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A message surrounding Standards-Based Grading

By Alan Black, Director of The Schools of McKeel Academy


Since we first opened our doors over 20 years ago, The Schools of McKeel Academy (TSMA) have been known to seek innovation in education. As pioneers within the state of Florida who lead the way in the charter school movement, innovation is the very fabric of who we are. Three campuses strong, each having consistently earned “A” grades since 2001, in addition to being named a High Performing Charter School by The Florida Department of Education, we don’t stop seeking innovation in the classroom. We are ever researching, creating and implementing best practices with the key driver of delivering excellence in education for your child that ultimately prepares them for the road ahead~equipping them for both college and career.

In recent years, this driver has not only had influence on how we teach but also how we grade and assess your child(ren). I am referring to the shift that many schools have already adopted within the state of Florida and throughout the nation since the early 2000s known as Standards-Based Learning (SBL) and Standards-Based Grading (SBG). Many of your children have already experienced this educational shift at both our McKeel Academy Central (MAC) and South McKeel Academy (SMA) campuses where we began implementing these initiatives over the past three and four years respectively. I recognize that this teaching method and measurement has been met with mixed feelings; and understandably so. After all, it’s all we’ve ever known. The traditional grading system has been our nations norm dating back to its inception in 1785 at Yale University. Which begs the question, what else does our culture and society still practice today that dates back to 1785? In short, not much. I’m confident you can affirm how vastly different our society has truly evolved and progressed not only in industry, medicine and technology but certainly in education as well. Even within our own classrooms, chalkboards have been replaced by what a new generation knows only as Smart Boards allowing for classroom instruction that can connect our students to the world around them Skyping everyone from authors to astronauts. Among the multitude of social milestones and advances, we can agree that much progress has been made in the way we live, work, play and communicate when compared back to 1785. Why then do we fear progress in the way we arrive and determine true student learning by utilizing a grading system that is well over 230 years old? The time has more than come.

So what does this mean for you and your child(ren)? When will we move completely to SBG? For the majority of our students, nothing changes at all. Students of MAC; there is no change. Students of SMA in grades K-6; there is no change. We will maintain the momentum already underway with SBL and SBG at both of these campuses. School-wide nothing changes in terms of the way we teach the Florida Standards. At the onset of the 2019-2020 school year, students rising to grades 7-12 at both MAT and SMA will also continue utilizing the same Standards Based Learning methods as they experience today. Assessments and grades will continue to follow the traditional grading scale for the foreseeable future as we further evaluate and collaborate with experts in the field. This caution in implementing Standards-Based Grading at the secondary level is in no way a disbelief or a lack of confidence in this movement. When making a monumental shift such as this, it has always been our directive to implement the process in stages. As a result of student success already experienced with our K-6 grade levels at MAC and SMA, we will continue to gather additional data from those schools within Florida and across the nation who have gone before us prior to making any further changes at the secondary level. Like you, we have questions. For example, how do colleges and universities calculate transcripts for admissions? Will your high school students transcript be acceptable for various college admissions? In the meantime, we will continue to align our schools with the experts from Marzano Research. Many of our faculty and staff, myself included, have already completed training from Marzano. Training will be on-going as we continue to roll out this initiative with 100% of our faculty and staff to be trained directly from the best of the best by the conclusion of summer 2019.

You may stay connected to TSMA website for future information and links pertaining to SBG. Additionally, as we progress and look to the future, I am making the following organizational changes. Michele Spurgeon, current Principal of MAC will assume the role of Assistant Director of Instruction. Her priority will be to work collaboratively with experts across the country, as well as her fellow Administrator’s and teachers as we collectively move forward with Standards Based Grading. Michele brings nineteen years of experience in education, sixteen of which have been with The Schools of McKeel Academy. Having experience as a teacher and in leadership as an Administrator both at MAC and SMA, I am more than confident in Michele’s skillset and expertise as she leads TSMA into the next stage of implementation. I have also named current MAC Assistant Principal, Angela Massung to the role of Acting Principal for MAC for the remainder of the school year.

As we move into 2019 rest assure that TSMA is prepared to embark upon the next 20 years developing the next generation of critical thinkers who will contribute and compete in a global market. We will not maintain a philosophy of status quo. A competitive education is no longer left for the arena of higher education. A lot has changed since TSMA first opened its doors and we recognize that competition is far greater. We know you have a choice where you can meet your children’s educational needs. We want to provide you with the sound mind and trust that comes from that choice being McKeel.

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