Last night was our first set of Parent-Teacher Conferences of the school year. This school year has been crazy busy. As a 6-teacher team, we have adopted ActiveGrade. Without a doubt, ActiveGrade has been a tool that has helped us really change the conversation around assessment and grading. This program is so well designed. It forces you to reflect on your current assessment practices and make changes as necessary. Because of the reflection and change in practice that ActiveGrade has inspired, there has been a ton of work to do. On my own level, I have had to re-think many of my assessments. This is fine, I am used to it. I was sort of the guy on the bandwagon campaigning to adopt ActiveGrade, so when others need help with assessment, grading, or set-up, I was the go to guy. There were busy times, frustrating times, and a few encouraging times...then conferences happened.
We have a neat setup for conferences. Parents get to come in and visit with the whole team of teachers. Typically, we had grade reports for each student that listed assignments we had given and corresponding scores. The format of the grade report created an atmosphere where you talked about tasks that students had completed, how well they had completed them, and ideas to improve if needed.
Last night was so different. We still sat down together. Instead of grade printouts, we were circled around a SMART board. Each teacher brought up their class, but the focus changed. ActiveGrade doesn't allow you to focus on the tasks, instead it really forces you to focus on the learning goals (or standards, outcomes, skills, whatever you want to call them). Our entire set of conferences totally focused on the learning. Sure, from time to time the tasks and assessments that went into the learning came up, but the learning targets were on the forefront. Amazing how a simple tool change can change so much.