On the morning of Thursday, April 9, teachers and district staff members from across Alvin ISD joined together at Manvel High School for the chance to hear directly from students on their personal experiences with Alvin ISD schools.
Before the students entered the room, Monica Solomon, from the Schlechty Center, instructed the staff members to listen to the expressions of the students and evaluate their levels of engagement they have experienced in school.
Once the students were seated, the questions began. The discussions were structured to explore current high school students’ understanding of the teaching process and what their feelings are about how they are currently being taught. The discussions also sought to provide an understanding of what the students feel is important to how they learn.
When asked, “How do you know when you have done quality work?” junior Hasaun Glasgow said, “When my grade goes up, or when I can teach someone else, I know I really have the information.”
Ms. Solomon then posed the question, “Say I’m your teacher, what do you want me to build into the work to make it worthwhile?” Joe Gutierrez answered, “I like that the assignment makes you think of something interesting. Try to give some life to the topic and make the student interested in more than just getting a grade.”
Senior Lorin Sherdin feels that teachers need to ask questions such as “how can I assist you to accomplish your future goals?” in order to get to know them as a person or learner. “The public education system tries to group 800 kids into one standard, instead of allowing students to pursue their individual interests.”
Many of the students mentioned feeling pressure about grades. Ms. Solomon asked if they could redesign their own grading scale, how would they like to be graded. The students agreed that they would like to be graded based on effort and quality of work.
After the students returned to their classes, the group of educators spent some time in reflection. Dr. Tiffany Unruh, Alvin High School teacher, shared that she noticed that many of the students continually talked about the relevancy of the material taught, either now or in the future. She also noticed that the students made the comment that they wanted to be graded based on what they learned, not on what they didn’t learn, which posed the question, how can we change the grading to be more supportive of their learning.
Another main focus of the discussion was personalization. Director of Technology Services, Laura Perez noted, “Students want instruction that is personal to them.” Ms. Solomon made note that in the other focus groups conducted around the district, a lot of the students had the same feedback. She posed the question to teachers, “Have you considered bringing students in to help teachers design the work?”
As the session neared the end, Ms. Solomon encouraged the teachers and district staff members to think about what they heard. “This time of year is the ideal time to receive feedback directly from our students because we have the opportunity to make changes for the next school year to meet their needs,” said Lisa Butler, Alvin ISD executive director of professional learning.