're right, that does make a person feel better, rather than calling it an 'F.'

Question. Why is it we have more support from middle school teachers, (the ones BTW that have the most to lose by speaking out) against SBG, than you do in your whole petition? Where are all the middle school teachers in favor of SBG? Come now, you can all jump right up and speak freely.

Several of the petition signers made reference to counting kleenex boxes into grades. Really? You haven't got anything better than that? Surely you can see that's not the way the majority of teachers do it and with one email from Dr. Doll the practice could easily be stopped with no complaints.

Well, if kids get used to change better than adults, than they'll get used to the letter grades in Middle School too, won't they? Besides the district keeps telling us nothing has changed. They've been getting traditional letter grades since 4th grade, so why's it a problem now, hmmm? Your side of the fence keeps paying lip service to more communication and information going to the parents and so far that has been patently UNTRUE. Fix it or dump it, but do not think we're going to accept the garbage we're being given now.

Windemere 6 years, 6 months ago

Mark, thanks for your great reporting on this topic, but I sumit to you that this statement is probably not accurate: "They’re also receiving the same overall letter grades — A, B, C, D or F — that sixth-graders received last year, and that seventh- and eighth-graders continue to receive this year."

The letter grades 6th graders receive do not seem to be the same as the letter grades 7th and 8th gets. Yes, they are "A through F". However, consider this: 1) the 6th grade teachers must use the SBG philosophy in the letter grading, not just the SBG grading, for example, Learner Behaviors cannot be factored at all in academic grading and they are restricted in how they can "count" homework. 7th and 8th IS different. Different rules and different inputs means you cannot say they are the same "traditional letter grades." 2) parents who've asked HOW those letter grades are derived have often been provided vague answers. A middle school teacher told me (I am paraphrasing) that some teachers are going the extra mile and meticulously recording scores on tests, etc., etc, and coming up with a percentage-based letter grade that's fairly close to what a 7th or 8th grade teacher does. (though they are not allowed to factor in Learner Behaviors, as noted above). [And by the way, the district has TAKEN AWAY the computer-based tool that allows them to do this easily; it's called Making the Grade. So these poor teachers are having to do this analysis "by hand." ] Further, this middle school teacher told me that some teachers, understandably overwhelmed by the many changes and the time required to do 6th grade SBG, are simply "not keeping two sets of grades." They must record an SBG mark, but for letter grade, well, it is unclear how that grade is derived. What is it based on? Parents of 6th graders do not know and are not getting specifics in many cases. In contrast, it's typical that a 7th or 8th grade teacher will tell kids and parents at the beginning of the year :"Here's how I calculate grades." And it's spelled out clearly - e.g. 50% final, 20% the science project, 10% homework, etc. etc. That's what 6th graders ought to have -- and right now, they do not. Last note -- this not a slam on 6th grade teachers. You have been told to do something that is unreasonable. Feel very badly for you. Hope things change for the better.

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