What are we doing to help students achieve?
Standards based grading (SBG) is a method of assessment that is gaining in popularity. Lauren Stewart has devoted a considerable amount of time to this in her blog. There is ample research to suggest that students who participate in SBG do just as well or even better than those students in traditional classrooms (“Keep It Simple Standards-Based Grading,” 2012; Peters, Kruse, Buckmiller, & Townsley, 2017; Scriffiny, 2008). There seems to be a growing frustration and lack of research with traditional grading. Frustration often begins with common student statements such as, “How many points do I need to get an A?” and “Can I do extra credit?” These statements support the idea that many students care more about the grade and less about learning. This is often at direct odds with the goal of the teacher. With this in mind, I have started my first year teaching a chemistry class with standards based grading.
Teacher Homework - First, I spent almost a year doing research into standards based grading. The overwhelming research supports this approach and there is little to almost no research that I could find that supports the traditional approach. I read papers, listened to webinars and talked to others about the topic. Lauren Stewart's blogs have been an incredibly valuable tool in this journey. I found other teachers doing the same.
Buy in from “stakeholders” - I took time to run the idea past an administrator. SBG is a major shift in classroom assessment. Word gets out quickly. Administrators must be brought along during the process. I also constructed a first unit on SBG. Students spent a few days learning how to calculate their grades in a SBG world. They actively researched SBG and traditional forms of assessment. I encouraged them to ask questions and challenge ideas about grading.
The SBG Classroom - Everyone’s is slightly different. Here is what was developed. There were some “tweaks” along the way and this is still a pilot program. Currently, every activity students do is tied to a standard. The standards have been rewritten to be in a form that students are able to understand. These are the “I can” statements. Each “I can” statement, unit topic, resources, lesson plans and activities are on one hyperlinked document. This “one stop shop” for each unit makes it much easier for parents, students and myself. The rubric is also on the hyperlinked document. We decided to use a 0-4 scale. Every single activity and standard is graded with the same rubric. If a student scores a 0, 1 or 2 on an assignment, they are able to take a “redo”. Thanks to Lauren Stewart, I learned how to use an “autocrat” add on with a Google sheet. Students fill out a form about why they want to do a “redo”. This information gets sent to a Google sheet. I am able to click on a link that merges the information in a Google document. I also paste in some appropriate problems. Students have a week to do a redo and they must also provide concrete evidence of new learning. They come in and the Google document is waiting for them. All activities are either formative or summative assessments. They both count for 50%. Typically, this places much weight on the fewer summative assessments. However, by the time students take the summative assessment, they have had practice through the formative assessments and activities.
Summative Assessments - There are no true / false or multiple choice questions on the summative assessments. Summative assessments are multiple step problems. These assessments are typically the front and back of one page. If everything is done through a rubric then it is all about depth of knowledge. Another aspect is that the summative assessments are open notes. This allows me to ask much more difficult and involved questions to check for understanding.
An Unexpected Path - My desire for all of my students is for them to go through deep learning. I was tired of students just wanting “points” or a grade. I learned that it is going to take time to change a culture. I am starting to see positive results. We have an electronic gradebook that allows not only for standardized grades but it also allows students and myself to view how students are doing with the standards. The conversation is slowly starting to shift from “What is my grade?” to “Can you help me with this standard?”. Parents have been receptive to this type of grading. I had a completely packed parent teacher night and not one parent said, “I don’t understand why my child has a B or C in your class when they are doing fine in other classes.” It has been completely clear to them what students must do to achieve. There are still students who are struggling or lack motivation. But there are also other students who understand if they have one or two bad grades, it does not have to define them and there are steps they can take to do better. Another aspect of SBG that I did not anticipate was what I have learned about student understanding of certain topics from the assessments. Summative assessments are short one or two page open ended questions. The more probing questions, the more misconceptions are uncovered and then the more I am forced to decide how that should influence my teaching. It has been a struggle, but I view it as a good struggle.
Are you frustrated with students attitudes about grades, achievement and learning? Please consider joining the conversation about standards based grading. It is challenging and difficult but it also will help us and our students possibly get to a better place in the educational landscape. It also makes for an exciting journey.
Keep It Simple Standards-Based Grading. (2012, August 23). Retrieved February 5, 2019, from Action-Reaction website: https://fnoschese.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/keep-it-simple-standards-base...
Peters, R., Kruse, J., Buckmiller, T., & Townsley, M. (2017). “It’s Just Not Fair!” Making Sense of Secondary Students’ Resistance to a Standards-Based Grading. American Secondary Education, 45(3), 9–28.
Scriffiny, P. L. (2008). Seven Reasons for Standards-Based Grading. Educational Leadership: Journal of the Department of Supervision and Curriculum Development, N.E.A, 66(2), 70–74.