Hundreds of Teachers Rally Against Standards Based Grading

Teachers pleaded with school board members Tuesday night to amend or end Standards Based Grading practices, among other initiatives.

The parking lot at District 279’s Educational Service Center on Tuesday night was full. So was the building’s cafeteria and board room. Hundreds of educators spilled out into the hallways and sat on the floor when no chairs were available.

The show of force was an effort to convince District 279 School Board Members that a number of district policies and initiatives, including standards based grading, are guiding students and teachers away from the district’s mission.

“We teachers are grateful to the parents of the Osseo School District who entrust their children to us and work with us to provide the best education possible for the students,” said Annette Walen, the first teacher to speak at the Jan. 22 school board meeting. “As professionals we want to do what’s best for kids, but we have been facing more and more obstacles that are getting in the way of the quality education that our children and our families deserve.”

Walen gave school board members a stack of 755 letters signed by teachers in the district who want to see change. She said she hopes that Tuesday night’s presentations will lead to more honest dialogue between district leadership and staff regarding how to improve student learning.

Teacher Gloria Singh said that her colleagues in the district can’t foster success in the classroom because of the lack of preparation given to new initiatives.

“We want to deliver instruction in the quality, professional way we know our children deserve,” Singh said. “As new initiatives have been implemented, we believe these programs have moved forward without the preparation necessary to foster success for all of our students and ultimately our community.”

Singh’s examples included what she called a “haphazard implementation” of the district’s spelling program, the teaching of Minnesota history without curriculum and receiving new science kits without sufficient training.

“Standards Based Grading has been rolled out in a piecemeal fashion without anticipating and addressing potential glitches beforehand,” Singh said. “We continue to receive confusing and conflicting messages from district administrators as to how to determine grades under the new system.”

Related: Parents Express Concern About ISD 279 Standards Based Grading

When Singh finished her statement, she received a standing ovation from those packed in the boardroom. The applause lasted minutes.

Osseo Senior High School teacher Shawn Johnson followed Singh’s speech, adding that Standards Based Grading forces teachers to undermine the district’s mission. Johnson said that Standards Based Grading allows students who would normally fail a class to pass.

“No one here would think that the practice of passing failing students prepares them to be competent,” Johnson said. “It’s not the teacher’s responsibility to fix a broken grading system.”

Long time Osseo Senior High School teacher Paul Wardell compared the district’s teachers to crew on a ship with a broken sextant.

“We are off mission,” Wardell, a teacher for 37 years, said. “The grading practices have been invented by employes of this district...none of which use the tool they’ve invented. So, as we row this ship,the sexton has been created for us that does not work. As we say, ‘the sextant does not work,’ what we’re hearing is, ‘raise the sails, full steam ahead.’”


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Hulk Rules Brother January 24, 2013 at 02:11 PM
Kenoc, I wish you were in charge of implementation in 279! Unfortunately, current administration has not communicated as well as you have here.
MN January 28, 2013 at 08:09 PM
I have heard this comment recently, "LEARNING is the constant, TIME is the variable." I want kids to learn the material, even if it may take them longer than the deadline. Watch You Tube videos of Rick Wormeli. He answers many of these questions and makes you think.
Michael February 01, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Certainly district 279 is not the first district to implement such a program/philosophy. This goes back to "throwing wet paper towels at the wall and HoPING they stick". They dive in without the full planning necessary to involve every stakeholder without know if the research says it will work. Meanwhile we waste our teachers time, at the expense of our children only to drop new initiatives a few years later while we go nuts about the next best silver bullet! When are the districts and board members going to figure this out? We no longer need to guess about what works and what doesn't because many pioneers have gone before us to know if new initiatives are worth our dollar. Shame on district 279 and any other district that adds more to a teachers plate without buy in, and many times without any data on its effectiveness!
SK February 02, 2013 at 04:16 PM
FP, You clearly do not understand the school budgets as the new MG football uniforms, etc. we're paid for with funds raised by the MG team.
Dave Eckstrom February 07, 2013 at 03:17 PM
I am going full-blown SBG this year (on my own--most people in my district don't even know what it means yet) and I can say whole-heartedly that I will never go back to a traditional points-based grading system. If my district forces me to stop doing SBG, I will quit. This method is so much better for students it's unbelievable. However, it requires a good deal more work on the teacher's part. Administrators seem to have this sort of a blind side to how hard teaching is (probably because most of them only taught for 3 years and then got out). As a result, they often just hear about some idea at a conference or in a paper and dump it on the teachers without thinking about what it will do to their workload. If you find something essential that needs to be packed in your suitcase and the suitcase is already full, you have to find something that is not essential and take it out, or it will not all fit. The same thing is true with a teacher's workload. For example, I am now required to use an online grade book, which students, parents and administrators have immediate access to 24/7. I have a district email account and web page and a phone sitting on my desk all the time. Yet I am still required to assemble and send out weekly progress reports and have parent/teacher conferences 4x per year. Why? As life changes, we need to adjust, but the teacher's workload only adjusts upward. That's probably what is going on here.


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