Sunday, November 22, 2015

The First Four Concerns About Standards Based Grading

These are the concerns I hear from teachers looking into making the switch to Standards Based Grading:

Standards Based Grading waters down the grades.
    Tell that to my students. Standards Based Grading means fewer students are failing (most can show limited knowledge of a standard), but fewer students are making A's. A student has to work to master almost every single standard.  There is no extra credit to cover for when they have done "B" work. An "A" student is truly an "A" student. There is no grade inflation.

Students should be graded on formatives or practice.
    Some departments do give grades on formatives. (Our math department does.) In English, we don't give grades for formatives. Formatives are just practice. If a student doesn't do well, they can be re-taught and then try again. Re-teaching can be done on an individual basis or for a whole class if they need it. Our school has a tutoring center that students can be assigned to during the school day. (By the way, interventions for re-teaching are absolutely crucial for Standards Based Grading to work.)

Students won't try on formatives if the formatives don't affect their grades.
     I have had no problem with students not trying. Sometimes they will ask me if the quiz or assignment is a formative or a summative. Usually, when I tell them it is a formative, relief is evident on many faces. They jump in and give it a try. They aren't afraid to take a chance and see how they do. Even my students who are going for top grades are relieved because they know that if they don't do as well as they would like, the practice or formative won't hurt their grades.

The material being covered is different from what we used to teach.
    I teach the same material that I have taught for the 37 years before Standards Based Grading. I still teach every unit that I love. We have always taught the standards; we just weren't as focused on each individual standard like we are today.
    I used to teach a unit (covering many standards) and if a student scored poorly on a unit test, I just went on and hoped that they would catch on by the time we finished the next unit. (I would not have been able to tell you what standard the student was having trouble mastering. I would just have a whole unit test score.)
    Now, my units might cover 4-8 standards. If a student scores poorly on a standard, I re-teach or send them to our tutoring center. They have a chance to practice on formatives without fear that practicing will affect their grade. Two formatives for every standard means that by the time they take the summative test, there is a better chance that they can master the standard. (The two formatives and one summative for each standard are usually evaluated during one unit.) Because each standard goes into the grade book individually, parents, students and I all know which standard is mastered and which needs more work.

These are the first four concerns that we usually hear when teachers are thinking of switching to Standards Based Grading.

In the next post, I will share the interventions that our school has in place for re-teaching.

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