Monday, July 27, 2015

Standards Based Grading & Learning

After connecting at #flipcon15 with Hassan and Amanda, I was invited to join the SBL Mini PLN Voxer group to discuss all things related to standards-based learning/grading as I contemplate making the shift from traditional grades to the SGB model. Why, might you ask? Because I am dissatisfied with the 100-point scale and ABCDF grading systems.  I do not feel as if the traditional model of grading provides an accurate depiction of student performance.  Grades should not be the focus of learning. Grades are a symbol of student performance.

There, I said it.  I have slandered the traditional grading system.

Listening to educators like Rick Wormeli discuss how a zero on a student's assignment destroys the student's average on the 100-point scale when the 100-point scale is so heavily weighted on the bottom confirms my discontent with the system. My district uses the following grading scale for marking period grades and assignment percentages in addition to a points-based grading method:

A = 100-92
B = 91-83
C = 82-74
D = 73-70
F = 69-0

Students earn points for completing assignments and their marking period grade is calculated by dividing the number of points earned by the total points possible and then converting the decimal to a percentage on the 100-point scale. Some teachers will also weigh specific assignment types which complicate the grade calculation.

How is completing 70% of something almost failing? When does someone do zero work? And what really is the difference between 98% and 97%  or 82% and 83% overall?  How can educators accurately assess and symbolize student performance?

The SBL Mini PLN Voxer group discussed some of these issues in a Google Hangout today....

All of this has me thinking about HOW to manage and assess via a standards-based model.  My experience with tracking SBL/SBG is limited.  I've written up specific lessons, benchmark assessments, and culminating assessments that are tagged with Common Core ELA Standards, and I've created a 12-week SBL curriculum unit for my most recent graduate class. When my students read via Curriculet, questions are tagged with specific Common Core ELA Standards. I also have students complete Edmodo Snapshots that target specific ELA Common Core Standards.

This is a 12-week standards based unit plan I created based on the theme of leadership and legacy.

From a lesson and unit planning standpoint, I'm good, but I lack a method for tracking student progress via the standards throughout the marking period and school year.  I use Edmodo's Progress area to track assignments turn in via Edmodo as a working-gradebook with some of the assignment scores transferred to my district gradebook.  While the Edmodo Progress area is sufficient for managing online assignments, I don't have one spot where I can collate alignment with the standards. I want to create some sort of Google Form and Spreadsheet to track the standards assessed because I don't want to put the formative data in my district gradebook. I'd like the standards-based data to guide me in lesson planning and authentically assessing students' skills.  The spreadsheet should provide me with a big picture view of student performance and assignments.

I also wonder about using a specific rubric for standards-based assignments. Hassan, Amanda, and others assess using a 4-point rubric:

4 = Exemplary
3 = Proficient
2 = Approaches the Standard
1 = Does not meet standard

This scaled rubric is similar to my OSU rubric:

O = Outstanding 100%
S =  Satisfactory 87%
U = Unsatisfactory 74%

I do not give half scores: students are outstanding or they are not. I will not enable students with a false sense of accomplishment by protecting their egos with a S+.

When the 4 point rubric is used for a culminating PASS/FAIL grade for the marking period, it is easy to use this rubric for each standards-based assignment, but when I try to fit this into a numeric-points-grading system that my district uses, I'm stumped. I could use the 4 point or OSU rubrics to track formative learning. Formative assessment shouldn't be put in the summative gradebook, but I do need a way to track student progress and monitor their performance overall. I'm also thinking about how I can modify my peer evaluation rubrics for standards-based grading. I want a way to see the big picture of standards based learning in one spot.

If you have any ideas on how to manage the collection of data for standards-based learning or have a template you wouldn't mind sharing, please share in the comments!


  1. I am with you entirely on this. I don't believe a student should receive a 0, unless they weren't present, and I will put nothing less than a 50% in my grade book. Often times, a student can not recover from a 0, but can recover from a 50%. When you put a 0%, you are the telling the student that there is no way of so don't even try. While when you put a 50%, you are telling the student that there is hope and that they can still be successful. This is true for even my traditional grading classes.

    Who decided that 70% was failing and why?

    % grades are so vague. When a student gets a 90% from me and another student get a 90% from a different teacher teaching the same course, does that really mean the same thing? I doubt it. I don't give one inkling of extra credit, while another may.

    I absolutely hate grades. Hate them! But, without things changing at the higher ed area, how do we not give grades? We aren't allowed to give pass/fail grades. A student earning a pass/fail grade is automatically disqualified from earning the top 10% award for his/her class.

    SBG makes so much sense, and I use it with my remediation course, but, I don't know how to use it with my advanced class. There are far more things we do in that course than are listed in the standards. Do I just add those standards.

    Another struggle I have is how do I score a standard, when a student clearly gets the idea of the standard, but has errors dealing with the standard used within the standard. For instance, the standard might be solving 2 step equations. The student understands how to isolate the variable, but doesn't understand that a -7 subtracted from a -3 is 4.

    Still struggling, but I have to do something different about grades. I have to! It's what is right for the student.

  2. Hey Kate, I posted a chart/resource on Edmodo Spotlight that helps me keep track of Snapshot data on one standard for a whole class. I based it on the remediation so I can keep track of who is meeting/not meeting standards. Feel free to check it out/use it. I'd love feedback as well.

  3. Shai, I feel your pain! I think the only way the system is going to change is if we change it from within.

    Alicia, thank you for sharing your chart! You got me thinking about how I could adapt it. And thank you (duh!) for reminding me about Snapshot. I don't need to create the standards based tasks myself! Edmodo has me covered! Thinking about tracking Snapshot data, I created this form: I want the students doing the data entry for me. What do you think?

  4. Hello, Kate & friends!

    I face the same challenges in my 8th & 9th grade math classes. My school uses a traditional grading scale, but I have the same feelings as you all about it. I tried doing standards based assessments (4 point scale) with traditionally graded homework second semester of last year. The SB assessments counted for a larger percentage of the overall points, but I didn't feel good about the homework category. I also found that after the assessments they forgot the information (surprise!). So, I'm trying something new this year. I am breaking apart their overall grade into the following categories, but giving the assessments that are graded with SBG the most weight. The percentages will be the amount that category counts for the overall quarter grade.

    60% Standards based assessments that can be redone. Each standard will be graded on a 4-point scale and assessed twice (at different times) in class. The last score is the one that stays in the gradebook unless the student chooses to retest on their own time. Retesting requires that they prove they have done something else to better understand the material and fill out a Request to Retest form ahead of time.

    20% Homework that can not be redone. Homework will be graded on a 4 point scale also, but will either be based around completion (something we're just learning, a pre-test kind of thing, formative assessments) or accuracy of a skill (right before we assess on it so they should be able to do this well). When I allowed homework to be redone or turned in late last year, I don't know that I was getting an accurate measure of their understanding. I'm hoping this way I will be able to better help them understand the standard.

    10% Unit tests & big projects that can not be redone. I want to include projects in this category because there may be times where there is only one unit test a quarter. I feel like having a unit test is another way to help the standards stick in their brains for a little longer. It also helps prepare them for semester exams and their next math classes that don't allow assessments to be redone.

    10% Everything else. For example - daily points for participating, being responsible, etc., mental math practice, interactive notebook checks, Top 10 (10 problems covering past standards per week) etc.

    Let me know if you have any suggestions or feedback on this. I worked with another teacher from a different school who has the same thoughts we do about grading. She is doing something similar to this, but may weigh the categories differently.