What are we doing to help kids achieve?
Having been inspired by the work of Lauren Stewart’s journey with standards based grading (SBG) I decided to jump in last year by doing a pilot program with one class (check out that story in "A Pilot Program of Standards Based Grading"). This year I received permission to use standards based grading with all of my classes. . I reasoned that this year was going to be a year that was so far outside of the typical box, it would be a great time to try something new and a little innovative. One of the unexpected aspects that I really am excited about with SBG is the idea of the “redo”.
Generally speaking, I and many other teachers historically have not been thrilled with the idea of giving students a “do over” on an assignment. The mindset was that students should have studied and prepared to do the assignment correctly the first time. Also, if a teacher has a 100 students, it would be a nightmare to administer. Several reasonable arguments made me change my mind.
First, how often do any of us ever get anything right the first time? I can answer that for myself easily….never. Another reason for allowing students to redo an assignment is that some students get one bad grade and really struggle to recover. It affects them for the rest of the quarter or even a semester. It also has an impact on their behavior. Finally, I started to ask myself, what is the purpose of what we are doing? Is it to give students grades or to try to get them to a better place through learning? I warmed to the idea of making this change in theory and thanks to Lauren’s help, I was able to figure out the “nuts and bolts” of the redo.
Our classes run on a scale of 0-4. If a student receives a 0-2, they have the option of a redo. The student must fill out a Google form. This form requires them to provide the learning standard and assignment of the redo. They must come in within one week of getting the assignment back and graded. Students have to show evidence of learning before they take the redo. The highest they can score on the redo is a 3. The part about the redo experience that keeps me sane is a Google sheet add-on call “Autocrat”. Essentially, I can merge students' responses into a Google document, paste in a new assignment and hit “print”. It is ready the next day.
The experience of the redo has changed the classroom climate in a positive way. Students have stopped coming in to argue for points. Instead they want to know about the learning objective they have to master. Parents have never complained about this process. Students also know that I truly am on their side. It is all about learning and not about the grade. Especially during this year, most people just need a little extra grace and understanding. I get to spend time with students through the redo in which we can do what I love….focus on teaching and learning.
This year has been one for the books. Why not try something new? You might be surprised. Sometimes great moments can occur during unexpected times. This might be just the experience to build a better culture in the classroom.