The purpose of this blog is to share insights into educational issues affecting Jerome Middle School. These could be new teaching strategies; new ways of grading; new ways of holding students accountable; new ways of getting students involved in their learning; or even new ways of getting parents more involved in the events at school. I hope that these posts will help answer some questions about happenings at JMS!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why Power of "I"?

Power of "I" - for those of you who don't know what this is - it is the Power of the "Incomplete".

Why do we use this program at Jerome Middle School? Why do we give students a "second chance" to complete and redo? Why don't we just "give" them zeros and "F"s if they don't get it right the first time? I heard many of these questions from parents at last week's parent/teacher conferences. Some were confused at the difference between an "I" and an "F". They were confused as to why we would allow students to "redo" - they (the parent) didn't get to and it was just fine for them(that is a quote from one mother).

So, why Power of "I".........

I first heard of this concept from an educator named Toni Eubanks at a Hight Schools that Work/Making Middle Grade Work Summer conference. I went to her session looking for ways to motiviate students, and came out with an "aha" - we can't let students take the easy way out.

It has taken us many years to realize it, but students do not learn in the same manner, or at the same rate. We present a concept - plan an engaging lesson - have students practice said concept - assess the students - then find out some of them just didn't "get it." We need to move on for those who did; but, we also need to allow those who didn't a chance to learn that concept. Power of "I" does just that. It doesn't allow a student to just take a zero on a project - that "I" remains until they complete it - and complete it in a manner that demonstrates they truly understand the concept. The old way of giving a zero for not done assignments, or an F and moving on, did nothing for the learning of the student. Nor did it tell the teacher anything about what the student truly knows and can do.

Some students do not do well on "tests". At JMS, staff also have begun utilizing Standards Based Grading. Tests are broken down by standard/objective - students must show mastery on each section of that test. They receive an "I" on any section that didn't show mastery - students have the opportunity to redo. Sometimes that means being retaught by the teacher; sometimes it means demonstrating the concept through writing; sometimes it means additional practice before redoing the test.

At JMS we believe that all our students can learn - Power of "I" ensures that. Teachers identify what I call the "by-Gods" (excuse me) - these are the critical concepts that all students show know and be able to do before moving to the next level. These "By-God" are what teachers focus "I" assignments around. "I"s are not given for "practice" - they are given for "summative" assessments that demonstrate knowledge during and after a unit of instruction. Sometimes those assessments are in the form of a test while others are projects students complete.

So why Power of "I"? Because we have high expectations for students - we expect and give them the support needed to reach those expectations.