Loren Rozanski, BHP Teacher
A note from the BHP Team: We love that BHP teachers are using data from BHP Score reports to inform student learning goals and data demands of their districts. What follows is the approach of one such teacher. We saw an opportunity to have Bob Bain weigh in on the subject. Find that post here: Helping Teachers Make Warranted Claims About Learning: BHP’s Residual Benefit
BHP’s text-based assessments (“Investigations”), rubrics, and its essay-grading service (BHP Score) are made for teachers working in states like Connecticut. For me, it has been a tremendous help in meeting my state’s and district’s demands, and has offered me a powerful and accessible way to assess my teaching.
Connecticut, like many states, has created and adopted new evaluation systems that use multiple sources of information and evidence to provide a picture of each teacher’s performance. A central component of the statewide System for Educator Evaluation and Development (SEED) is student growth and development, as determined by the teacher’s student learning objectives (SLOs) and associated indicators of academic growth and development (IAGDs). SLOs must reflect high expectations for students and must align with national or state standards, and the IAGD must clearly define ways to measure the degree to which students met the SLO.
Each year, I must select two SLOs for my students and two IAGDs that I can use to track students’ progress toward meeting these goals. During my first year teaching Big History Project to my ninth-grade classes, I chose to go “all in” and base both my SLOs and my IAGDs on concepts taught in BHP Investigations. I created my SLOs around students making arguments and using textual evidence to support their claims, two important goals in the Common Core and BHP. More important, these goals fit with my own goals for teaching.
Not only did BHP help me frame my SLOs, the Writing Rubric enabled me to clearly define student growth and the BHP Score report allowed me to quantify their growth. So, I decided to set my target goal for the year as helping students move up one level on the rubric by increasing their scores by at least one point in both Structuring an Argument and Using Texts as Evidence.
After getting my initial Score reports, all my excitement turned to panic as I saw that my students had completely bombed on their baseline essays. However, after a few minutes of shock, I could see this as a positive thing. After all, we had nowhere to go but up.
I took every opportunity to use the student goals I’d set to inform my teaching. For each activity we completed in BHP, I had the students work on finding evidence. We compared origin stories, we researched foods that foragers used, and little by little, my students started to get it. Making claims using evidence became simply the way we did things in our class.
By midyear, I saw progress. Students were strengthening their arguments and showing great understanding of how to use evidence in support of a claim. More important, they could see their progress when I distributed the midyear report from BHP Score.
Encouraged by the progress, we continued to stress the two areas of the rubric. Of course, BHP lessons and writing activities helped, as they’re structured to develop students’ thinking and writing in all the areas the rubric measures.
How did we do? Quite well, thank you: Over 80 percent of my students met my goal in both areas. That is, most of my students raised their performance one complete level on the BHP Writing Rubric.
Even if your state or school does not demand formal goal setting and tracking, BHP Score, the Writing Rubric, and all the targeted lessons are great ways to set goals, maintain focus, and help students improve their performance. My students could see clear, measurable results through the Score reports. The reports opened a dialogue between the students and myself since we now had common goals and external feedback that we could use to plan ways to improve learning.
We all know writing often and receiving feedback on writing is critical to students’ growth. And we all know how hard it is to grade and give timely feedback to all the students we teach. Well, BHP made it easier for me to do.
If you are new to BHP, choosing one area of focus, such as Constructing the Argument, is a great place to start. It helps to create a common goal for the course, and students love being able to track and measure their progress throughout the year.
About the author: Loren has been teaching at EC Goodwin Technical High School in Connecticut since 2012 and has taught BHP since 2016. Big History is taught across the ninth grade of much of Connecticut’s CTE system; at her school, Loren teaches two sections. Her students alternate every two weeks between academics and their chosen trade, for a total of 90 days of academics during the school year.