In Soviet Russia, Standards-Based Grading Grades You!

I’m lucky to be a part of a study group of my fellow teachers that is discussing assessment for learning. That pretty much boils down to the intelligent use of formative assessment and Standards-Based Grading. I put together a mock assessment for the study group to get a handle on where they are with some key SBG-related ideas:

SBG Sample

The situation described therein assumes that you’re on the cusp of switching to SBG, but that your gradebook and classroom behavior haven’t quite made the leap, which is the status of the majority of the study group’s members.

I really can’t stress how awesome it is to have a time scheduled each weak to talk professionally with my colleagues. I knew they were good, but I had no idea how truly invested they are in the students; it’s inspiring.

If you want to see larger changes in your building, I would sincerely suggest scheduling a time each week or month dedicated to talking about something you’re all interested in (Assessment, Bullying, Curriculum, etc…). You could even use moodle, facebook, or whatever digital medium, if congregating is tough. A really easy model is simply to shoot everyone a relevant article, and then start the discussion with it when the time comes. We generally go 20 minutes over time, and it’s great! Here’s some more info from M. Townsley.

Did you take the sample SBG quiz, yet? Kind of hard isn’t it? Make whatever assumptions you need to in order to flesh out your answers. What I wanted was to model how an assessment can be short and sweet and yet hit mutiple clear answers without being linear. Each question really hits at more than one standard. Here’s the mock gradebook entries I made.

Sample Gradebook

Notice the switch. A normal gradebook would have had one entry, “SBG Concepts Quiz.” (an oxymoron to be sure) This gradebook has three, and they are the specific things that I want the students (you) to know whether you know or not. How do you think you did? Each question asks you to respond with a lot of different information, which, when playing the teacher’s role is great to know; however, in the end, these are the three things I (assessor) really care about the student (assessee, tee hee) knowing. (See Standard 3, which is like a meta-meta standard, or something.)

Also, if any one standard shows glaring student misconception, this becomes the clear choice for class-wide remediation (formative behavior). If students have randomly distributed proficiencies, at least they clearly know what to study for the next go round of assessments, which can erase any historically poor performance.

Here’s my quick and dirty treatment of the standards:

  1. Homework is practice. It should never receive a grade in a gradebook. It can be checked, reworked, poured over, or otherwise looked at, but in the end it is not a grade. Students should feel comfortable making mistakes and asking you for help to fix them on homework. Also, for those of you who feel that students won’t do it if it’s not worth a grade: Maybe they don’t need to in order to “get it” (that’s ok, as long as you get over it). Second, is your class challenging enough that doing homework should seem necessary at some volume for most children? (I hope so.)
  2. Standards Grades should be dynamic. Your gradebook should reflect the current status of a student’s abilities. Grades for standards should fluctuate based on assessments that you and the student have initiated. Student can much better self-assess this way, which, for me, is the holy grail of education. Also, a summative midterm and final become much more meaningful in this system.
  3. Entries in your gradebook should reflect content standards not assessment titles. Let the student know how well they are doing with common denominators and mixed fractions, because “Fraction Quiz 3” is literally meaningless to them, despite it testing both of those standards.

Let me know what you think in the comments. I’ve been a little shy to introduce this in my study group, because it might be a little accusatory. I think I might just share it instead of giving it like a real quiz.