Founded in Washington, D.C., Capital City Public Charter School is a success story about forging positive change. The K-12 Expeditionary Learning school was using standards-based principles, but they decided they needed to refine their assessment practices. The leadership team identified their desired learning outcome as providing more consistent and regular feedback to students. After much discussion, they arrived at five new practices to attain this goal. These practices included:
- Don’t include student behavior in grades
- Don’t reduce grades for lateness
- Move away from using the mean, in favor of another indicator for determining grades
- Don’t measure students against one another but against performance on standards
- Don’t include zeroes in grade calculations when evidence is simply missing
Weekly protocol-facilitated discussions among teachers provided the organizational support to implement these practices in the most effective and efficient ways possible. As a result of these meetings, the teachers of CCPCS decided that a norm for targets would have to be created. This lead to a chain reaction that was pivotal for the school.
After realizing their learning targets themselves were not standardized, CCPCS discovered other inconsistencies in their practice. In order to keep assessments consistent, it was decided to distinguish between habits of work and academic achievement. This choice was critical to bolstering the school’s standards-based practice.
The choice to distinguish between habits of work and academic achievement was critical to bolstering the school’s standards-based practice.
After collecting data on work habits, the CCPCS teachers agreed they would not factor this information into final grades. They wrestled with the interconnection of habits of work and achievement on summative appraisals and took care to design formative assessments that truly moved students toward the stated learning targets. As a result, curriculum and assignments were geared toward demonstrated mastery, rather than classroom diligence. Once habits of work were eliminated in assessments, teachers were challenged to find ways of supporting students to meet deadlines and make up missed assignments.
Finally, CCPCS teachers agreed that the most honest way to grade for content mastery was to consider progress over time. Recognizing that most students don’t fare well in early assessment situations, teachers learned to weigh grades more heavily at the end of a lesson.
After reviewing their options, CCPCS decided to use Power Law as its method to calculate mastery. They were then challenged to find a software program that supported its adherence to this calculation method. It quickly became evident that JumpRope’s gradebook was the only choice for the school.
In addition its ability to use Power Law, CCPCS was delighted to discover that Common Core and National Arts Standards smoothly migrated into JumpRope. The friendliness of the gradebook’s interface and the transparency of the administrative console also made it a big hit with the staff at CCPCS.
“JumpRope’s ability to calculate according to Power Law allows it to do what other standards-based grading software programs cannot,” explained Katryna Andrusik, an instructional coach at the 9-12 grade level. “It wasn’t until we implemented this software that certain teachers were able to understand the way assessments are calculated. Now, teachers that are new to the system take to it like ducks to water.”
“It’s easy for teachers to identify and track the scores they need,” asserts Student Information Systems Director Will Hawk. “99% of the time, it’s seamless for teachers to pull in standards and work with the gradebook.” Because the array of assessments was too wide for the needs of the school, they were able to call upon JumpRope’s support desk to help them narrow the focus accordingly.
In keeping with its desire to provide more consistent feedback to students, CCPCS found JumpRope’s gradebook invaluable. “Students like to see where they are on specific standards, especially in areas where they haven’t attained mastery,” says Andrusik. “Parents are able to look at their kids’ grades and discover which concepts require work.” Thanks to its ability to break down lessons into specifics of standards, teachers were able to use JumpRope’s detailed assessments to discuss educational challenges with both parents and students in a more meaningful way.
Because JumpRope’s gradebook centralizes assessments, all targets are available to all teachers. Timelines, deadlines, and structures can be found in one place, making it easier to plan and teach similar content along different subjects. “For example,” Andrusik explains, “the writing non-fiction standard isn’t simply expected for English class; it’s also relevant to history and science courses. This interdisciplinary method of measuring mastery ensures that assessments and deadlines are met across the board.”
As teachers became familiar with each other’s lesson plans, there was more effective co-planning and co-teaching. Consequently, long-term targets became standardized across disciplines.
As teachers became familiar with each other’s lesson plans, there was more effective co-planning and co-teaching. Consequently, long-term targets became standardized across disciplines. Students at a particular grade level were able to understand what mastery looked like, and the benchmarks by which to achieve it, across subjects.
As Capital City Public Charter School has continued its successful relationship with JumpRope, it has become easier to bring new teachers into the fold, training them on the software, migrating data, adjusting lesson plans, and streamlining assessments. As the gradebook has evolved, so have its help documents, giving teachers quick and easy access to the instruction they need.
“The ability to impersonate a user to train teachers is another great feature of this gradebook,” says Hawk. “It gives newcomers a hands-on way of learning the system, plus it allows administrators a fast way to troubleshoot.” And because JumpRope is responsive to feedback, the gradebook is continually improving, becoming more flexible and efficient. “We’re excited about the changes and growth of the JumpRope system,” Hawk concludes.