And it comes back around to SBG . . . again


My standards-based grading journey thus far has been far from linear.

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I began by jumping in with both feet (& hands & torso & head-under-water & gradebook) and forged ahead with no training and not much research. I tried to separate every single assignment I gave into a specific standard category & place all grades (yes, including homework & notebooks and all that, mock if you must) into the magical electronic “standards-based” gradebook. And here’s what I learned: DON’T DO IT THIS WAY!! Just because your gradebook is standards-based doesn’t mean that your teaching or basic philosophy is standards-based.

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The next phase was a bit more refined. I realized the error or my ways after reading brilliant posts from superstars like Dan Meyers and Kate Nowak and many others. I subscribed to the philosophy of “re-doing until mastery” over “try it once or twice,  pass or fail, and them move on to the next topic”. I remediated with those who needed it, I allowed re-quizzing as needed, I gave students standards checklists that they had to keep up with. I separated quizzes into standards but lumped them in with end-of-unit tests and kept separate categories for homework (OK, I still graded hw, rant away), projects, and computer lab work.  Most importantly, I think, my ultimate goal was for every student to master every standard, no matter WHEN and no matter WHAT.

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So now I’ve been following the #SBG chats in twitter over the summer months and I’m feeling the push to take it to the next level.  The problem:  What does “the next level” look like? I’m currently wrestling with these questions and I’d love to hear your feedback (even if you have more questions and not answers for mine!):

  1. How should I weight my grade book now? I’m required by the county to keep a “normal” electronic gradebook that parents & students can see to keep up with progress. What percent should the standards quizzes weigh? What other categories are necessary? (I’m thinking projects, computer lab work, and unit tests–although can I lump in unit tests with the standards quizzes?).
  2. Once I figure our how to weigh the grade book, how can I “sell” it to my administration (and co-teachers, and parents . . .) I fear that if I don’t have support then I’ll be pressured to change it. “What?!  You teach 7th grade and quizzes are 60% of their grade?  Are you insane?”
  3. How do I “sell” SBG to my students? How do I motivate them to do non-graded practice, such as class work and homework? They have been inculcated by previous teachers to be grubby little point-mongers rather than focused learners!
  4. I think “Process Standards” are really important in every unit (problem solving, reasoning/ justification, communicating mathematically, making connections, multiple representations). How do I assess them? How do they factor into a standards-based gradebook?
  5. OK, there are really several other questions, but they may be best saved for a separate post.

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So, as Dan would say, “What Can  You Do With This?”


3 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. (1) I think that even just listing the standards and the students level of mastery into the gradebook will help the parents and the students. This was the single thing that got me buy in from the admin, teachers, and students.

    They loved it when I could go into a parent teacher conference and say ‘Johnny needs to learn such and such standards’ and here are some resources. By the end of the year, parents were grateful for the system because it gave tutors an idea of where to start as well as the inschool tutoring system we have.

    Most of my standards had a weight of zero and then I did a separate category for the average that I wanted to include. It listed everything but didn’t throw it all into the student average.

    I keep 2 categories in mine and will probably make one more for next year. I don’t think the standards have to be all of a kids grade.

    July 15th, 2010

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Andy!

    I am interested in your “standards had a weight of zero & separate category for the average”.How does that work? How do parents/students get an idea of what their grade will be if it’s not averaged? (Or is it averaged on a daily/weekly basis?) I like being able to give specific feedback to students & parents, but I know they hate a “surprise” grade on progress report or report card.

    I noticed on your blog post today that you had a standards (80% weight) & application/extension (20% weight) categories. Would the last two be like projects? Tests that mixed the standards & had questions requiring more than one at a time to answer it?

    Thanks for giving me something new to think about :)

    July 15th, 2010

  3. Your questions are all really important and not at all easy. Here is what I’m thinking, but we all know what works for one teacher often makes another scratch their head and go “You do WHAT now?”

    1. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go all in and make the quizzes the whole enchilada. As in weighed 100%. Shawn has convinced me on the homework thing, and it will pressure me to make class time intrinsically more brain-catchy.

    2. I wouldn’t worry about this. Parents fall over themselves to tell me how wonderful it is.

    3. I don’t really know. But I think this is part of the whole philosophical shift deal you have to make to really make it work. Lots of “why are we here” conversations with the kiddos and sticking to it and showing them that you care about what they learn and not extraneous points.

    4. I want to say I build this stuff into how I conduct class and don’t assess it per se. I’m not actually able to say that yet, mind you, but I really want to.

    July 21st, 2010

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