Fraser Heights is in North Surrey which is the fastest-growing community in British Columbia. We acknowledge and are proud to live, work, learn and play on the unceded and traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the Kwantlen, Semiahmoo and the shared territories of the Katzie Nation.
Fraser Heights enrolls about 1520 students including about 90 international students. Fraser Heights students are highly motivated, and academically oriented, and come to school to build their skills in preparation for their numerous post-secondary endeavours. Over the past five years, Fraser Heights has adapted its academic programming to further meet the needs of its diverse students and our parent community. Examples of these adaptations include the Inquiry 8 Cohort, Discovery Program, Learning Support Program, English Language Learning, Building Academic, Social and Employment Skills (BASES) Program, high participation in District Careers and the grade 11/12 Science and Math Academy. In addition, there is a vibrant club and athletic culture in our school with many students participating. Some of the clubs are subject centred while others focus on a commitment to provide service to the school and wider community.
Fraser Heights enrolls about 1520 students including about 90 international students. The majority of students are high functioning, academically oriented and come to school to build their skills in preparation for post-secondary. Over the past five years, Fraser Heights has adapted its academic programming to further meet the needs of its students and our parent community. Examples of these adaptations include the Inquiry 8 Cohort, Discovery Program, high participation in District Careers and the grade 11/12 Science and Math Academy.
Grade 8 students at Fraser Heights take six core courses and receive 2 electives. All students take Humanities, so they have one teacher connecting with them throughout the entire year. This teacher integrates the curriculum and, where possible, teaches thematically. Sixty students per year can choose to be part of a team-taught Inquiry 8 cohort. Here two teachers teach Humanities and Science explicitly through an inquiry lens. Each year some of our grade 7 students will enroll in our Math Enhanced program. These future grade 8 students are selected from those who have the aptitude to advance in their math skills. These students complete Math 8 and work through some Math 9 in one semester. Another opportunity for some grade 8 students is Enhanced French 8. Students are selected based on their French teaching in their respective elementary schools. For the last 4 years, all grade 8 and 9 students have participated in an Innovation Fair. Here they explore a question or an idea of interest, investigate it through the Inquiry Cycle, then with help from a presentation skills assembly, showcase their work to a wide audience including parents, associate elementary school students, teachers, and Simon Fraser University faculty.
Grade 9 students continue taking core courses and exploratory elective courses. In many ways, Grade 8 and 9 students are still in exploratory years. We offer a new group of students a chance to take Math 9 Honours. We encourage all grade 9s to consider using one of their three electives to continue learning an international language. Spanish becomes the second choice for language study in grade 9. Japanese becomes an option for grade 10 students
In grade 10, students begin their engagement in the three-year BC High School Graduation Program. This program introduces many new courses students can take. For example, students will take two-two credit English courses, five core courses and two electives. Students will engage in an exploration of their career path after high school with Career Life Education and Career Life Connections. The BC High school Graduation program requires students to write three exams in their grad program years. One will be numeracy based and two will be literacy based. The purpose of these exams is to give students, parents, and teachers feedback about each student’s proficiency with the subject. The grade 10 exams do not affect the student's mark in the class.
In grade 11, students start to focus more on choosing a set of courses that align with their career and life plans. Fraser Heights is a comprehensive school offering students a wide range of electives and a full careers department to help them begin narrowing down career possibilities or apply for district programs. Next year all English 11 students will be required to complete a new graduation requirement on an Indigenous-focused course. This change aims to deepen our students’ understanding of indigenous people. Grade 11 students will also be introduced to work experience (WEX) 11, a long-standing practise at Fraser Heights. Here, students receive graduation credits while exploring personal interests in the workforce that will better guide them in their course planning for the final year at Fraser Heights. Social studies 11 is another graduation requirement and students have several choices of courses to complete this requirement.
In grade 11, some Fraser Heights students will also choose to engage in Science and Math Academy 11. This is a two-year program where students are accelerated in math, chemistry and physics. In grade 12, they take AP Physics and AP Calculus as well as first-year university Chemistry, and another course of interest at the Surrey campus of Simon Fraser University The program is currently in its 9th year. This is a coveted program, and we are expecting up to 90 participants next year.
In grade 12 we focus on allowing our students to have an excellent last year of high school while preparing them for the transition to post-secondary or other endeavours. The graduation rules require students to take English 12 and a minimum of 5 more grade 12 courses to receive a high school degree. We recognize not all students are ready or have the inclination to tackle traditional academic post-secondary studies. For these students, we offer a one-semester Discovery program where students receive Eng 12, Social Justice 12 (if needed), and two blocks of WEX (work experience) Relationship building and career path awareness are stressed in this program, and it meets the needs of an integral niche of students at our school.
Fraser Heights stands as one of the very best high schools in the province because of its compassion for personalizing and communicating learning for all students. This school embraces the need to support and understand the diversity of all students so every student knows they will learn and grow. The sincere caring for students and teachers at Fraser Heights creates a community of inclusion and high standards for developing the learning for all members. Our school is focused on communicating student learning as an instructional tool rather than simply giving a percent. We believe improved communication about student learning will foster a more engaged learner and teacher. Shifting our assessment to CSL will not only create a growth mindset through facilitating or exploring personal passions, activating the three primary core competencies (thinking, communicating and personal/social) but also creates a more active and involved learner.
The importance of student engagement is a huge factor in learning success. The 21st century has provided educators with tools and resources to make learning more interactive and meaningful. A sift from assigning grades to communicating learning that highlights successes and areas of growth will only make the learning experience more valuable for the student. Communicating student learning this way makes assessment a tool for not only for growth but also a true understanding of where they are with their development.
Background: Fraser Heights believes in serving the social, emotional, and academic learning needs of both its students and teachers. Within this philosophy, our learning plan is built around the school’s desire for continuous improvement in teaching and learning. The result is providing students with a solid foundation from which to move forward into an increasingly complex world and providing our teachers with tools to grow.
For years, Fraser Heights has engaged in thoughtful dialogue focused on teaching and learning. A core group of teachers have regularly “opened their doors” and invited colleagues from various departments into their classrooms. Here they observed and collaborated on the success of different strategies, approaches, and assessments' impact on learning. This School Plan, an ongoing ever-changing document, extends and builds on Fraser Height’s existing collaborative culture.
We are asking how we can better communicate learning for our students and our teachers using proficiency scales. This will be a topic of the ongoing conversation at staff meetings, department head meetings, department meetings and professional development conversations throughout the years.
The introduction of the provincial curriculum has offered an opportunity to rethink the way we assess and report on student progress in British Columbia. Informed by research on effective practices and by thorough engagement with parents and educators.
Demographics data of our student participation in the learning plan.
Research Behind the Student Learning Plan:
“There is evidence that when schools have adopted a philosophy and set of pervasive practices that are based on an understanding of children’s development and experiences, attachments to school, positive interactions among adults and children, and achievement can be strengthened” (Darling-Hammond and Bransford, 2005, p 254). Darling-Hammond, L. and Bransford, J. (Eds.) (2005). Preparing Teachers for a Changing World: What Teachers Should Learn and Be Able to Do. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Guiding Question: How does the implementation of Communicating Student Learning (CSL) impact all Learners (students and teachers) in their understanding of their proficiency, engagement, and future growth?
School Student Learning Plan focuses.
OUR NEXT STEPS
Fraser Heights had six teachers and their students participate in this inquiry school student learning plan. We attempted to have as many grade levels as possible and subject departments represented. These teachers surveyed their students and gathered data on their experience with the proficiency assessment used in class as the teachers moved away from traditional grades. These teachers met regularly to discuss their findings and use this information to improve their practice and their use of proficiency assessment. This study and data collection started three months ago with 110 students involved.
These past few months the teachers meet to discuss the impact of introducing CSL to all grades. We had several discussions on the effects of CSL like; enjoying the relationship with my students; loving the atmosphere in the classroom; there is a real encouragement of learning and risk-taking in the attempt of growth and success of learning.
We believe the proficiency assessment is more meaningful, varied, and a significantly more accurate way for teachers to provide students (and parents) with information about how their child is progressing in relation to the learning standards. It also allows for a conversation on what the child can do to extend their understanding.
In points of progress, teachers use strength-based descriptive feedback and the four-point provincial proficiency scale to report progress in areas of learning. Feedback is focused on what the student can do and what they are working toward.
Four-point provincial proficiency scale: The four points (emerging, developing, proficient, extending) are used to communicate student progress in relation to the curricular or core competency. Students were exposed to a variety of formats to communicate proficiency scales. Formats include, but are not limited to, student-led conferences, portfolios and e-portfolio reviews, parent/teacher/community meetings, written comments, and student work samples with descriptive feedback from the teacher.
Part 1: Through a pre and post-survey we captured students’ learning thoughts and their experiences with the use of proficiency scales. Provided below is a snapshot of the questions we asked and the responses of our students: Full
Link For Student Survey Responses: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1rgwaIJnEbY2_q9N3wj50CHxNRZMkJvsySdnRHWekUgI/edit?usp=sharing
Part 2 Data Collection Student Audio Recordings: Reflecting and summarising student responses have allowed us to see how our students are able to articulate their current curricular strengths, identify their challenges with their own understanding of the curriculum and communicate their personalized needs and steps on how to improve. ; Students were more relaxed and focused on learning not the grades or percent; Students reflected that the learning was for them and not for the teacher. Students had a genuine concern about the conversion of proficiency scales to grades for post-secondary.
This experience has confirmed the value of using proficiency assessment but also identifies the challenges going forward.
Part 3: Data Collection Student wrote self-reflections on the use of proficiency standards and teacher reflections.
Student Statement #1 Ms. K (Teacher and her students)
The scale has improved my progress because I know the specifics of where I am and what things I should be improving.
My Thoughts: I like this statement because it is clear to the student where they are progressing and where they COULD be progressing more, or improving. They see this proficiency scale as feedback in itself, even though the teacher may or may not have given feedback….they see a goal or a progression of learning to improve.
Student Statement #2 Ms. K (Teacher and her students)
I don’t know what grade I’m getting because we don’t know what grade we are at. in the future and Gr. 10 and up, we have to use percentages. if we have a proficient and then we get our report cards and it says 70% everyone will be confused and the proficiency scale is very misleading
My Thoughts: This statement reminds us that some students are thinking of progress at a numerical or percentage mark as an end result. They make a good point about not being clear what “proficient” translates to…is 70% and is that a problem, and if so, why? What is misleading about it?
Student Statement #1 Mr. C (Teacher and his students)
Yes, I know what a proficiency scale is. I think I prefer letter grades over systems like this because traditionally, you’re able to get an A if you do everything right on a test/ everything that was asked of you. However, the proficiency scale requires you to do more, to go further with the material, if you want an A at the end of the course. I also just like being able to say that “oh I got an A on the test” rather than saying that I got “proficient” or “extending”.
My Thoughts: This statement perfectly articulates that there is a level of established comfortability and understanding that students have about how to translate a percentage/letter grade into having achieved what they 'want'. I read into this a sense of complacency in that I got an 'A' so that is good, I achieved what I needed, and that task has been completed. However, in this student's reflection on proficiency scales and feeling like there is always a place to continue to extend thinking, to continue the learning, "to go further" this is the strength of using proficiency scales to keep motivating students to strive to know and understand more, to refine and reflect.
Student Statement #2 Mr. C (Teacher and his students)
I think feedback is more important since when I go out into real life and real-world situations, I won’t get a percentage back when it is finished. I get feedback and advice on what could’ve been improved. I think percentages are a lot better when comparing data and an ending mark. It shows where you are in a simple mark. The proficiency scale is a lot better at showing feedback which is very important for projects and presentations.
My Thoughts: This statement showcases how valuable feedback is in improving. Throughout the survey responses, students reflected again and again that feedback was useful in highlighting their successes and stretches and in applying that knowledge in the future. Statements such as this serve as reminders that education and learning is not end-goal oriented but about the process of learning, reworking, and improving. Acknowledging that staff are on a spectrum in terms of their own understanding and engagement in this process (and that we as a school are in a period where proficiency scales versus grades has not been mandated yet at a grade 8 level next year) seeing how students view marks as finite data rather than advice which can stimulate growth may be a useful way to frame future discussions with reluctant staff.
Student Statement #1 Ms. G (Teacher and her students)
If I have many problems, where am I, like in one order I have one is extending, one proficient, developing and one emerging. Where am I?
My Thoughts: I find this comment interesting because it shows how there is a gap in how we are understanding the proficiency scale. Students are continuing to think in terms of grades, where 1 letter or number encompasses their entire learning journey in that course. We still have a long way to go when it comes to shifting that thinking away from one representative grade to a more complete explanation of progress (feedback and proficiency that happens all term, not just at 1 reporting period).
Student Statement #2 Ms. G (Teacher and her students)
In proficiency scales, it might be unfair for the students who study truly hard and gain good marks. Compare with other students who just study simply and gain a simple mark, it goes without doubt that the first one is more deserved to the highest proficiency scale. But the proficiency makes them be regarded as the same level, which is confusing.
My Thoughts: This comparison is common amongst our students. The issue they have with feedback is that it becomes more difficult for them to compare assessments. How can we teach our students to be more self-reflective, rather than comparative? How do we change the competitive response to a more personal experience with learning and understanding?
Student Statement #3 Ms. G (Teacher and her students)
I don’t know what grade i’m getting because we don’t know what grade we are at. in the future and grade 10 and up, we have to use presents. if we have a proficient and then we get our report cards and it says 70% everyone will be confused and the proficiency scale is very misleading
My Thoughts: I’d like to know more about why it’s misleading. I wonder if it’s because of the perception that there are cross-curricular inconsistencies? How can we shift this towards a school-wide vision and ensure that assessment is consistent? Also, this is a valid concern for many students thinking about post-secondary education. There needs to be more consistency and communication with post-secondary institutions.
Student Statement #4 Ms. G (Teacher and her students)
I feel that letter grades and percentages are more precise and it’s a lot more motivating when say you’re at an 85 percent and you have the numbers to keep you wanting to improve and work harder, whereas a proficient scale, a proficient would seem good enough because it’s too broad
My Thoughts: I think that we need to be clear that the proficiency scale is not a solo entity. It goes hand in hand with continued, consistent feedback throughout the term. The feedback breaks the scale down by explaining successes, challenges, and goals for improvement. Without the feedback, the student is very much correct.
Student Statement #1 Ms. B (Teacher and her student)
The proficiency scale helps me understand my progress in this course, since it tells me specific parts of my projects that I could do better on, instead of just one mark.
My Thoughts: Feedback, with just a mark, it’s hard to tell what you did wrong, and it might lead to a similar mistake in the future. However, with feedback, you know exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are and how to improve your understanding of the course.
I think feedback is more important since when I go out into real life and real-world situations, I will not get a percentage back when it is finished. I get feedback and advice on what could have been improved. I think percentages are a lot better when comparing data and an ending mark. It shows where you are in a simple mark. The proficiency scale is a lot better at showing feedback which is very important for projects and presentations
Student Statement #1 Mr. K (Teacher and his student)
“I love the way [my teacher] does his proficiency grading. He gives actual feedback, teaches us the content in-depth and actually makes sense. His feedback is genuine and I like the way he doesn’t stress us out regardless of the grading system.”
“Getting feedback from different teachers has helped me understand what I should be doing to get good marks and be a proficient student rather than a developing or emerging one.”
“ The proficiency scale helped me to understand what we can improve on instead of just being confused about what I can do”
“[The proficiency scale has helped] me because after each project or performance I learned what I need to work on and how to improve for next time and take them into consideration when ding another project or performance.”
“The proficiency scales have helped me understand my progress in this course by allowing me to understand which parts I need to develop on and which parts I am mastering”
My Thoughts: I genuinely appreciate the student comments listed above. They present an honest account for how the proficiency scale and a more feedback focussed approach to learning can benefit a student. I am aware that not all students feel this way, but I am a strong believer that feedback which is designed to help one improve and grow in their skill-building is much more meaningful than a letter grade or percentage. The reality for educators is that the skills we foster in our students are much more important than the grades we give them. For this reason, feedback is an essential part of the process of letting a student know what they can improve upon. The comments above help to reaffirm this for me. All that aside, I do realize that it will take time to get students to appreciate this shift to the proficiency scale, but once each subject area makes this shift it will be a much more cohesive and enriching experience for our students.
Questions for our school community about going forward: How do we define “proficient?” This has been challenging, as each teacher/school has designed systems around proficiency-based learning with varying definitions and standards.
Understanding the value of diversity and inclusion of all students will continue to be a real factor to account for in using proficiency-based assessment. The school and district must continue to ask questions about developing systems that meet the needs of all students.
Our strength at Fraser heights is that our students are very post-secondary driven and it will be our task to execute the value of proficiency assessment but still meet all university standards requirements for entrance.
Can we design a system that effectively and explicitly synchronizes the transcript document needed for post-secondary?
Many schools and districts have implemented practices to eliminate percentage-based grading and adopt a rubric-style of grading yet have not yet changed the culture of grading by converting back to grades.
As professional educators and a school committed to designing education systems for student learning, we must continue to push ourselves to innovate and challenge the status quo about how we “do school.” The result will be a system that is focused on the needs of those who matter the most to all of us—the learners.
Next Steps: Insert teacher Pod-Cast… June 22th the summary of our experiences.
Change takes time. It is impossible to change an idea that has been present in the school system for decades. If students continue to see the value of feedback to improve their learning, it will ultimately make them stronger learners and students. This will help students reach their goals after secondary.
PLANNING FOR NEXT YEAR: 2022-23
Going forward into the 2022-23 school year, our recommendation for the school student learning plan is to continue to grow and work with CSL but add the approach of looking at students through the lens of equity and diversity: ensuring success for all types of learners.