I’ve been spending a good deal of my summer vacation reading education blogs. Yes, it’s addicting. But like others before me, I’ve become fascinated with Standards Based Grading. This is the beginning of my description into this particular new world.
First, a bit of context: I’m moving to a new school next year that uses portfolio assessments in place of the battery of subject-based Regents tests. I’ve got (approximately) one million ideas buzzing in my head due to PCMI, reading way too many blogs, and of course the field of possibilities provided by a new environment. So I don’t want to bite off too much, but…
Well, there’s this great thing called SBG! Every blogger who matters is gonna do it this year! So I want to get my piece. (note: apparently I am supposed to include the code #sbar in my posts for obscure technological reasons—the longer I go without understanding Twitter, the older I feel…)
For me, @dy/dan’s post “On Getting The Concept Checklist Wrong These Last Six Years” was a part of key that unlocked things for me and made it all seem possible. The pictures say the whole story for me.
We focus on information that tells students what they have mastered and what they still need to improve on, not on how many tries it took them to demonstrate that mastery. Actually, my grad school math ed teacher did the same thing in her problem sets, by providing feedback via circling the numbers of the problem we attempted. A full circle meant it was done. Almost full circle meant there was a detail missing, and the circular continuum continued past halfway to no circle for no attempt. It was a vastly positive system that allowed for improvement on skills without the embarrassment of not “getting it” right away.
I said this was half of the story, and reading all of this, I wasn’t sure how to integrate SBG with doing portfolio projects. Ideally, a project shows how concepts and skills are authentically integrated, so extracting that information to put in a grade report that kids understand seemed a difficult undertaking. So, we have it both ways:
Your Math Grade
40% based on projects
40% based on concept checklist
20% based on homework, classwork, participation, &c.
Wait, what happened to my 100% commitment to SBG? It’s like traditional grading came and took a tax from my conceptual grading bounty. The projects and checklists should tell me all I need to know. A kid getting 100% in those two categories deserves the same on her report card—and I would probably give it to her. But it’s insurance against this imagined exchange:
“So Mister, what happens if we turn in homework late?”
“Well, student, homework doesn’t count for your grade, but you will probably do worse on your concept quiz.”
“Wow, that’s so authentic! Finally, grades have meaning!” “Oh.” [quickly calculates that without math homework, there will be so much more time to like things on Facebook]
Frankly, it will probably be easier to throw uninformative grades in this category without letting go of some students’ motivation toward getting good grades, i.e. “points.” When I can demonstrate the effect on classroom learning of the 80% that tells me what they know, I’ll think about moving towards a more radical (read: logical) grading system.