Teacher writing what grading for equity tools worked in her classroom

On Monday, October 9, West Sonoma County Union High School District educators were the students in their classrooms during a district-wide professional development day designed to empower them to progress toward educational equity through teaching strategies and interactions with students.

Nicole Ochoa Wilkinson, the newly appointed Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) focused on education services, meticulously curated these events. Wilkinson, a former history teacher, worked with a Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) team to create a day modeled after the student experience. School staff experienced a typical “block-day” schedule outlined below, and SCOE facilitators modeled effective teaching strategies.

8:30-10 am 

“Be a student” session #1 

10-10:15 am


10:15-11:45 am

“Be a student” session #2 

11:45-12:30 pm


12:30-1:30 pm

Reflecting on what you learned in circle.

1:30-1:45 pm



Break out session number #3

This was the second professional development day this year. The first was on Monday, September 11. Before these PD days, staff members chose which two “Be a student” sessions they wanted to attend for all three professional development days. These sessions built upon themselves and provided staff with tools to utilize on campus. Their choices included:

  • From Self-Regulation to Student-Regulation: Strategies to Support Staff, Student, and Family Well-Being

  • Grading for Equity

  • Instructional Strategies to Support Literacy in all Content Areas

  • Local Labor Market Indicators

  • Restorative Practices to Support a Positive Campus Culture

  • Student Behavior/Crisis Scenarios 

In addition to the “Be a student” topics above that scaffolded upon themselves, each professional development day included a third breakout session where staff was introduced to a specialty topic such as artificial intelligence (AI) or unconscious bias in education, or they worked on a collaborative project like coming up with interdisciplinary rubrics focused on our Portrait of a Graduate.

Since I am an aspiring teacher, I attended the “Grading for Equity” sessions taught by Christin Perill from SCOE. The first session opened my eyes to the importance of equitable grading practices, shedding light on how grading can empower or hinder students’ progress.

Perill introduced the concept of Standards-Based Grading, a topic teachers were enthusiastic to learn more about. The session provided practical strategies for ensuring fairness in our grading processes, and staff left with a folder of resources to assist them with providing students and families with a more accurate representation of our student's learning. Perill also provided us with action items that could be immediately integrated into our classes, such as letting students practice a topic three times before assessment, not grading anything that could have been copied, and not providing extra credit. 

During the second “Grading for Equity” session on October 9, I was blown away by how many teachers had already integrated Perill's tools into their classes. Some teachers had even scheduled Zoom meetings with her since the last session to shift their grading practices further. “The main difference I’ve noticed is fewer super high A’s in my classroom. Students are starting to stop ‘point-chasing’ and instead focus on specific skills to improve their grades,” said Blake Leibowitz, an English teacher.

Our next professional development day is on Monday, January 22, 2024. This will conclude our “Be a student” sessions. Although these sessions are extremely valuable, we know that to truly transform our school, we must carve out time to collaborate, share our practices, and constantly evaluate and refine our processes.