Every Kid Is Worth a Conversation

Dear Upper School Families,

On Wednesday, October 25, all students in Grades 9-12 are invited to lead a 25-minute conference with their advisor and parent(s). Students will share their goals, present demonstrations of learning, identify curiosities and strengths, and seek feedback to support and challenge their progress. Through this experience, we desire students to:

  • Take ownership of their learning
  • Develop deeper relationships between advisor and parent(s)
  • Demonstrate skills of communication, reflection, and feedback
  • Discover the value of:
    • setting a goal
    • sharing specific demonstrations of learning
    • deep learning beyond alpha-numeric grades
    • student choice and the pursuit of curiosities through iProject
    • measuring progress on MV Mindsets
    • celebrating wins, growth, and achievement

Student-led conferences have been practiced at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School since 2015. Each student is paired with an advisor; a faculty member who interacts regularly with your child. In the weeks prior, students will work diligently with advisors to prepare. Your child should be able to discuss his or her own progress in any area, with the advisor taking a secondary role.

Parents may request a conference directly with a content-specific teacher any time throughout the semester or school year to discuss student progress related to alpha-numeric grades, learning outcomes, or other concerns. Student-led Conference day is designed and reserved for the purposes stated above.

Name: Arden Adams
Advisor: Brad Droke

We value our partnership with Mount Vernon families and look forward to this opportunity to come together to support student learning. Students will not be in school this day, however, our goal for student-led conferences is 100% student and parent participation. Every kid is worth a conversation. If you would like to speak to the advisor without your child present, we will make a portion of the time available. All after school athletic events will proceed as scheduled.

Please sign up through the Power School web portal using your parent login (not student) and reserving an appointment with your child’s specific advisor. Each advisor has 12 appointment slots. Sign ups are open and available upon receipt of this email on a first come, first served basis. Students are asked to compose a personal, handwritten note inviting and encouraging parents to sign up, mentioning advisor by name.

Please read this article for instructions and tech support for how to register. Upon arrival, please check in with Sheldon Staples at the front desk in the Upper School Academic Building on the Glenn Campus. If you are unable to conference on this day, have a schedule conflict, or any other questions please call or email Sheldon Staples. Thank you for partnering with us. We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday, October 25.


Chip Houston
Head of Upper School

Student Led Conferences – Year Two


Faculty Reflection
– 94% of families participated
– SLCs are scaling to Lower and Upper School
– I participated in 21 conferences, seeing all but 2 advisors.
– I observed teachers giving feedback on goals, badges, and student behavior.
– I learned a lot more about specific students.
– Teachers contributed to the experience in new and helpful ways.
– I saw evidence of group work, but grading on individual mastery of outcomes.

Areas for Growth
– Despite exhaustive communication, I still observed several students who had not shared “permission to view” in their google doc demonstrations.
– Similar with goals about As and Bs or Honor Roll (achievement goals) instead of Learning Goals (acquire a new skill or explore a new topic of interest)
– I saw evidence of group work and group grades.
– I saw a parent shut down a kid.
– I saw badges earned without the evidence in place.

Questions that Remain
– How will we expand the audience for eportfolios this year?
– Can Digication allow selected sharing instead of “all of nothing”?
– How will we follow up on student goal setting before the end of the semester, especially since the next SLC is not until February?

Practice Guide
screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-12-32-11-pm screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-12-32-22-pm screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-12-32-33-pm screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-12-32-42-pm screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-12-32-52-pm screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-12-33-02-pm screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-12-33-11-pm

Students Take the Lead – Spring 2016

Students Take the Lead – Spring 2016

On Wednesday, February 17, students took the lead for the second time this year with student led conferences. In the fall, students shared their goals with parents and teachers. This time, students ran the show from start to finish. Introducing parents and teachers to one another, the students showcased 5 demonstrations chosen from their e-portfolios.

IMG_8466 IMG_8469 IMG_8470 IMG_8473 IMG_8474 IMG_8482 IMG_8484 IMG_8486 IMG_8489 IMG_8490 Students take the lead


Piloting Student Badges in Study Skills

Piloting Student Badges in Study Skills

Since launching ‘central station’ and the designs of our XLR8 summer grant in August (thank you Amy and Chrissy), Middle School faculty have earned over 100 badges. To ensure a successful roll out to students in the future, we are intentionally focusing on the faculty experiencing and understanding the power of badging. While a full scale badging launch for students is still beyond the trees, today we piloted a small scale experiment with students in study skills.

Designed by the Academic Resource team including Samantha Flowers, Ann Plumer, and Kelli Bynum, it is exciting to introduce the Scribe and Taskmaster badges for students!
Piloting Student Badges in Study Skills Piloting Student Badges in Study Skills


The students showed great enthusiasm as we discussed how learning is measured, comparing grades and badges, as well as covering the 6 elements of badge design. They had fantastic ideas for what physical form the badges might take, particularly recommending locker magnets that could be displayed for visitors, tours, and all passersby.

What do you think of these two new badges? Can you imagine these criteria displayed and discussed in a student led conference through the students’ eportfolios?

Learning Transcends School

Learning Transcends School

Learning Transcends School

Do you believe learning happens only at school? Probably not.

Yet somehow, we act like it’s true. It’s like the matrix – a kind of false sense of reality. It’s similar to “God is experienced only at church.” Hogwash. God is everywhere. And learning happens everywhere, too.

For years, we have conditioned them that learning occurs in specific subjects, in specific rooms, at specific times, in specific desks. If there isn’t a grade attached to it, they may not be interested. Such conditioning limits the possibilities of learning and metacognition.

This week, we challenged students to discuss and upload examples of “learning outside the school.” It was more difficult than you might imagine.

Students met with their Conference Mentors and were asked to answer the following questions and upload at least one image, drawing, video etc, in their eportfolios/blogs…

– Describe something significant you have learned in your life “outside” of school.

– What do you like to do when you are not school? What activities, interests, and topics are most motivated to learn more about?

– Outside of school, what is something you are proud of?

– If school was abolished completely, what would you do all day? How would you spend your time?

What have you learned “outside of school?” How do adults continue to learn without the structure of “school” after “school” is completed?

Feedback from Student Led Conferences

Feedback from Student Led ConferencesFeedback from Student Led Conferences

On Wednesday, September 23, the Middle School team launched the first student led conferences at Mount Vernon. Following the event, we surveyed students, parents, and teachers for feedback. Below, you can review the results of those 3 surveys. The names of students, teachers, and parents have been scrubbed, but all other comments remain as shared. All comments praising a specific teacher were shared directly with that teacher through Folio prior to replacing teacher names with “the teacher” and student names with “the student.”

The feedback includes a data chart of scale questions, followed by qualitative comments for each stakeholder group. The order is Students, Parents, Teachers.

Highlights of Research on Student Led Conferences

Formative Assessment Tickets

Formative Assessment via Entry, Transfer, and Exit Tickets

Formative Assessment = a range of formal and informal assessment procedures conducted by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment.

This morning’s faculty meeting was a lesson in formative assessment. We started the meeting with an entry ticket – a Poll Everywhere survey (thank you Alex Bragg!) about our team’s wildly important goal of ‘expanding the learning measures.’

The original agenda for the meeting was sent to faculty in advance indicating the bulk of the time would be spent on teachers earning badges. After assessing the faculty, the decision was made during the process – to modify the teaching and learning, based on their feedback. We shifted to spending more time talking about examples of implementing entry tickets as formative assessment.

Entry Ticket as Formative AssessmentEntry Ticket as Formative Assessment

Entry Ticket as Formative Assessment

Entry Ticket as Formative Assessment


Faculty Meeting Agenda

Essential Questions:
How skilled are we at designing and delivering formative assessments?
How are we advancing our wildly important goal: expand the learning measures?

Desired Outcomes:
Teachers are given time to earn badges discuss entry tickets as formative assessment
Formative assessment is modeled through entry ticket
Teachers are challenged to try an entry ticket and share results
Conference Mentors discover the next steps for SLCs

Learning Opportunities: (– min)

  1. Cast the Characters (Group Work Norms) (5 min)
  2. Entry Ticket via Poll Everywhere – Badging (5 min)
  3. Give Badge Time (20 min)Discuss entry tickets as a method of formative assessment (not as a sponge activity)
  4. Intro Formative Assessment Tickets (Entry, Transfer, Exit) (5 min)
  5. Share SLC phase 3 & checklist  (5 min)
  6. Amy & Chrissy – Badges! (5 min)

We started the meeting by ‘Casting the Characters’ using our team’s group work norms…

  • Time keeper
  • Encourager
  • Note taking (focus on questions asked)
  • Meta-congater (reflect on the overall flow and engagement of the meeting)

Group Work Norms



We ended the meeting by issuing a call to action Challenge…

Challenge: Utilize an entry ticket for formative assessment and be prepared to share out at October 22 faculty meeting.

Remember, it’s only formative if you use it to modify teaching and learning during the process. Otherwise, it’s just a sponge activity.



And also by recognizing teachers who have earned badges…

View all of the entry ticket survey results here…Entry Ticket as Formative Assessment
Entry Ticket as Formative Assessment Entry Ticket as Formative Assessment Entry Ticket as Formative Assessment Entry Ticket as Formative Assessment Entry Ticket as Formative Assessment Entry Ticket as Formative Assessment Entry Ticket as Formative Assessment Entry Ticket as Formative Assessment Entry Ticket as Formative Assessment



Launching Student Led Conferences

Student Led Conferences
Student Led Conferences is about giving students greater ownership of their learning.

Launching Student Led Conferences
One of our major initiatives, Student Led Conferences, is about to debut. In order to prepare, conference mentors will meet with their mentees this week instead of Advisory.

The purpose of the second meeting is two-fold…

1) Cultivate deeper relationships with your mentees (get to know them well)

2) Coach them in revising their 2 goals (1 academic, 1 personal).

Try SMART goals OR challenge them to pose their goals as questions (How might I {action} in order to {significant impact}?

To truly make this debut a success, mentors and students will meet a total of 4 times before SLCs on September 23. Each meeting has a distinctive purpose.

Sept 1: Cultivate relationships, revise goals (* note: goals were set the first week of school)

Sept 15: Feedback on Digication ePortfolio

Sept 17: Students pull Power School grade reports, get feedback, communicate any flags to teachers/parents

Sept 22: Rehearsal with partners (students are sharing their goals in Fall conference)

Student Led Conferences is one of four major initiatives intended to expand the learning measures beyond (but still including) numerical grades for this year. Much gratitude to Mrs. Tripp and Ms. Goins for the research and time they spent advancing the work for our team!

Student Led ConferencesStudent Led Conferences

Resources & Research
ASCD When Students Lead Parent-Teacher Conferences
A Guide to Student Led Conferences

Expanding the Learning Measures


How might we expand the ways we monitor student progress and the measures of learning beyond quantitative, numerical systems that are not always reliable?

Since May, eight dedicated educators have engaged in four summer grant opportunities to accelerate the work of our entire team, all with the purpose of expanding our ability to measure and monitor student progress and learning.

While our Middle School continues to use a quantitative, numerical grading scale (0-100), we have been working to add additional, qualitative gauges to our dashboard, with the purposes of greater student engagement and ownership, and making learning visible.

The (XLR8) summer grants include:

  • Assessment – Not only a summer grant, but also a school-wide focus for the upcoming year, assessment is a powerful tool in the professional educator’s design kit. This grant will survey the research and narrow the focus into practical applications for teachers. Formative and summative, constructed and selected response, assessment for and of learning, authentic and real-world vs traditional; all of these topics will be explored and expanded.
  • ePortfolios – An ePortfolio is a collection of examples of a learner’s work which may be used for evaluation, information, and celebration. It is a visible record of learning including reflections which provide a representation of student achievement and a set of targets the School wishes to communicate. It includes two sections: the collection and the showcase. The showcase is used to display the best work, like a published collection of a writer’s best work, yet it often includes pieces in it that have been revised or show growth over time.
  • Student Led Conferences – Middle School students will lead two conferences with teachers and parents in 2015-2016 (one Fall, one Spring). The conferences will give meaning to ePortfolios, as well as focus on the quality of work, reflection, and organization skills. Benefits of SLCs include more involved parents, increased student motivation and ownership of learning, meeting standards/learning outcomes, and celebrating each student’s unique passions and interests. The goal of this grant is to research, develop, and communicate the best strategies for implementing student led conferences in Middle School.
  • Badging – A badge is a validated display of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be earned in any learning environment. Badges can represent traditional academic achievement or the acquisition of skills such as collaboration, teamwork, leadership, and other skills. They can be earned by people of all ages, from kindergartners on up, and they can make any notable accomplishments visible to anyone and everyone, including potential employers, teachers, and peer communities. In addition to finding new ways to engage and motivate students, the goal of this grant is to iterate and develop not only a suite of actual badges and criteria, but also a system for how they are issued and displayed, ultimately, in coordination with MVIFI.