Friday, August 9, 2013

STEMathon and PARLO

That's me taking part in my first ever presentation at the STEMathon conference in Harrisburg, PA.  My colleague, Suzanne, and me along with two researchers from PARLO, Nancy and Kathleen.    They plan to have another STEMathon next year, so keep your ears open.  

Here are the slides for our presentation:

PARLO stands for Proficiency based Assessment and Reassessment of Learning Outcomes.  So yes, it's a form of standards based grading (SBG).  But here's where it's more awesome that what many teachers are doing with SBG: it's grading scales is not based on a point system, it is based on student knowledge.

Many teachers using SBG use a 5 or 6 or even 7 point scale, where every outcome or assignment is graded on this scale.  The problem is that teachers need to look at an assignment and determine if it's 5 out of 7, or 4 out of 7, or whatever out of 7, and it's difficult to distinguish a 5 from a 6.  With PARLO there are 3 levels (it is not a 3-point scale).  The three levels are Not Yet Proficient (N), Proficient (P), and High Performance (HP).  From there the PARLO team leaves it up to you.  You can read more about how our district converts all these Ns, Ps, and Hs into a grade here.

FAQs and comments:

Are all your students learning different things at different times?
No.  You would teach class like normal using formative assessment :)  I only allow students to be academically all over the place once in a while on a Flashback day.  Read about those here.

SBG or PARLO isn't real life.  In real life there are deadlines and no second chances.
I beg to differ.  If a students fails a class, they are allowed to repeat it (next year).  But why make them wait an entire year to do so?  Let's have them learn the material right now, not a year from now.   When people are leaning something new outside of school, they are permitted to make a mistake, learn from it, and try again.  I'll use running as an example again.  I keep running the same races every year, because I am a work in progress, sometimes my time is worse, but I learn from those experiences and come out knowing more that before.  How about cooking?  If you mess up a recipe, you can try again.  You get the idea.
SBG has deadlines, not as many as traditional grading, but there are deadlines.  Every time grades are distributed, there is a deadline.  The ultimate deadline, the end of the year.

What about the unmotivated students who are happy with Proficiency?
PARLO is not a magic spell.  It's not going to magically make students motivated.  But I have used peer pressure to help out a little bit.  Here are a few of my strategies to 'motivate' students to become HP.  If there is an interesting activity that corresponds with an outcome I will tell the students we can try it once every student is Proficient.  This works wonders to get everyone Proficient.  I have offered class rewards for a certain amount of HP and/or P.  This year I plan to make the HP leaves for the Proficiency trees a different color that the P leaves.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nora, your response about PARLO and SBG not being "real world" is spot on! In "real life," drafts are written and reviewed and edited, teams meet, collaborate, consider, reconsider, and submit. And sometimes it's a go, and sometimes it's back to the drawing board. And in all this back and forth, there is powerful learning going on. Also, to offer one other example, consider the teen learning to drive. If he/she doesn't demonstrate proficiency during the driving test, he/she understands they need more practice, more experience on the roads. They're "not yet" now but with more practice, they'll reach proficiency and get their license. These kids get additional opportunities to learn to drive. They should also have additional opportunities to learn mathematics.