Standards Based Grading

Margaux Newby, Mia Boudreau, Student

For years, Durango students have been learning the same way, within the same type of schooling system. However, this may soon change, especially for up and coming students.
Many states have started implementing a system of ‘Personal Competency Based Learning’ within their school systems to ensure that all students are prepared for the next level of schooling and can demonstrate their learning in college, their career and the community. PCBL encourages strong student-teacher relationships and collaborative learning. One of the system’s main purposes is to make sure every individual student gets exactly what they need to be successful, as well as have to ability to follow their own personalized path within their education.
“We’re transforming our education system into something that will prepare kids for the future; we’re really preparing students for jobs that don’t exist today,” said 9R superintendent, Dan Snowberger at a public informative meeting about PCBL.
The aspirations for a PCBL education system are that it would be preparing students for their future, whether it is college or a career. The Durango 9R administration also hopes that it will provide students with an individualized learning plan.
“What we do know is that one size doesn’t fit all. We really feel strongly that we have to have a system that allows every student to get to mastery,” said Snowberger.
Along with individualized and personalized learning, PCBL systems allow students to have more of a choice in their learning as well as how they demonstrate it.
“The focus is effectiveness of how every student can be successful. Their own choice, their own voice, their own learning,” said retired 9R teacher and member of the Board Of Directors of the Durango Education Foundation, Gretchen Wilson.
Instead of memorizing facts and information to pass a test, PCBL systems would allow students to demonstrate mastery in a personalized and unique way.
“PCBL puts the structures in place for students to engage and when appropriate accelerating their own learning. A student shows to the teacher through a variety of demonstrations that they have achieved or exceeded the standard. Once a standard has been achieved the student can move on to the next level/standard,” said DHS teacher Robert Logan.
The Durango 9R board is already shifting towards a PCBL system. Changes are slowly being made, in hopes that one day Durango can be a fully PCBL school district.
“Three years ago, our board adopted competency-based requirements, so the sophomore group today and freshman as well are subject now to demonstrate competency before they can walk across the stage,” said Snowberger.
Part of the move towards a PCBL system is a change in graduation requirements. The current freshman and sophomores (as well as all classes coming after them) are experiencing new graduation requirements. A big change in the requirements is an increased amount of required community service hours which is supposed to give students a stronger sense of community as well as a stronger presence within it.
One of the main reasons that Durango 9R wants to switch to a competency-based system is because they feel like our current system is not working. They see many students not getting the education they need to succeed and not being prepared for the next level of schooling. They do however feel like the system is working for a majority of students, but they want to make sure that every single students is adequately prepared for their next steps.
“We do really well with kids who have families who are supportive, who have the opportunity to travel, have the opportunity to be engaged in the arts, so our system is fine for those kids, but what we’re finding is that more and more kids are from poverty, more and more kids are second language learners, and are not being successful. We can continue to educate a majority and let others fall behind or we can look at how can we ensure that we educate all,” said Snowberger.
A central focal point of PCBL systems are the idea of educating the whole student body, and educating them all to the same degree of mastery.
Implementing this system into Durango schools would have both short term and long term benefits, according to DHS Principal Jonathan Hoerl.
“In the long run, we want to make sure students don’t have significant gaps in their learning. In the short run, we want to make sure we have aligned important instruction that makes sense and values kids,” said Hoerl.
There could be potential downsides, however. DHS students learning about this new system are recognizing how it could possibly be a way for students to do less work.
“I feel like the benefits could be from the kids who really struggle in school, this could be helpful to them, but kids who don’t actually want to do work are going to fake what they can do and they are going to be put on a track that they shouldn’t be in, just so they don’t have to do more work,” said Fr. Savannah Seale.
To learn more about PCBL education systems and the role that it will play within Durango schools and communities, there will be more public meetings at the Durango 9R administration building on Thursday, October 4th and Thursday, November 1st.