Academic Services

2014 Winter Newsletter


Preparing EACH Student for a Successful and Meaningful Life


Turning Today's Learners into Tomorrow's Leaders

Standards Referenced Reporting

SBG & SRR – The Student Perspective and Staying the Course

By Kevin Daniel

If you really want to get some perspective about where we are with grading practices at Ray-Pec, have a conversation with some secondary students. Wow! Academic Services started a Student Advisory Group (SAG) this school year for the purposes of connecting with our students, asking for their input on school related matters and asking for their feedback about how district initiatives impact a student’s secondary world. Twenty-two students from grades seven through twelve make up our advisory group that will meet three times this school year. It has truly been a fun, rewarding and enlightening series of conversations thus far!

After having two SAG meetings I am more convinced than ever that the district’s efforts to move toward more effective grading practices and a guaranteed system of reporting of what students have actually learned is not only the right work but what our students are saying they need. While students have said it in many different ways there is no mistaking the following:

1. Students are generally frustrated with the randomness of grading practices and what we have dubbed the grading lottery from classroom to classroom.

2. Students are confused with inconsistent, unfair and outdated grading practices.

3. Students want more clarity about what they have actually learned rather than how well they behave in regards to matters of compliance.

It’s important that you understand students were not asked about, nor did they pinpoint specific teachers during these structured conversations. Rather, they gave perspectives on their overall secondary experience when it came to matters of grading.

It’s hard to believe that we are six years into our journey toward more effective assessment and grading practices, and a standards-referenced reporting system. The standards-based grading task force that launched during the 2008-09 school year is to be commended for having the vision to do what is best for our students even when it’s not been easy or convenient for us adults. We are now getting into the second-order changes associated with standards-based grading practices and a standards-referenced reporting system that do require changes in mindset and some changes in practices.

I challenge you to take the road less traveled, continue to do what is best for our students and honor what they say they need. I encourage you to stay the SBG/SRR course.

A special welcome to the new leader of Academic Services, Dr. Al Voelker. Dr. Voelker

brings a wealth of knowledge and unique perspective that will serve the district well on SBG/SRR and other district initiatives moving forward. Welcome to the team Dr. Voelker!

Redos and Retakes

By Reed Gillespie

Assistant Principal at Kettle Run High School, Nokesville, VA

One of the seminal moments in my life as an educator occurred about fifteen years ago when my school’s administration required teachers to practice mastery teaching with an emphasis on allowing redos and retakes.

Of course, the teacher’s lounge was abuzz with questions and critiques of the new policy. Redos and retakes took the brunt of the criticism.

Today, I’m an unabashed believer in retakes and redos; my “answers” to the more common criticisms follow.

Over the years, I’ve become more comfortable with redos and retakes thanks to my own experiences, my colleagues, and, in particular, the writings of Rick Wormeli and Ken O’Connor.

Complaint 1: Students need to be held accountable

I agree, students must be held accountable for learning. So which policy holds students to a higher standard? One in which we allow students to fail or skim by with a D or one in which we use redos and retakes to ensure student mastery?

Students need multiple chances to grow and learn. Each teacher’s goal should be for ALL students to master the essential learnings.

The research of Carol Dweck shows that if we teach students that their intelligence can increase, they will do better in school. In her ground breaking book Mindset, Dweck speaks of the benefits of a growth mindset, meaning that people believe that they can improve their abilities by dedication and hard work. As teachers, we must ensure students view failure as part of the natural learning process and an opportunity to improve. The long-term consequences of one’s mindset impact the entirety of a person’s life. As teachers, we play an important role in instilling a growth mindset in each of our students. We must teach our students to rise to the challenge of our high expectations, to continuously learn, and we must reward them for their sustained efforts.

Requiring students to master their learning through redos and retakes until they meet your high expectations demands far more of the students than letting them accept a failing grade.

Complaint 2: Students will take advantage of retakes by not doing their best the first time.

Honestly, this was one of my greatest concerns when I first began allowing redos and retakes. I was soon assuaged that it wasn’t a problem. Because the redo/retake required an additional commitment (time and effort), students never banked on getting to redo it.

Complaint 3: This isn’t how the real world works.


Last time I checked, you’re allowed to take driver’s test, SATs, ACTs, GREs, Bar Exams, and MCATs multiple times. Honestly, it sounds pretty pompous and petty for any teacher to say, my quiz on Chapter 6 is more important than any of the aforementioned tests.

Could you imagine how many people wouldn’t have their driver’s licenses if it was one and done? Confessional: I wouldn’t—parallel parking got me the first time.

When you enter your doctor’s office, does the diploma and certification on his/her wall distinguish whether it took him/her 1, 2, or 3 times to pass the MCATs? Of course, not.

I’ve since left the classroom and have entered administration. I wish I could say that every teacher has met every deadline, but I can’t. For a variety of reasons—some good and some bad—deadlines are missed all the time. And this is not unique to academia.

Need other examples?

  • The publishers who suggest corrections and modifications before the author resubmits his work reject authors.
  • Bosses would ask to see/hear a presentation before the young businessperson presents it to clients.
  • The apprentice plumber who works side-by-side with a master plumber who continually provides corrective feedback.

When it comes down to it, pretty much every “real world” job allows for redos and retakes. The investment capital makes it impossible to fire an employee for one failure. We must invest in our students by reteaching and retesting whenever they don’t meet our standards.

Complaint 4: They won’t have the opportunity to redo work next year in….

They won’t have time to redo work in college.

Let’s dissect this bit-by-bit. First, I don’t think it’s a true statement. Although I haven’t stepped foot on a college campus in two decades, please allow me to share one of my own experiences. One of my most challenging college classes was US History, Part 1. Everyday, upon entering the class, we were greeted with a five-question multiple-choice quiz. If we scored below a 4/5, we were required to write an essay covering the chapter(s) covered by the quiz. Students were assigned either a passing or failing grade for each chapter. The professor’s message to me was clear: each student bears the responsibility for his/her learning. Nothing less than a 4/5 is acceptable. Not only did this instill in me grit and responsibility, I also learned the material.

As a ninth grade World History teacher, when students entered my class on the first day of the year, I wanted students who were proficient in world geography (the 8th grade social studies class). I could care less, if it took the student one day or the entire year to master the geography curriculum.

Our high school recently held a roundtable in which we invited recent graduates to return and speak to students and teachers. A teacher posed the question about redos and retakes to the college students. Unanimously, the students voiced their approval of redos and retakes. One high-achieving student stated, “[The teachers who allowed redos and retakes] set a high bar; one that challenged us to do our best.”

Another student chimed in, “I felt better prepared for college because I had to master it [the content].”

These students experienced firsthand the value of redos and retakes. Through practice, re-teaching, feedback and retakes, these students mastered the learning and developed a growth mindset. To be adequately prepared for their next year, whether it’s 1st grade or college, students need to know the content and the skills.

Complaint 5: It’s not fair to the students who do well the first time.

The ability to retest should not be limited to low-achieving students. High-achieving students benefit from retests and retakes. When a high-achieving student scored a B on a test, he/she was often the first to sign-up for a retake.

Side note: Knowing that they have the opportunity to redo/retake a quiz or test, I’m willing to bet that the high-achievers will be less likely to cheat because they know they have a second chance.

Anecdotally, only rarely did I have any of my high-achievers complain about my retest policy—No, it wasn’t because they didn’t voice their concerns to me. I heard plenty of complaints about my projects, my lectures, my expectations, etc. Those who did complain most likely were used to an educational system that distinguished between the elite and non-elite.


We must move away from the I taught it; I tested it; Most of the students got it philosophy. Instead we must ask ourselves, “When students don’t get it, what do we do?”

We must answer, “We reteach and re-assess.”

Click here to read 12 Steps to Creating a Successful Redo and Retake Policy


Dweck, Carol S. Mindset. London: Robinson, 2012. Print.

O'Connor, Ken. How to Grade for Learning: Linking Grades to Standards. Arlington Heights, IL: SkyLight Professional Development, 2002. Print.

Wormeli, Rick. Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom. Portland, Me.: Stenhouse, 2006. Print.

Standards-Based Grading Overview
Standards Based Grading and the Game of School: Craig Messerman at TEDxMCPSTeachers
Rick Wormeli: Standards-Based Grading

Conversion Scale for Dual Reporting at the Secondary Level

From the very beginning of the district's journey into full implementation of Standards Referenced Reporting, dual reporting for the secondary level was in the plan. However, in order to convert scale scores into a grade point average, a conversion scale was required. On January 21st, RayPec's official conversion scale was revealed to the middle and high school. This scale will go into effect the 2014-2015 school year at East Middle School. Please use the links below to access a PowerPoint and chart that shows the conversion scale.
RayPec Secondary Conversion Scale

Twenty-Three Ways Golf is Better than Classroom Assessment and Grading

Re-Printed from Ken O'Connor

There are many articles, research, and conversations based around best assessment and grading practices. This article from Ken O’Connor is one of the best analogies of the philosophy around standards referenced assessing and grading practices that I have read. See what you think.

By Ken O’Connor.

I am a keen golfer and I sometimes think about how much better golf is at assessment and grading than what we have often done in the classroom. Let me list the ways as I see them.

  1. The scorecard tells you what the local rules are and the distance and par for every hole. It also tells you the relative difficulty of the course and of each hole on the course.

  2. The target is always clear because there is often a map of the hole beside the tee and, except on the odd hole with a blind tee shot, you can usually see the whole hole from the tee. Along the way there are markers at 200, 150, and 100 yards from the center of the green and even more accurate distances on sprinkler heads. Most courses use different colored flags to indicate whether the pin position that day is in the front, middle or back of the green.

  3. The rules allow the use of technology to obtain precise distances through the use of golf specific GPS devices and laser measuring equipment.

  4. You are allowed to use fourteen different clubs according to the length and type of shot required – and your personal preference/ability.

  5. Golfers of different abilities can play each hole from longer or shorter distances. The club where I play has four sets of tee markers that can be configured to play the course with eight different total distances.

  6. Your handicap is based on the best ten scores from your last twenty rounds; this recognizes consistency while emphasizing more recent performance.

  7. For handicap purposes anomalous scores on individual holes are not included. This is done through a process called Equitable Stroke Control whereby, for example, a golfer with a handicap between 10 and 19 never records a score higher than 7 on any hole for handicap purposes.

  8. After each round you enter your score into a specially programmed computer and if your score is outside the normal range for your handicap the computer asks you to confirm that the score is correct.

  9. You usually score individually but you can play in groups but group scores are never used for determining your handicap.

  10. The handicap system allows golfers of very different abilities to enjoy playing together or to compete against one another because the scratch golfer is hoping for a birdie but is satisfied with par, the mid-handicap golfer (me) is hoping for par (and the occasional birdie) but is satisfied with a bogey, and the high handicap golfer is hoping for a bogey but is satisfied with a double bogey.

  11. Most good courses have a driving range, a short game practice area and a practice putting green so you can warm up before playing and practice between the days on which you go out on the course.

  12. Practice doesn’t count as part of your score but the better and the more you practice the more likely it is that you will have a good score.

  13. You don’t have to play the full 18 holes.

  14. Scoring and playing golf is based on honesty and self-regulation.

  15. You keep track of your score on each hole and your total score but you can and should keep records of various aspects of the game, for example, fairways hit, greens in regulation, number of putts, number of approach shots, total length of putts made, number of times in bunkers, how many bunker shots.

  16. If you have a lesson from a professional they may ask you to bring your scorecard for your last few rounds. They will glance at the overall scores but they will focus on the details described in #15 because this shows the areas for improvement that should be the focus of the lesson.

  17. No golf pro has ever given me a score for a lesson; they give descriptive feedback in small chunks, never focus on more than three things at a time, and encourage self-assessment of what is working and what is not working because they know you have to be able to self-correct when they are not with you on the course.

  18. On a difficult course or a course you are playing for the first time you can employ a caddy to guide you around the course and give advice especially about putting.

  19. Players with differing physical capabilities or preferences can walk the course or ride a golf cart.

  20. You usually play with others but you can play on your own.

  21. You can play for fun or you can play competitively.

  22. There are many different forms of competition – fun to serious, individual or group.

  23. Refreshments are available while you play – either from a cart that comes around the course or at the half way house.

Standards Referenced-Reporting for Students with Special Needs

Now that we are in our second full year of Standards-Referenced Reporting, we are continuing to work through the details of how this is implemented for all students, including our students with special needs. We are all learners and the concept of SRR is definitely an opportunity for all of us to learn together!

As we know, ALL students should be included in standards-referenced instruction and assessment. We also know that accommodations can increase access to grade level instruction and assessment and that is our goal for all struggling students - a level playing field, no matter what the students’ strengths, weaknesses or areas of disability. We can use our student’s “abilities” to give them access to the same opportunities as their grade-level peers. In contrast to accommodations, modifications should be used with caution since we are changing the outcome of a student’s education when we lower or reduce the curriculum that they are offered. “Ready means ‘never’ if we continuously focus on the lowest-level skills.” -Maggie McLaughlin, (The Special Edge, Autumn 2009)

We continue to be impressed with the level of commitment that each of our teachers at RayPec have towards educating ALL students. This commitment is what makes great things happen for our students. The following reminders are tips to keep in mind as we continue to move forward in SRR:

*Collaboration between the general education and special education teacher is essential for determining appropriate accommodations, modifications and IEP goal development.

*By law, notations on a report card or transcript cannot, in any way, identify a student as receiving special education services.

*The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that an IEP is written to... “meet the child’s enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum…” Therefore, accommodations are not suggestions, they are required to be implemented. Accommodations can open a whole new world for students with disabilities.

*Specialized instruction is provided through the IEP to work on the skills that help to bridge the gap between the student’s current level of functioning and the grade level standards. The purpose of specialized instruction in the resource room setting is NOT to work on grade level expectations. That instruction should be occurring in the general education setting with the accommodations in place. Collaboration between the special education and general education teacher can help to make sure that is happening.

*Modifications of power standards and learning targets are most commonly used for students who are identified with intellectual disabilities or those students who function more than two grade levels below the expected level. Modified power standards and learning targets become primarily the special education teacher’s responsibility through development of prioritized goals in the IEP that align with the modified standards.

*The ultimate goal of Standards-Referenced Reporting is for students with disabilities and their families to have information that they are able to interpret accurately and use effectively. Using descriptive feedback in the comments section of the report card is a very important part of the information that we want to share.

Most Recent? Most Frequent? Most Accurate?

Reprinted From Tom Schimmer

The practices of determining if a student has mastered a learning target or power standard includes looking at evidence over time. This practice also includes a teacher’s professional judgment. Tom Schimmer discusses this concept in a brief article, Most Recent? Most Frequent? Most Accurate? This may help you as you continue reflecting on your current grading practices.

One of the fundamental tenets of standards-based grading is that greater (if not exclusive) emphasis is placed on the most recent evidence of learning. As students move through their natural learning trajectory it is important that students be credited with their actual levels of achievement. That is, when students reach a certain level of proficiency it is important that what is reported accurately reflects that level. To average, for example, the new evidence with the old evidence is to distort the accuracy of the grade; the grade then is reflective of where the student used to be as the student was, at some point, likely at the level the average represents.

What we have collectively realized is that the speed at which a student achieves has inadvertently become a significant factor in determining a student’s grade, especially when determined within a traditional grading paradigm. When averaging is the main (or sole) method for grade determination, success is contingent upon early success or the average of what was and what is will continue to distort the accuracy of the students’ grades. Never forget that every 40 needs an 80, just to get a 60. That’s pure mathematics; the lower the initial level, the more a student has to outperform his/herself in order to achieve even a minimal level of proficiency.

More often than not, the most recent evidence of learning is the most accurate. This is especially true when our standards, targets, or performance underpinnings represent foundational knowledge and skills. Foundational knowledge and skills are typically elements of the curriculum that have a fairly linear progression and slip back is highly unlikely; once students truly know or can do something it is unlikely that they will, even after an extended period of time, suddenly not know or know how. That doesn’t mean mistakes won’t occur. Even the most proficient students make mistakes. That also doesn’t mean they’ve suddenly lost proficiency; errors are an eventual occurrence. But does that mean the most recent evidence is always the most accurate? Not always.

Sometimes the most frequent evidence is the most accurate. Generally, the more complex the standards or the demonstration of proficiency is, the more likely it is that a teacher will need to consider the most frequent evidence as the most accurate. Take, for example, writing. Students are often asked to write in a variety of styles and/or genres. As such, taking the most recent writing sample may be misguided since the expected style/genre could be the student’s weakest. For example, if a teacher asked the students to write an argumentative paper as their final paper, and that is the student’s weakest form of writing, then the potentially poorer result may give the appearance that the student’s writing skills have declined. However, if the teacher had simply chosen to reorder the assignments and make argumentative writing the first paper, then the optics would reveal a very different trajectory. With complex standards/outcomes like writing, accuracy is more effectively achieved when the teacher examines all of the writing samples and looks for the most frequent results as they relate to the intended standards.

Staying with the writing thread, the most recent writing samples may be the most accurate within a particular style; if a student writes multiple argumentative papers then it’s likely the most recent is the most accurate. However, as the styles change, most frequent may be more accurate. The point is that we need to be more thoughtful about how we apply the concepts of most recent versus most frequent. This is more art than science and teachers must become comfortable with using their professional judgment. Remember, the goal is accurate grading and reporting. The art of grading is about the teacher using his/her professional judgment to determine a student’s level of proficiency. Teachers are more than data-entry clerks who enter numbers into an electronic gradebook; they are professionals who understand what quality work looks like, who know what is needed for students to continue to improve, and know when the numbers don’t tell the full story.

Professional Development

RayPec Live Streams John Kuglin

On January 3, 2014 the district technology team successfully used live feed at eight different district sites to deliver professional development by John Kuglin. Why stream PD? With the focus of the presentation about technology and the need to have teachers access internet sites, the district currently has no space that could support 600 staff members on computers and wi-fi. By streaming, teachers were able to follow the presentation and work on sites that John Kuglin introduced.

John Kuglin came to RayPec last year and presented to parents, students, and staff members to kick off the Raymore Peculiar digital transformation. This year Mr. Kuglin's focus was on how teachers can effectively use technology tools to deliver information to students and parents.

Here are a few quotes from Twitter various staff members tweeted about their day of learning:

"I love PD where ample and self-directed work time is embedded. This morning is rocking so far." Erin Hillier

" Love learning new ideas for my website!" Jen Halvorson

"Wow! Ted Education is so cool. Loving this session!" Stephen Rew

"Loving the idea of flipping videos with TED-Ed!! Can't wait to use it soon!" Stephanie Dieker

"How do you sift through the mountains of new information you get from good tech PD? " Drew Ackerson

"Thank you Mr. Kuglin! Round 2 has me seeing stars yet again." Jason Waltz

Ryan Gooding played an integral role in designing this day. He and his team deserve many kudos for all of the set up to make this day successful.

Mentoring Program

Teachers in their first and second year have been busy learning how to improve and enhance their craft.

This winter, there have been several opportunities for our new teachers to understand the best way to engage learners. In after school sessions in December, as well as during the day, PD and observational time on January 29 and February 4, new teachers were being provided with discussion topics, scenarios, and activities that will help them engage their students at higher levels. Students need to be the ones who are mentally taxed when the school day ends, not teachers. New teachers learned how the 4 C's ( collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and creativity) can impact student engagement. The teachers had an opportunity to feel what a 4C lesson would feel like by participating in the Marshmallow challenge. Teachers from Timber Creek won with an impressive 30" tall structure: Halvorson, Dusselier, and Copenhaver.

In a recent after school session, the first year teachers also learned how they can utilize brain breaks into their routines.

Teachers have also had opportunities to observe other teachers throughout the district.

Academic Services

Kristel Barr, Director of Student Services and Secondary Education

Linda Bass, Director of 5-12 Special Education

Kevin Daniel, Assistant Superintendent

Karen Hurst, Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Elementary Education

Karmin Ricker, Coordinator of Instructional Design, Technology Integration and Mentoring

Jacque Underwood, Director of Early Childhood and Elementary Special Education