Board discusses grading system


TORRINGTON – The Goshen County School Board convened for a regular meeting on Tuesday evening, March 2. The meeting, broadcasted over YouTube live, started about an hour late after a pre-meeting executive session for “personnel.”

Seventh grade science teacher Angela Ochsner presented a slideshow about standards-based grading at Torrington Middle School. Ochsner told the board she was in her ninth year of teaching and was in her eighth year of using standards-based grading.

“We had to decide if we believed in it,” Ochsner said. 

Ochsner said she was scared of the system at first and was reluctant to adopt the method of grading. Now, she says she is very proud of what she and her colleagues have accomplished using the new system of grading. 

Ochsner explained how standards-based grading does not focus on academics only. Rather, standards-based grading places emphasis upon both academic achievement and affective achievement or respect and responsibility. 

Ochsner cited the Torrington Middle School Mission Statement, “to ensure that all students learn at high levels and develop habits to become productive citizens.” She explained how the mission statement inherently expressed the need of students to have both academic and affective success to be productive citizens.

Ochsner explained the importance of both students and teachers having clarity; students and teachers both need to know what is expected, she said. She employs a process in her classrooms where students work together with the teacher to establish “norms” expected in the classroom. Each student is then held accountable to the established protocols. 

Ochsner cited DuFour’s Four Essential Questions to Guide Learning and its application to standards-based grading. DuFour’s questions are: 1. What do we want students to learn? 2. How will we know when students have learned? 3. What do we do when students haven’t learned? 4. What do we do when students have already learned?

She explained how students’ abilities are gauged through the use of assessments. Students take these assessments and are then categorized according to their results. Students who are having difficulty learning the required tasks are given options to address their misunderstanding or difficulty with the task at hand. 

Alternatively, students who do well on the assessments are given opportunities to enrich or enhance their knowledge on the subject area. Ochsner uses these projects to allow students who are knowledgeable of the subject matter to expand their knowledge and gain more, rather than holding them back.

One board member asked if the methods Ochsner was employing was consistent. Ochsner said it was consistent throughout the science instruction discipline at Torrington Middle School, but she was unsure as to how other subject matters were being handled. 

Another board member asked how they know students don’t digress if they are taking part in enrichment projects. Ochsner told them she has been incorporating the success criteria of the original learning goals and supplementing that with additional tasks to challenge the students.

After Ochsner concluded her presentation, the board approved the consent agenda. They then approved the proposed revisions to policy 5152.5 and 5153. The board discussed the approval of administrator contacts for the 2021-2022 school year.

The board went through each administrator and voted whether to approve the contracts. The board approved contacts for Nyana Sims, Tyler Floerchinger, Marv Haiman, Jim English, Chase Christensen, Randy Epler, Cory Gilchriest, Trina Nichol and Tim Williams. All contracts were approved unanimously with the exception of Chase Christensen, who had some nay-sayers. Cory Gilchriest had one abstention. 

The board approved offering a contract to Marcy Cates as the District Business Manager, approved the proposed new district policy 5101 regarding kindergarten readiness, approved a $19,003 purchase for Torrington High School music room cabinetry, approved an $8,143 purchase for Torrington Middle School for musical instruments, approved contracting with Home and Lawn Services LLC for 2021 district weed control, sterilant and fertilizer application, approved the proposed demolition of the Torrington High School Tech Education building (pending approval of the project by the School Facilities Department) and approved an early resignation notification incentive for certified and classified staff members.

Superintendent Ryan Kramer expressed his gratitude to Banner Health and Goshen County Public Health for making it possible to vaccinate the staff who wished to be vaccinated. Kramer said everyone who wished to have the vaccines will have their second vaccination within the next week and a half. 

Board Member Zach Miller asked Kramer if the School Board Association had taken a stance on Senate File 67, a bill before the legislature to remove some of the gun-free zones surrounding government buildings, public meetings and schools. Kramer was not aware of any stance taken by the association.

The Goshen County School District Board will have a special meeting Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 7 p.m. and the next regular meeting will be Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 7 p.m.

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