Alma & Standards-Based Grading
Alma is an online program that AcademyACL is using to record students progress within a standards-based grading system.
Privacy of Student Data
It is important that with any program, we seek to be as confident as possible of the privacy of student data. As we look at programs for parents to access their own students’ information, we will cease to use any program that we are not confident will have all reasonable precautions to protect that data. Please feel free to investigate the Alma statement and visit their website: http://www.getalma.com.
Please contact the office if you have any questions or concerns.
We use Alma in two ways: the gradebook program that tracks students’ progress on supporting standards for the year; and the report card “learning report” program that tracks students progress at the end of each trimester on the larger power standards for the year.
One of the reasons we do not use the D11 grading system is so that we can have our own standards-based system that reflects students working at different grade levels of instruction than they might be enrolled, such as a “third grade” student working on level five math.
AcademyACL’s report card is a “Learning Report” that identifies each student’s demonstrated work ethic at that level, separately from his/her level of mastery of the standards. The work ethic level for each subject denotes whether the student has missing or incomplete assignments, is turning in quality work, is following directions for the assigned expectations, etc. The mastery level for each subject follows this scale:
- 1.0 the student can only attempt the concept with help
- 2.0: the student can define the words but not necessarily apply the concept without major or frequent errors
- 3.0: Mastery- the student can fully apply that particular standard
- 4.0: the student can fully extend the application of the concept into new areas beyond what the class was presented
- 5.0: the student can substantially extend the concept and create new material with the concept that is significantly above the level of 3.0 mastery for this class.
In standards-based grading, percentages are not used. Students’ scores are instead tracked on each standard, progressing from the first time they encounter the material to the last time before the trimester grade report is created. Scores on power standards should increase over time. Students are expected to reach at least 3.0 level of mastery by the end of the year. A percentage, commonly used in a traditional letter grade system, would hide that growth.
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Here are resources for more information on Standards-Based Grading:
Philosophy of Classroom Placement
AcademyACL uses multi-age divisions rather than separate grades for a variety of reasons. These divisions provide the opportunity for students to connect with peers of similar interests within a wider age range; they allow for year-two students in that division to demonstrate leadership skills; they take away the assumption that all students of a certain age need that age’s level of curriculum; and they provide the opportunity for students to work with the same homeroom teacher for two years.
By giving students, teachers and families the opportunity to work together over a two-year period, students can set and continue specific goals for a longer period of time and it reduces the amount and depth of orientation that needs to occur in the fall as students can pick up right where they left off in June. Therefore, with the exception when a teacher changes a teaching position or there is a unique situation in which a better fit would occur for the next year, we keep year-one students together with the same homeroom teacher for year-two placement in that division.
When we are looking at classroom placements for students moving up to the next division, we look at a variety of factors. The process of assigning students to classes throughout the school is a complex one that begins with balancing student and program needs and maintaining appropriate class sizes. As teachers prepare year-two students to move up into the next division, they work to establish goals that can be continued in the fall and to ensure that cumulative portfolios document the students’ progress over time. They hold discussions with the next division’s teachers and note particular strengths and areas of growth, and then at the end of Student Orientation in the fall the homeroom lists are set.
We hold our Initial Family Conferences so that we can discuss first quarter goals, and we take information from those conferences into consideration as we work through Student Orientation. We hold Student Orientation during the first two weeks of classes so that we have the opportunity to get to know students and see the patterns that emerge as different groups of students work together. We intentionally work to acclimate new students to our unique school design and expectations, and we anticipate an adjustment for our new students throughout first quarter since for many of our new students, it is the first time to work in a classroom focused on gifted educational expectations and very high levels of critical thinking. This initial investment of time in the orientation period, trying different student-combinations between divisional classes, allows us to create homerooms that function very well together for the rest of the year.
Our goal is to arrange a placement for each child that can offer that child the greatest chance of success and support. The teaching staff takes multiple factors into consideration, including but not limited to the following, in no particular order:
- Intellectual, social, emotional, behavioral and developmental needs
- Preferred learning styles
- Physical and social maturity
- Interactions with other students
- Social dynamics within particular groups of students
- Male/female ratios
- Leadership skills
- Student friendships
When teachers meet with families at Initial Family Conferences, they invite parents and students to share information that can be used for individual goal-setting. This information is taken into consideration as teachers work together as a division to group students. Other than this information at conference time, we do not solicit individual requests from our families for specific teachers. Attached is a sheet that families are welcome to send ahead of time or bring to this Initial Family Conference time.