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Class During Covid: How teachers at Patrick Marsh Middle School are measuring success

Measuring the success in the classroom in this new Covid-era of education. NBC15 answers: What does this look like and how are students measuring up? This is part of NBC15′s special series: Class During Covid.
Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 8:41 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 28, 2020 at 10:34 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -

The first round of grades is set to come out next week for students in the Sun Prairie School District. It will be the first true measurement of how students are navigating their virtual education.

In NBC15′s special series, Class During Covid, Amy Pflugshaupt checked in with Patrick Marsh Middle School where she learned teachers are putting more emphasis on something other than grades.

“After we got past the first two or three weeks, it feels more normal now,” said Doug Maughan, a 7th grade science and social studies teacher. “I feel like we’re behind a little bit, but it’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just adjusting to the new normal.”

After 20 years of teaching, Maughan had to learn new ways to reach his students and more importantly new ways to measure students' success. He said the curriculum in his classes are widely project-based. Usually, he said, there is one large project at the end, but this year he’s broken it up into small steps for the kids.

“We can check on that weekly,” said Maughan. “That way they don’t get too far behind too quickly.”

He’s found ways to interact with students in real time. These are just some of the tools he uses.

Padlet

Google Slides

Google Classroom

Flipgrid

iCivics

Google Maps

Pear Deck

Maughan said of these, one that is his favorite is Flipgrid. He said it allows students to create short videos where they present what they’ve learned.

“It’s a great place to see student’s personalities and creativity,” said Maughan.

He said he’s using it for a recent assignment that has students create a short commercial about the purpose and requirements of voting.

District administrators knew going into the school year some changes would have to be made to monitor student achievements. The communication and engagement officer for the Sun Prairie School District shared this slide with NBC15 showing how administrators adjusted the strategic plan. Patricia Lux-Weber listed the district priorities from the scorecard as follows:

· Best Practices in Infection Mitigation

· Best Practice in School Nutrition

· Post-Referendum Committee Work

· Best Practices in Teaching and Learning

· SEL Implementation

· Adult Learning Progression Towards Anti-Racist Practices

“Our district will continue to use assessments to measure student achievement in a similar manner to how we’ve measured student achievement pre-COVID with some adaptations to the assessments,” said Lux-Weber.

She gave this example: elementary students are participating in one-on-one reading assessments with teachers via zoom. She said teachers are sharing the book the student is to read using a document camera.

Lorelie Gauger is a 7th grader in Maughan’s class. She said she’s feeling supported by her parents, teachers, and the school district.

“We do breakout rooms which is where they can make multiple groups of students,” said Gauger.

She said those groups are anywhere from three to five students. She believes it allows them to talk about the lessons to get a better understanding and to also get to know her peers.

The Sun Prairie School district doesn’t use the traditional A, B, C, D, F scale. For students kindergarten through 7th grade, they earn a 4, 3, 2, 1. This is known as standards based grading. Inside the school’s handbook this is the rubric teachers use.

This is a page from the Patrick Marsh Middle School's handbook.  It shows the  rubric for grades.
This is a page from the Patrick Marsh Middle School's handbook. It shows the rubric for grades.(NBC15)

Maughan said the difference between the two scales is that traditional grades combing test scores, quizzes, homework, and participation points all together and then an average is reflected in a percentage. In standards based grading, he said it separates everything out. This gives a clearer picture as to what specifically the student is struggling with.

While every student’s experience is different, Gauger feels like she is thriving in this new learning environment.

“For participating I got fours in all of my classes,” said Gauger. “I think for all of my classes, I’m at a three which is an average grade.”

Whether students earn a letter grade or number ranking, Maughan, who is a dad of three, is challenging parents to look past the report card right now.

“As parents, I think you have to step back and make sure your kid is staying connected to you, your family, their siblings, and everyone in their life,” said Maughan. “If they are not there mentally or emotionally, then the learning just isn’t going to happen.”

The Silvering through all the challenges of COVID

If there is one good thing to come out of all the chaos that COVID-19 has caused this year, Maughan believes it’s an increase in parent involvement. He said during virtual parent teacher conferences, he had 90% or more participation.

“I think parents wanted to experience what the zoom was like,” said Maughan. “The parents want to make sure [students] are doing okay. So, participation was a lot more than previous years.”

He said he thinks parents are more involved, too, because for many families are sharing the same space when it comes to schoolwork and working.

“I had a lot of parents comment that ‘Oh, that was really funny when that happened in class.’ They are sitting at a kitchen table literally zooming for work next to their kids zooming for school,” said Maughan. “They’re not really in the class, but I think that conversation is going on a lot more at home.”

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