Cornerstone Initiative uses numbers instead of letter grades - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Cornerstone Initiative uses numbers instead of letter grades

by Roslyn Giles  - email | bio

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Students at Saint Mary's Magnet Academy are learning in a different way than in the traditional classroom setting.  When visiting the elementary class students sat in a circle while the teacher explained the concept of writing a personal narrative.  

"Okay class what is a personal narrative, says the teacher.  A student replied, "Its something true about you."   The students then conversed in groups of two about their personal experience of feeling surprised about something.  They were also instructed to put pen to paper and write their own personal narrative.

While the concept is being implemented in the classroom, the lights are also out.  It's part of the "crafting" concept. "The teacher teaches for 15 minutes, where she does explicit modeling about whatever concept she is working on and just shares with the kids what she expects them to do," says Brenda Byrd, Principal at St. Mary's.

Making the class more student friendly in a more relaxed environment is another new and different concept students and teachers are grasping under the new initiative. Students can even sit on the floor and comfortably read a book using pillows.

20 year veteran and literary coach, Kelly Williams was the first to begin integrating the initiative at St. Mary's four years ago.  She says Cornerstone is wonderful because it appeals to all children and is not a one shot approach as the textbook series that was previously taught in the schools for years.

Nekia Roberts a 4 year teacher says Cornerstone is the only curriculum she has used as a relatively new educator. "It's more open-ended and less teacher directed, not as structured, but is a collaborative group effort."

The report cards are also different.  No more letter grades.   Cornerstone uses numbers, 1-2-3s as grades. The 3 means you've mastered the standard. Students have the entire year to improve. There's no written roadmap or set materials.  Byrd says it's a train of thought.

Byrd and her teachers travelled to the UK to see the initiative in action.  They say they were convinced that it would work here. 

Karon Greyer, Director of Elementary Education, says she supported the initiative because of the consistency approach to teaching.  She says teachers were doing their own thing implementing a variety of teaching strategies.

Four schools started using Cornerstone and now 6 schools are on board.  Greyer says she hopes to have all elementary schools on board by 2012.

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