“Many students with whom I’ve spoken who struggle with attendance have told me that they make a point to attend Mrs. Robertson’s class, even if they don’t attend any others.” —Rapid City High School Principal Shane Heilman
Cynthia Robertson isn’t afraid to take chances—and in the process, her classroom at the alternative Rapid City High School is a Petrie dish for change. Cynthia implements an “alternative” learning system, all right—one that challenges her students to improve their critical thinking, while also becoming stronger writers, speakers, and listeners. One aspect of her approach is “ungrading,” a standards-based assessment strategy that focuses on learning without the usual quantitative measures.
“Students do assigned work in the class, and create portfolios—of writing, research, and larger projects that incorporate many themes,” she says. “I evaluate their work with verbal and written feedback, and the students assess themselves biweekly, too. They record how they’re doing, so that I can help them with specific areas.” At the end of term, the students do receive a letter grade, but by then, they’ve tackled their challenges. Grades reflect the organic, stress-free growth they’ve demonstrated.