For Teachers: Standards Based Grading

A+Hi, Teacher Friends! Here’s something going on in education that isn’t Common Core! Dig it!

Here mid-week, I wanted to do something different, which is to provide kind of a glimpse into some of the prevailing trends I’ve been seeing lately in social media and some of the education literature that’s out there right now- think of it as a brief snorkeling activity into the big current of education. I try to follow as much as I can on Twitter, though the big dogs in education post a LOT of content daily, and I just can’t get to most of it.  So please, post a comment on this post letting me know who you follow!  I’ll do the same.  (BTW, on Twitter, I’m @MrComans.  Look me up!  I’m new to some aspects of the game, but I’m eager to learn from you!)

Today’s topic is Standards-Based Grading.  If you haven’t been following this trend, you’ve gotta!  It’s gonna change the way you look at how you give feedback to your students, and more importantly, how they respond to your feedback to learn more.  It’s not necessarily a brand new idea in education, but it’s one that has been getting a lot of air time recently.

The guy who’s been beating the drum more than most is Rick Wormeli (@RickWormeli), a brilliant assessment mind who has broken down the basics of SBG in a series of articles and videos.  Here‘s one such Education Week article that became a mega-hit on the Twitterverse, co-written by the also-stellar Larry Ferlazzo.

The idea behind Standards-Based Grading, as I understand it, is to make every single grade given to a student, a reflection of his/her level of mastery of objectives and skills.  Not “Quiz 4,” not “Homework Average,” not even “Research Essay.”  Rather, the grades that the students (and parents) see are direct reflections of mastery of the objectives.  So for example, in my class, there would be grades for objectives such as “Summarizing,” “Analyzing informative text,” and “Subject-Verb Agreement.”

It’s not an extremely earth-shattering concept, at least until you examine the implications of the dynamics it could create:

1. SBG Grades are almost always a form of formative assessment (feedback for growth), and they’re changeable. We expect growth from the kids, so why shouldn’t our grading system give them the freedom to make mistakes early, see what skills need improving, and then put in the work to better themselves?  In most SBG models I’ve seen, grades are changeable, but they cannot be changed unless the student actually supplies evidence to the teacher that growth has occurred.

2. SBG Grades transfer the responsibility for learning…to the students. Yeah, yeah, now it’s sounding like Utopia, right?  Well think about it… if a grade reflects what a kid knows, and it can change, but it can only change if the kid learns the skill and gives the teacher proof that he learned it, where’s the confusion?  You sit down once with the kid and the parent, and everyone knows exactly what the score means and exactly what has to change to bring up the grade.  (Don’t prop your feet up, but you know you’ll want to imagine yourself propping your feet up.)

3. In some of these models, homework is optional and never graded. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, JAMES?!  No I’m not kidding you.  But the tradeoff is that every time you get a piece of homework, it’s because a kid actually made the decision to put down the Xbox and do the work in order to get better, and… learn, and… stuff… so, here’s the deal… every time you get homework, you have to give them feedback on how they’re doing, even if it doesn’t get a “grade.” Because anything less would be unconscionable.

I’ve done enough talking.  Just… read this.

And watch this:

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And this:

Anyway, yeah that’s one big thing that’s been going on in education lately.  Dig it! What Ed thinkers do you follow on Twitter?  What do you read?  Put it in the comments!

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Teacher Level-Up: SBG Discovered! +10 Assessment skill! | Comansense

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