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Start the Year with More Student Voice and Student Choice in Leadership

Terresa Amidei at a Renaissance Conference

Being an activity director is a lot of work. After working with students to create a positive climate and culture on campus, designing, planning and hosting events, monitoring clubs, and completing deposits, when do you find the time to grade the work completed by student leaders? Completing all the activities and events is exhausting and time consuming. Adding feedback, grading and parent communication to the advisor workload can be a challenge. Some advisors use rubrics, student self-grading, reflective conversations, photos, student presentations, or even just remembering what the student contributed and giving a subjective score for task completion. But what happens when the parent has a question or challenges a score that was given for that event? A few years ago, I wrestled with that question and came up with something that answered all my questions. This is a system that is equitable, student-driven, easy to explain and implement, helps with organization and makes both grading and evaluation easy for all stakeholders to understand. Using CADA/CASL Roadmap #2, “Provide your Leaders a voice in their school,” not only did students select the events, activities and service projects for the year; they also set their daily and weekly contributions to our campus.

At the time, I was the activity director for an active public middle school and teaching seven classes a day: two ASB, two Yearbook, one Renaissance, one WEB, and one Journalism class. I had between 36-41 students per class. I was doing before and after school events while also maintaining lunch activities, lunch sales, and a Speaker Series. My goal was having the groups of student leaders work on class specific tasks while supporting one another in larger events such as Winter Ball, Club Rush, Lunch Activities, Student Store, Renaissance Rallies, Photography, PBIS Rewards Store, and Start with Hello Week while also cross-training students to do the tasks and leadership necessary in each class. For example, ASB was responsible for running, maintaining and operating the lunch time and after school student store, but those student leaders may also have wanted to experience taking photos for yearbook or writing an article for the digital newspaper we published highlighting school and current events. I also wanted the students to have more voice in the types of learning they would do each week, and to have more ownership of their grades and how they were “built” each week. I say built, because of the strategy I used in each class. I told the students and their parents that the grade each student leader got would be 100% up to them. I said students needed to earn 100 points per week by selecting and completing each task from the job board, documenting the work that was done and submitting their “timesheet” to me for grading. I would create a digital and hard-copy “job board” where every task that needed to be done was written out and assigned a point value. Jobs that students didn’t like doing (think inventory) were given a higher point value. This also helped with students who were absent. If they only earned 80 points in a week – they could easily earn 120 points in the next week to maintain the A+ that so many of our driven student leaders seek to maintain. I added a reflection portion at the bottom of the time sheet to gain insight on what students thought about the quality of the work and the contributions made to our campus and community. By including such tasks like be a “temporary TA” or “Assist the custodial team” students were also encouraged to follow the CADA/CASL roadmap #7. “Encourage a culture of Service.”

This style of grading made it easy to have discussions with parents and guardians because every task was student selected. If a student was having an emotionally tough week, they could select multiple low-point tasks to still maintain their grade in my leadership class. In fact, I also allowed students who completed their point total earlier in the week to submit their timesheet early and use the additional class time for SEL work, bigger projects, or other campus tasks (like homework for another class). 

Having a job board for students to select from made student engagement less challenging because the student leaders were able to select what appealed to them that day or that week. This system also helped students with time management and helped them to determine where they wanted their grade to be each week.

By Terresa Amidei
Area F Board Member, CADA MAA Graduate
Colonel Mitchell Paige Middle School
[email protected]

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