Check-In with Ms. Kovalesky (03/08/24)

Check-In with Ms. Kovalesky

Dear STEM Parents and Community,

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this year’s Wish Week campaign and made it a huge success. The students and staff enjoyed the assemblies, spirit days, evening events, and restaurant nights. Everyone is so happy to see Bella’s wish of going to Disneyworld with her family come true!

We are looking forward to seeing all of you at Parent-Teacher Conferences. Parent-teacher conferences are an important part of supporting your student’s academic growth and development and a contributing factor to your student’s overall success. We are committed to partnering with every parent and/or guardian.

Elementary School conferences are being offered Monday through Friday of next week and are pre-scheduled with your student’s teacher. Secondary conferences will be on Thursday night and Friday morning. Secondary teachers will be available for 10-minute intervals and will be located in the secondary gym, athletic entrance hallway and middle school cafeteria.

If you cannot attend your student’s conference, please contact your student’s teacher and/or building director to schedule a conversation on another day.

Standards-Based Grading Update for Secondary Families and Students

The original move towards Standards-Based Learning and Grading was an attempt to address issues of student work being more representative of their overall learning and less on punitive grading measures. Our desired outcomes included:

  • Promote learning that is specific to each student
  • Reduce transactional work
  • Reduce busy work
  • Eliminate a toxic zero that is impossible to recover from

We recognize that Standards-Based Grading has come with several challenges at the secondary level. We are actively working as a school to improve our grading syhttps://stem to provide a better experience for students, teachers, and parents in the coming year. I would like to thank our parents and community members who have actively participated in the discussions and provided us with feedback on Standards-Based Learning and Grading. We aim to keep all of our stakeholders informed as we work through the struggles at the Secondary Level.

Identified Struggles:

  • Confusion and issues related to the interplay between Mastery Connect and Canvas affecting clarity and feedback.
  • Equal weight is given to all standards despite varying importance.
  • Limited grading options, specifically missing the 3+ and 4- levels.
  • Challenges with students completing learning opportunities.
  • Accumulation of retakes and mastery work causes mental and emotional strain.

The Teacher Support and Administration Teams met with Canvas to create a possible workaround to eliminate a few of the struggles highlighted above. A Standards-Based Grading Working Group of outstanding secondary teachers (Ms. DeWeese, Mrs. Bates, Mr. Schnake, Mr. Smith, Mr. Sweeney, Mrs. DIllon, and Ms. Szczekocki) volunteered to pilot the new practices for us. They are committed to working through these struggles and helping guide our next steps.

Responses to Struggles

  • Confusion and issues related to Mastery Connect and Canvas
    • SBG Working Group is exploring an option to eliminate the need for Mastery Connect.
  • Varying Assignment Weights
    • We will use total points for high school grading instead of being weighted by the standard.
  • Limited grading options for 3’s and 4’s
  • Through ongoing coaching, professional development opportunities, PLC work time, and practice, teachers will improve their ability to:
    • utilize varying assessments with increased opportunities for 3’s and 4’s;
    • organize and re-prioritize standards to identify what needs to be addressed first;
    • develop PBL units that will inherently differentiate content
  • Challenges with students completing learning opportunities
    • Accepting feedback from staff and working on SBL school cohort resources
    • SBG team will research providing feedback on work habits and character traits

The SBG Working Group met on 2/14/24 to discuss the struggles, brainstorm additional solutions, and dive into what we call the SBG Sandbox. The Sandbox is an extension to Canvas that is NOT operational in the current Canvas gradebook. The working group was tasked with entering grades from a unit from last semester. This solution is intended to eliminate Mastery Connect and the confusion that MasteryConnect has created.

Next Steps

The Sandbox Working Group will meet with parents and student volunteers to evaluate first-semester grades with this new reporting method. If this is a viable option, a select group of individuals will participate in a go-live mode immediately following Spring Break. On April 19th, our Secondary Teachers will receive additional professional development to learn about the new reporting methods. The new method, if supported by positive feedback, will roll out at the start of the 2024-25 school year.

If your child has one of the teachers in the Sandbox Working Group( (Ms. DeWeese, Mrs. Bates, Mr. Schnake, Mr. Smith, Mr. Sweeney, Mrs. DIllon, and Ms. Szczekocki) and you are interested in participating in the Live Mode after Spring Break, please email michelle.gasser@

Thank you so much for your support and commitment to improving our school.

In partnership,

LynAnn Kovalesky, STEM Executive Director

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