Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Standard Snapshots 2010

"Standard Snapshot" is a purely Chets Creek term. It was invented by our founder, Terri Stahlman, as a way to help parents understand the standards. The idea was to periodically send home a standard piece of student work with commentary so that parents could see what standard work actually looked like. At first, standard pieces went home weekly! The process has morphed over the years. Now Standard Snapshots go home 3-4 times a year. As time has passed other changes have also been made. Now a piece of each student's work is attached to the standard piece so that a parent can compare his child's work to the standard piece. There also has been a conscious effort to use language that parents easily understand and to send home a "standard" piece, instead of the best piece on the grade level. We want the parent to compare against the standard, not against the best piece that was done on the grade level!!

Today the Curriculum Leadership Council met and discussed openly the celebrations and challenges with Standard Snapshots. After all Jim Collins says in Good to Great that you have to be brutally honest in order to begin to make changes. Below is some of the conversation.
  • Some teachers are not always collaborative when we meet  to choose a snapshot and to write the commentary. They just want to get it done. They would prefer that a single person take on selecting the piece and writing the Snapshot - not much collaboration there!
  • It's hard for large groups with 14 teachers on a grade level to make sure that all voices are heard if they collaborate through this process.
  • Teachers don't always value the process or the end product.
  • It's difficult to find a common piece if all teachers aren't following the Pacing Guide because they are not at the same place at the same time.
  • Do parents value the snapshots? How do we know? How do we know that they even see the snapshots?
  • Kids, especially older kids, don't value the product. ("Can we just recycle this?" - Ouch!)
  • Teachers don't have a way of seeing all the snapshots that are sent home in other grade levels and other subjects. They only see their grade level/ subject area snapshot.
I think we agreed that the snapshots are valuable to parents but also the process of looking at student work is valuable. So... how can we solve the challenges? Here are some of the creative solutions that the groups came up with.
  • Send the snapshots home with the report card so that we have a more captive audience and so teachers know exactly when to expect the snapshot to be due. Choose the topic at the beginning of the year when the Pacing Guide is laid out so there is no confusion about what will be expected when.

  • Find a way to interact with the parents on the Snapshot, even if it is just a required signature. An excellent example was provided by first grade - They sent a Science Snapshot that actually contained a little bag of rocks that change colors with the sun (that had been used in class-no extra expense) and an explanation of the experiment. The excited first graders couldn't wait to get out the snapshot and try the experiment with their parents at home. Now that's interaction of the perfect kind!

  • Another teacher suggested having the students buy-in by putting the standard snapshot on the document camera the day it goes home and having each child reflect on his own paper according to the standards. The child is then more able to discuss his paper with his parents.

  • We need to revise our template to make sure the questions are parent friendly and consistent - such as a bulleted lists instead of paragraph text which seems easier to read- We also need to take a look at white space to make sure that we haven't put too many words on the page! We don't want to overwhelm the parent before they even read the snapshot.

  • We need to find a bulletin board to display all of the standard snapshots in a year so that teachers can view them but also so students and parents can see them - and it wouldn't hurt to have them up for visitors!
All in all, it was such a productive meeting. Suzanne Shall, our Standards Coach planned for a day of discussion and reflection and as a result, we will refine our practice!

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

Discussions, like these that focus on improving our practice, always excite me. I appreciate the CLC's honesty and creativity and know it will ultimately lead to a better parent communication tool. I can't wait to see what the next generation of Standard Snapshots will look like.