Saturday, January 31, 2015

Old Dog, New Tricks: Standards Based Grading So Far

My switch to Standards Based Grading has been... interesting.

This was my initial post on Sophomore English grading and my grade book.

First of all, I have changed using a √ and a 0 in the formatives. (I know how parents can freak out over a zero, even if it isn't affecting their student's grade. They assume the assignment hasn't been completed.)  Formatives are now rated with an S, S-or U.  The formatives still have no affect on the student grade, but they let the student (and the parent) know if they understand the standard or need further work before the Summative test.

The biggest challenge has been the mindset of the teacher. (That would be me. Gulp.) One short unit can involve several standards, and each of those standards requires two formatives, reteaching activities, and a summative test.  My grade book now looks like this:

(Well, that is a portion of this nine week's grades so far. Oh, and the Standard RL2 Determining Theme or Central Idea and its development is going to be revisited-probably more than once.)

Thankfully, formatives don't have to be a quiz. (Though they can be.)  They can also be teacher anecdotal notes from observation, exit tickets, standards practice in their notebooks, etc.  Getting past the idea that students only show progress based on a quiz has been quite helpful and not nearly so limiting.

I really like this grading rubric on the Summative assessment of a standard.

10= Advanced- superior mastery
  9= High Proficiency- progressing toward advanced mastery
  8= Proficient Grade Level- mastery meets standard level
  7= Basic- limited understanding
  6=  Improvement necessary
  5=  Insufficient effort
  0=  Absent for summative

That being said, my student grades have changed.  A student really has to go above and beyond to show superior mastery. An A+ was easier to earn using the old method of grading.  On the other end of the scale, fewer students are failing.  Most students can show at least a basic or limited understanding of a skill or standard.

What does this mean?
1. A student who has done the minimum requirements has a tough time earning an A+, and they aren't thrilled about being challenged to show advanced or superior work.  I haven't had the first parent/teacher conferences since switching to this system, but I have a hunch that will be a discussion with some parents.

2. I spend quite a bit more time in the planning stages of lessons and units that I have taught for years.  I have to determine which standards I will emphasize, write the summative evaluation of each standard, decide how I will evaluate the standards through formatives, create the formative evaluations, and create some method of reteaching for students who need it.

3. Above all, I have to limit the number of standards that I evaluate in a unit.  A short unit might have several reading standards, a writing standard, and a speaking/listening standard. Julius Caesar could have included 10-15 standards. (I have narrowed it down to seven or eight this year.) Keeping track of student progress on the formatives, reteaching, and summative tests is a bit of a juggling act; however, it gives a much clearer picture of what the student actually knows. And isn't that what a grade is supposed to show?

Right now, this switch to Standards Based Grading has been quite a bit of work.  The best part is that it is becoming second nature to me now, and I feel like I have a much more thorough knowledge of the standards.  The work that I do this year is going to make next year that much simpler, if only because I have walked through the process this year.

Have I mentioned that I have had company on this road to change?  I am quite thankful for Sweet Young Former Student Now Colleague, an amazing Student Teacher, and my math colleagues who are jumping in this year, too.  It is always better to have friends to travel the road with you!

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