Standards-Based Grading just made sense to me the first time I heard about it at a Seattle PLC Institute. The big ideas just worked for me. I bought into the philosophy completely. I wrote tests organized by learning targets. Well, I rearranged old tests to group questions by learning targets. I wrote some beautiful rubrics. But, I am frustrated. I still believe in the fundamentals of standards-based grading, but I’m struggling to make it work for me and for my students.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that I am using the assessment practices of my teachers at South Kitsap High School (“South”). Their habits might have worked for them back in the late 70’s and for me in the 80’s and 90’s, but they aren’t working for me any more. Times have changed. I need to change as well.
- Grades were available at mid-term and end of term.
- Assessments were arranged by question type to make scoring more efficient.
- One score for one test.
- One test for one chapter. No retakes.
- Students and parents check grades daily.
- Assessments are arranged by learning target.
- Multiple learning targets, one score for each learning target.
- Students take retakes. So I write and score retakes.
My teachers back at South wrote tests that took most students the entire class period to complete. They had a class period of peace and quiet to do their work. I catch myself doing the same thing. This practice is counterproductive because it takes me more than one class period to score one set of tests so I just get farther behind in grading. Just because an assessment is summative does not necessarily mean it has to last an entire period.
Here’s my Action Plan:
- Deconstruct my next test. Rip it into several smaller assessments on ONE learning target that take less than ten minutes of class-time for students to complete and that take me 10 minutes to sort a class set into 4 piles:
- Emergency! These students need a complete reteach.
- Getting There. These students need a little more practice.
- Got It! These students need either a little more practice or a way to extend or deepen their learning.
- Challenge Me. These students need a challenge. Something that will extend or deepen their learning and isn’t just more of the same work.
- Have a plan in advance for
- the criteria for sorting student work into four piles.
- my response to the four types of student needs.
- the retakes students will need when at first they do not succeed.
- Look ahead to the next test and repeat the process.
Much as I admired and respected my teachers at South back-in-the-day, it’s time to update my assessment practices so that I can differentiate instruction in my classroom.
My husband and dog will thank me for the extra time I have to spend with them. My students will thank me for the more timely feedback and interventions they receive. My back will thank me for the lighter load I carry home each night.
Married to Larry, an old Coast Guard salt and amazing man.I get to share Larry with our yellow lab, Sherman.
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