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Omro Cohort PhotoSchools across the country are seeing the educational value in making improvements to the assessment and evaluation of student learning—and as a result, changing the way they grade.

The School District of Omro recently partnered with the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) to develop a sequence of graduate courses focused on the professional development needs identified by the district.

The initial cohort courses concentrate on assessing student learning. The first course introduced standards-based grading (SBG)—a powerful assessment practice of reporting a student’s proficiency on well-defined course objectives or standards to the students themselves, their parents and the community at large.

The second course focuses on creating strong formative assessment skills. With SBG, teachers use fewer graded assignments to monitor growth. Instead, strong formative assessments are critical for monitoring student progress.

Because of the COEHS partnership, the Omro school district has made the decision to transition to SBG.

“Having made the decision to transition to standards-based grading, the leaders int he Omro school distinct have learned from experts across the country and other districts in the region about how to make the transition,” said Lori Kroeger, special and early childhood education professor at UW Oshkosh.

Recently, Kroeger asked Erin Calvin, director of curriculum and instruction in the Omro school district, and Danielle Schmick, Omro High School math teacher and current cohort student, to share their SBG expertise and experience with UWO’s chapter of the Student Wisconsin Education Association (SWEA). Schmick is also the adviser for SWEA.

“As the future teachers in Wisconsin, it is important that our COEHS students enter the profession with an understanding of the impact and practices of standards-based grading.”

During the presentation, Calvin and Schmick talked about a consistent marking legend for all students and a flow in progression of learning goals from one grade level to the next. In order to examine areas of student success and improvement, teachers focus on four essential questions: What do students need to know/be able to do? How will we know when they have learned it? What will we do when they have not learned it What will we do when they already know it?

Omro report cards are aligned to these standards, known as Omro Power Standards, thanks to professional learning over the past few years and the hard work and dedication of teachers, administration, Kroeger and various community members.

“Change can be challenging, but constant,” Calvin said. “… at the end of the day, we have teachers, administration, a school board and a community who cares about kids and want to do all they can to support their learning and help them succeed in life,” Calvin said.

COEHS students appreciated the insights on SBG.

“This is just what we needed. I learned so much,” said Shannon Rattunde, SWEA vice president. “I hope I show the same love, passion and dedication for education when I become a teacher in a few years.”

Teachers participating in the Omro cohort are learning about effective assessment practices, supporting students from low socio-economic backgrounds and improving students’ literacy skills. The program involves teachers taking 15 credits over the course of the year, with the option of continuing to complete the master’s degree  in teaching and learning.

“By working closely with school districts, we are able to tailor our graduate programs to meet the professional learning goals of the district and the teachers within that district.” Eric Brunsel, graduate coordinator for the Department of Teaching and Learning, said.

Districts interested in to putting together master’s program cohorts focused on district specific professional development needs, or individuals looking to earn a master’s degree, can contact the UW Oshkosh College of Education and Human Services Teaching and Learning Department.

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