Standards Based Grading

Why change?
The answer to this question for me stems from the idea that I don’t really care when the learning happens, only if the learning happens.

Part of me also sees how sbg could encourage some bit of student responsibility in their learning. They would know that if they didn’t get the stuff for a quiz, they’d have the ability to patch the holes in their knowledge.

My 3 sticking points for SBG (and solutions?):

  1. Midterms/Finals
    One of the most important steps for me in grasping sbg is the idea that the rare comprehensive exam can still happen:
  2. Less frequent Summative Assessments (Tests): I now am free to create true ‘Midterms’ and ‘Finals.’ These tests are now more trustworthy, because students have been informed all semester about the true status of their progress. These tests now represent a chance for a student to do many things that do not have to do with specific content standards: They can practice the skill of studying as needed for college, they can practice self-assessment, and they can develop a healthy confidence for an exam that they know can’t be reattempted.

    Shawn Cornally – Standards-Based Grading: Math

    Since I am sending these kids to HS teachers and college professors that are going to give these types of exams, if I didn’t give these types of assessments to the kids I would feel as I’ve done a disservice.

  3. Memorization vs. Real Knowledge
    This year I did a “trial” run of the sbg in an Algebra class for the second half of the year.  This was the first time I’ve taught Algebra Regents (the Regents exam is NY’s state exam).  I felt over my head in the vast number of different topics that we were required to teach.  I had a difficult time keeping in my head what we’ve done and what we have coming up because many of the topics are essentially review for the kids, while other topics are entirely new to them.
    Anywho, the biggest problem I had from the sbg system was when the students came after school for remediation.  I hadn’t laid down many specific rules, and so they wanted my help to study and then immediately take a re-assessment for credit.  They also didn’t clearly understand the boundaries between the  study part (I can help) and the quiz part (I can’t).  They would continually think they had a topic, sit down for the quiz, and get stumped because they had never really had it down.  It all clicked when I read the following:

    The best modification this year was: require that if you are staying after school with me, you are either there to get help, or you are there to re-test. Never both. If you want my help, great, but you have to come back to re-test. Retesting is a no kidding, materials put away, sitting at a desk by yourself with a pencil and a calculator situation. It was a good change because: they are more likely to at least try to do some preparation on their own, and their grade is a better reflection of what they’ve learned as opposed to what they just stored in their short term memory.
    Kate Nowak – Get Your Hot Fresh SBG Checklists

    Ding ding ding!  Ok that clicks.

  4. The grades can go down?
    The problem I’m having trouble processing is the idea that maybe their grades can go down too.  Say a student gets a 2 out of 5 originally on a quiz, stays after school and improves all the way to a 5/5. Then a month later I retest that standard and they go down to a 3.  If the students figure this out, why would they stay after school to fix the original problem if they knew that they would be retested on it later?

    When kids know they’re responsible for retaining, and — this is key — they know what they’re responsible for retaining, studying becomes a guided missile of academic awesome. This is often the trouble with high school kids.
    Shawn Cornally – Standards-Based Grading: Lowering Grades?

    I think the best of my kids can be responsible for the retention, but can the average kid do so?  Is this a factor that Shawn has older and more capable kids in his classroom (physics and calculus kids)?  I’m currently stumped on this issue.

That said, I’ll certainly be trying out sbg in all my classes next year.

3 thoughts on “Standards Based Grading

  1. #3 is the hard one for me to decide on too… I originally had it in my syllabus that grades could go down, but then thinking about the student population I have, I think it would overwhelm and/or discourage many of them. However, I think it would work out just fine in my honors classes.

    1. I’ve been trying out the “count newest grade only” in my programming class. A big change that has happened is that students rarely stay after school to reassess anymore. They know that they might get reassessed in class on the same topic so why stay after school. I’m still not sure of the answer to this question.

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