Learning Habits

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If someone proposed combining measures of height, weight, diet, and exercise into a single number or mark to represent a person's physical condition, we would consider it laughable. How could the combination of such diverse measures yield anything meaningful? Yet every day, educators combine aspects of students' achievement, attitude, responsibility, effort, and behavior into a single grade that's recorded on a report card—and no one questions it.

On a broader scale, education improvement efforts over the past two decades have focused primarily on articulating standards for student learning, refining the way we assess students' proficiency on those standards, and tying results to accountability. The one element still unaligned with these reforms is grading and reporting. As part of our school improvement efforts in the near past and future, Middleton High School will be exploring the use of standards-based report cards at the secondary level to help us align grades with assessment with learning standards.  A first step in this process will be to report on TWO learning habits separate from the letter grade for each course.

What is the driving force behind this pilot?

There are three key beliefs moving this initiative forward:

  •  Grades should reflect achievement of intended learning outcomes – whether the school is using a conventional, subject-based report card or a report card that represents these intended learning outcomes as standards.
  • The primary audience for the message conveyed in grades are students and their parents; grading policies should aim to give them useful, timely, and actionable information. 
  • Grading policies should be set up to support student motivation to learn.  A student should never reach a place where there is no point doing any more work because failure is inevitable.

How were the two learning habits selected?

Last year over 15 staff members learning and implemented aspects of standards-based grading in their classroom.  During the school year, they shared their experience and learning with the entire MHS staff.  In May 2013, the MHS staff completed a survey of 10 learning habits that are routinely used at other high-performing schools across the state and nation.  We selected the two learning habits that received the highest level of support from staff – with over 75% ‘strong supporting or supporting’ the measurement and reporting of these learning habits separate from the course achievement grade.

How will the learning habits be assessed?

All teachers will use the following rubric to measure and communicate the extent to which a student displays each of the learning habits in their course.  A learning habit score of 4-3-2-1 will be reported on the report card adjacent to the course grade and attendance data.

Learning Habit 4 3 2 1
Prepared & Organized

Brings needed materials to class and is always ready to work.

Brings needed materials to class and is ready to work most of the time

Usually brings materials to class but sometimes is not ready to work

Often forgets needed materials and is rarely ready to work.

Work Completion & quality

Assignments are always high quality, complete and turned in on time

Assignments show quality and only a few are late, incomplete or missing

Several assignments are late, missing or incomplete

Assignments are usually late, missing, or incomplete

How will parent/student input be sought regarding the learning habits?

We will seek feedback from parents and students several times throughout the school year to gauge the effectiveness and usefulness of this information.  In addition, we will share the data we collect about how the new measure impacts student performance.  Several schools who currently use a similar system report improvements in the learning habits when the criteria are made clear, they are measured, and students/parents received clear feedback on student performance.