Sunday, September 23, 2012

Standards Based Grading

The topic of Standards Based Grading is a huge one.  It is much larger than we can tackle in a single newsletter, document or parent meeting.  My intention is to provide you with brief updates throughout the year to help you better understand SBG, our professional development activities, and our progress towards full implementation. 

Thank you to the parents that attend the first of six parent meetings to better inform you on grading practices at Solon High School.  Here is a link to the district resources page.  A video of the parent meeting sessions will be shared on the district resource page next week.   

Also, here is a link to the presentation that was shown during the parent meeting. 

 To begin with, let’s take a step backwards and look at the traditional grading system to see how it compares with Standards Based Grading in philosophy:

Traditional Grading System
Standards-Based Grading System

1.     Based on assessment methods (quizzes, tests, homework, projects, etc.).  One grade/entry is given per assessment.
2.     Assessments are based on a percentage system.  Criteria for success may be unclear.
3.     Use an uncertain mix of assessment, achievement, effort and behavior to determine the final grade.  May use late penalties and extra credit.
4.     Everything goes in the grade book - regardless of purpose.
5.     Include every score, regardless of when it was collected.  Assessments record the average - not the best - work.

1. Based on learning goals and performance standards.  One grade/entry is given per learning goal.
2. Standards are criterion or proficiency-based.  Criteria and targets are made available to students ahead of time.
3. Measures achievement only OR separates achievement from effort/behavior.  No penalties or extra credit given.
4. Selected assessments (tests, quizzes, projects, etc.) are used for grading purposes.
5. Emphasize the most recent evidence of learning when grading.
Adapted from O’Connor K (2002).  How to Grade for Learning: Linking grades to standards (2nd ed.).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

As we began our studies, we found that the philosophy of SBG matched nicely with our belief in a system that focused on student learning and appropriately reporting that learning. 

Earlier in the year I shared the five grading guidelines, which teachers would begin implementing this fall. 
  1. Entries in the grade book that count towards the final grade will be limited to course or grade level standards.
  2. Extra credit will not be given at any time.
  3. Students will be allowed multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of classroom standards in various ways.  Retakes and revisions will be allowed.  
  4. Teachers will determine grade book entries by considering multiple points of data emphasizing the most recent data and provide evidence to support their determination.
  5. Students will be provided multiple opportunities to practice standards independently through homework or other class work.  Practice assignments and activities will be consistent with classroom standards for the purpose of providing feedback.  Practice assignments, including homework, will not be included as part of the final grade.

Throughout this school year, professional development will be provided for staff to insure that these guidelines are understood and implemented.  By the 4th quarter, teachers will have fully implemented SBG, according to the five guidelines, in at least one of their classes.  While full implementation of Standards Based Grading is not expected until the 2013-14 school year, many of our teachers began using SBG in all of their classes from the start of the school year.

An important step in our transition is to have the majority of staff fully implementing the SBG guidelines.  While I’ve been impressed with the number of staff that jumped in with both feet, there is still much learning ahead for all of us.  We are still working on more clearly defining the guidelines - to determine what fits and what does not .  We are still working on developing consistent classroom practices, not only across the building or grade level, but also within an individual classroom. 

Of the many challenges we face with our transition, perhaps the greatest is how to best report student learning to you, the parents, as well as the students themselves.  You’ll notice most teachers using a 4 point scale in a rubric format.  This works well for a students’ understanding of his or her progress on a given learning target, or standard.  This is an adjustment for parents, however, who are more familiar with traditional grading and homework/classwork grading.

We certainly welcome any questions you may have regarding Standards Based Grading.  In addition to your child’s classroom teacher, please feel free to contact Matt Townsley, Director of Instruction, or myself, with any questions you may have.  Again, we are committed to providing you timely updates throughout the year as we continue on our journey. 

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