West Potomac principal's statement

Friday, November 19, 2010; 10:35 AM

As I've talked with teachers, parents and students about the recent publicity surrounding our grading practices, it has become clear to me that we do not have consensus within the faculty, the student body, or the parents at West Potomac to change our grading practices from prior years. More importantly, these issues are distracting us from our main mission--to teach our students to ensure high levels of learning. I returned to West Potomac last year to unite and to bring our community together in learning and in spirit. Therefore, it is important that I share with you the following decisions:

First, I have not nor will I ever tolerate cheating. West Potomac will completely return to its Unified School Discipline Policy where students receive forfeiture of credit for incidents of cheating or plagiarism.

Second, WPHS will return to our prior grading practices that include giving Fs to students who are failing at the end of each grading period. We will continue to plan for a smoother transition to mastery learning and standards-based assessments through stakeholder engagement.

Third, we will continue to develop collaborative teaming for the teachers, identify essential learning, assess the essential learning, and intervene/remediate with tiered and consistent response to ensure student learning. Teachers will continue to send gradebook progress reports every two weeks so parents can see what is going on in all their students'classes.

The structures I am enacting to support us as a community going forward include:

1. Creation of Grading Implementation Task Force. The Faculty Advisory Committee has requested an internal, teacher-driven task force to coordinate responses and propose solutions to policy problems. School Based Technology Specialist Zina Facemire will chair the committee. Teacher Bob Marston will be joining her. Results of their work will be published to the staff Blackboard site.

2. Creation of Advanced Academics Advisory Council. I have commissioned a committee to do a top-to-bottom review of our advanced academics program, share the data about achievement, and identify areas of growth and student support needed in the future and that are compliant with FCPS best practices and policies. This group will include staff and community members and will help communicate accurate information about our program to the community. This effort will be chaired by Assistant Principal Alex Case and Advanced Academics Coordinator Drew Hamlin. Please contact Alex Case at (703)718-2500 to join.

3. Creation of Assessment and Grading Advisory Council. Starting right after Thanksgiving, a committee including parents, students, teachers, and administrators will be formed to step back and examine standards-based assessment. It will examine, research, enlist input and educate our community in the issues I have raised about 21st century teaching and learning. If you are interested in joining, please contact me, Cliff Hardison, Principal at chardison@fcps.edu. Those teachers who have concerns about the grading paradigm shift are encouraged to participate.

Many of our teachers have been moving toward standards-based teaching and assessment, but this initiative is a paradigm shift that conflicts with traditional grading practices in our school, our county, and our nation. We will examine how we can avoid using grades punitively because our transformation into a Professional Learning Community (PLC) compels us to define essential learning, reward mastery learning, and tackle necessary teaching about responsibility and personal accountability in different ways than we have done in the past. This work is not easy and will not be 100% successful overnight, but it is the right investment to make for our vision of student success for everyone.

Thank you for your continued efforts to support all learners!

Cliff Hardison

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