By Annemarie LePard
The Mineola Union Free School District has traded in grades for badges in pre-K, kindergarten and first grade at Hampton Street School and Meadow Drive School. The new assessment system took effect during the 2017–18 academic year for students enrolled in pre-K, and over the last three years, it has expanded to first grade.
Instead of grades, students earn badges that “recognize and celebrate their successes and mastery of new skills and concepts,” according to the Mineola Public Schools website.
“We wanted the children to really start to own their own learning, to begin setting their own goals, and we also wanted to make it [to relate more] to children, so we decided to make a sticker book,” said Margarita Maravel, principal of Hampton Street School. “What child doesn’t love a sticker book?”
The Badge Book follows Mineola Public Schools’ curriculum, and aligns a badge with every New York state standard. According to the Mineola Public Schools website, over 50 different badges were created “across all content and skill areas” for each grade. The badges were then printed as stickers by Mineola High School students in the Fab Lab. “Once students earn a badge, they are given a corresponding sticker to proudly put in their Badge Book.”
The Badge Book is set up in a way that students can understand exactly what they need to practice in order to earn a specific badge, including using QR codes to provide links to educational videos for the visual learners.
The “kid-friendly” Badge Book is also parent-friendly. It is given out six times a year as a “progress monitoring tool” versus the standard report card that comes out three times in an academic year. The Badge Book “is a useful tool now, as opposed to the report card that had a lot of jargon that was really meant for educators, not parents who are non-educators,” Maravel said.
The Badge Book not only allows students to become “owners of their learning,” but it is also “developmentally appropriate,” according to Hampton Street School kindergartner teacher Jennifer Levi. With a range of student ages in the classroom, the Badge Book gives opportunities for “children to grow at their own rate, rather than getting a one on a report card because they don’t know how to read, or they don’t know their sight words, when they’re just not ready yet,” she said.
Use of the Badge Book has created stronger parent-to-teacher communication, according to Levi. “It changes the perspective for parents because parents are like, ‘Why is my child not doing well on their report card?’” she said. “When I say [the student] is just not ready, they don’t understand that, but when I say what we’re working toward, the parents have a better understanding of it.”
Parents are now actively reaching out and seeking information on what they can do to help their students at home rather than just waiting to be handed a report on how their child is performing, according to Levi. “They are not just expecting what happens at school to stay at school. It’s a partnership,” she said.
Not only is there a Badge Book for the general education classes, but also a dual language Badge Book that is in both English and Spanish. There is also a translation of the Badge Book for parents who need that as well, according to Maravel.
Beyond the Mineola School District, versions of the Badge Book are now being used in Oceanside Schools, as well as across the coast in California, according to Maravel.
Mineola Public Schools are currently creating a second grade Badge Book for the next academic year.