August 19, 2012

Standards Based Grading

Last year I started working my way towards Standards Based Grading, but this year I'm really jumping in to my full fledged hybrid model.  Oxymoron?  Perhaps, but this is what makes me happy at the moment:

80% product, 20% process

Almost the entire grade will be based on specific content knowledge, but I'm reserving 20% for other stuff.  I still want to check homework.  I want Habits of Mind to matter.  A kid could get a B if they slept through all my classes and did no homework, but still demonstrated that they understood all of the material.  But, to get an A you have to do something more- work well in groups, reflect on the learning process, put in effort on assignments that aren't going to be collected.

Of the 80% product, I think that it will be broken into 50% tests/quizzes and 30% investigations.  Tests and quizzes will show me what students know about each standard individually.  Investigations will demonstrate ability to bring multiple standards together, apply knowledge and think creatively.

We are going with a 4-3-2-0 scale, the names of each category match the state test.

4 Advanced: comprehensive and in-depth understanding
3 Proficient: solid understanding with small errors that are not essential to the standard
2 Needs Improvement: partial understanding, only solve simplest problems, errors that are essential to the standard
0 Warning: minimal understanding of subject matter or did not attempt

I'm going to put them into the gradebook as numbers out of 4, without playing with scaling at all.  My reasoning is that students can retake any assessment they want, as many times as they want.  I know there's some controversy over using 0's, but I use them as a motivational tool- students come after school when I distribute progress reports with low grades.  Ideally I'll catch those kids early, but sometimes it's what lights a fire under them and I'll take it.  Plus, I have no evidence that they do understand the topic, all they have to do to change that 0 is provide the evidence.

This is the description I'm planning to distribute to the students:

Every unit or chapter we study will be broken down into a few standards.  Each standard will address a small, specific topic.  Standards will be assessed twice: once on a daily quiz and once on a test.  Tests will cover several standards, but you will receive a separate grade for each standard rather than one grade for the whole test.  Any assessment can be retaken for a higher grade.  To prove that you are ready for a second chance you will have to provide evidence that you have studied and learned the material (evidence may include corrections, additional problems or re-worked examples).  The goal is for your final grade at the end of each quarter to reflect what you understand at that point in time, so take advantage of the opportunity to prove to your teacher what you know.
I will replace old grades with new ones from reassessments throughout the quarter.  Quizzes will tend to have more concrete questions, while tests will have some higher level problems.  I think those grades will be separate for my sanity, although it might make sense to replace the quiz grade with the test grade for that standard if that grade is higher.  It will really come down to whether I want to spend more time giving reassessments or more time scouring the gradebook and adjusting grades.  I should come back to this question after first quarter when I've tried out whichever one I choose, but in the meantime I'd appreciate feedback on what method you use.  I will only change grades from previous quarters in very special circumstances, as per school policy.

To reassess students will sign up on my calendar (that link won't actually work until midnight, I'm such a tease!), and list the standard they want to re-take so that I can prepare the problems ahead of time.  They will have to show me their evidence of practice before I will give them the reassessment.  
To record their progress students will fill out this sheet as they get back each assessment.  The idea for the bar graphs is stolen from druinok and I love that they can shade in more boxes if they improve their score, it's so neat!  (Both tidy and nifty.)

Grade Record

What else should I be considering as I implement this system?


  1. Two comments.

    1) When you say they have to show you their 'evidence of practice' do they know what that means? Do you have something prepared for them to do or are they supposed to come up with it on their own? For example, I'm going to ask students to correct the problems they got wrong and copy an example problem from an online video example.

    2)Will all of your reassessments take place on a certain day? Is there a certain time that you would like them to sign up on the calendar? You might want to make a schedule to keep your sanity. For example, I'm asking students to give me the form on Tuesday so I can check their corrections and create an assessment on Thursday. I will only reassess on Thursdays.

    These 2 problems both came up when I surveyed my own students about why they didn't come in for reassessments.

    You may or may not have already planned those out.

    1. Thanks for the insights! In the past I've had students do test corrections, so I have a form fo that. It would be a good idea to brainstorm with them how else to prepare, but I want them to have some flexibility on that. I will include it as a question on the test correction form. I hadn't considered that I'd have to look at the corrections before they re-assessed, good point! I will have to figure out a plan for that and not just assume I'll have time, there's obviously never enough time...

  2. I mean, not to be mr.-problem-guy, but I'm not sure about the "0 as a motivational tool" idea. I think I'd push back on that. Also, somebody who always gets "Proficient" will get a 75% on the product grade. Will your students think that is fair?

    However I think it's perfectly find to include the process grade too --- it's a nice dichotomy.


    1. What do you do when students don't come to take a missed assessment? My first step is to tell everyone they are responsible for seeing me if they miss class, then I individually invite them to come after school to take it, but at the end of the quarter I can't just excuse students from assessments they didn't bother to take, so I will put in a zero. And if I'll put in a zero at the end of the quarter, it would be unfair to not do that right away since grades would be dramatically different on report cards than they'd been all term. The hope is that students won't even need to see a progress report with zeros in there, but for the student who thinks they can get by without doing things it does sometimes serve the purpose of getting them kick started.

      I went back and forth on the 3 = 75% but currently think that if students are making careless mistakes on every assessment, then they need to slow down. They can also re-assess and it should be easy for them to get that 4 since they know the content well. Finally, it wouldn't be a 75% for the whole product grade, just the test/quiz part. If this turns out to skew my grades in a way I don't like I will happily inform my students that I messed up and I'm changing the grades in their favor.

      Thanks for the feedback. I need to keep thinking these things through, but really I need to just try them on some kids and see what happens!