David Pearson has revolutionized the instructional systems and structures at EMS since his appointment there in 2005. The traditional junior high model has been transformed to one based on effective teaming practices, integrated instruction and parent engagement. By minimizing leveling practices there has been a dramatic increase in the number of eighth grade students completing Algebra 1 and English Language Arts, and mathematics test scores are consistently at the top of the District Reference Groups (DRGs).
Pearson is the first administrator in Connecticut’s history to have received the Assistant Principal of the Year Award, Outstanding First Year Principal Award and Principal of the Year Award. He was named the state’s top assistant principal in 2001 when he was associate principal of Timothy Edwards Middle School in South Windsor; and, he was selected as the middle level outstanding first-year principal in 2003 as principal of Two Rivers Magnet Middle School in East Hartford.
In 2010, the Connecticut State Board of Education (SBE) adopted new national academic standards known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English language arts and mathematics that established what Connecticut’s public school students should know and be able to do as they progress through Grades K-12.
Since the SBE’s adoption of the Common Core, districts across Connecticut have implemented the standards and made preparations for the next generation of assessments. As part of this process, David Pearson, principal of Ellington Middle School, sought a more accurate system of reporting skills students must demonstrate to meet each grade level’s standards.
As part of the Common Core State Standards initiative, Pearson spearheaded what became a three-year endeavor to develop a report card that would not only keep students, teachers and parents focused on student learning goals, but closed the gap in achievement among different groups of students. He sought to have a reporting system that would also provide more accurate information about a student’s progress toward meeting specific content standards for the various subjects taught at the seventh and eighth grade levels.
Pearson launched the project by forming a Performance-Based Learning Committee (PBLC) to plan out the details of the new grading method. Made up of a team of teachers and administrators, they researched how to best introduce a new standards- based report card. Faced with a myriad of questions - among them being how they would calculate grades, how they could link assignments to standards, and how rubrics could be customized in the system – the committee sought a solution that would address them all. The district used Rediker’s AdminPlus to collect data and create report cards, and these challenges would truly test the system’s capabilities.
Knowing that going from a traditional to a standards-based reporting system would be a significant shift for any school community, Pearson framed the new grading system as “report cards plus – everything in a traditional report card, plus more detailed and actionable standards feedback”.
The PBLC agreed that Rediker’s report card system was part of the solution as it allowed them to customize standards and skills to meet their needs, then design and print the report cards. Customization would also allow for a letter grade to be added to each subject along with the standards associated with it. In addition, Rediker’s customization allowed the school to reach its goal of creating a report card that separated academic achievement from feedback on students’ effort levels.
With the help of the AdminPlus Student Information System, Ellington Middle School introduced their new standards-based report card at the end of the 2013-14 school year. The report cards identify a student’s level of progress with regard to each standard as well as provide an overall letter grade. The successful implementation of the standards-based grading system promotes self-directed learning and student acquisition of 21st century skills. In addition, the new standards-based report cards were a natural lead-in to digital portfolios and student-led conferences.
“With the new standards-based reporting system, students can be evaluated more objectively according to consistent grade-level standards,” Pearson explained. “The new system will help close the gap in achievement among different groups of students. And, the new report cards will provide the added benefit of keeping teachers and parents focused on student learning goals from the very beginning of the year.”
Where letter grades used in traditional report cards are a more subjective reflection of individual teachers’ expectations for student effort and achievement, Rediker’s report cards provide detailed information about how a child is doing in each subject. Parents will be able to see whether their child needs extra help in certain areas or when they need to be challenged more.
“By using these clearly defined standards, teachers and parents can work together to ensure that students succeed,” Pearson said.