STEM School Highlands Ranch

Never Stop Innovating

At STEM School Highlands Ranch, Michelle Vitale’s 9th grade english class is doing a peer review workshop as part of an assignment where they are writing a short story.  At the same time, Vitale is teaching them how Standards Based Learning (SBL) will play into the assignment.  With SBL, traditional grading is adapted to a model where students are better able to track their progress.

STEM is in the preliminary stages of rolling out the SBL model.  For the 2021-2022 school year, teachers are doing the prep work and introducing the idea to students.  The current plan is to fully introduce SBL at STEM for the 2022-2023 school year.

Michelle Gasser, STEM Director of Professional Development, explained the current process.

“So what you do with prioritizing your standards is you go through your list of standards, you determine what are the most important standards and the key standards that our students need to learn,” said Gasser.  “The other standards are supporting standards and they will go along with that unit.”

While the SBL Subcommittee at STEM has not yet decided to move away from the traditional grading system, SBL is something the Colorado Department of Education is encouraging school districts to consider implementing.

“Decisions could look different depending on the school,” Gasser explained. “We could have our elementary school using a 4,3,2,1 system and our high school using an A through F system and that really depends on the feedback from the teachers.”

Vitale says from what she has experienced so far, she sees a lot of benefits to the new model of learning and grading.

“ I definitely think that the proficiency ratings are more useful than the A, B, C, D or 100 percent grades,” Vitale says.  “Because it really shows kids where they are at, more than, did they meet all the requirements, did they check all the boxes.”

As the testing phase continues, the SBL Subcommittee will discuss the pros and cons of the learning model, and will then decide how to best implement it across all grade levels.

STEM 9th Grade English Teacher Michelle Vitale explains Standards Based Learning to her class as part of an exercise
The Colorado Department of Education is encouraging all school districts to implement the SBL learning model
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