Wow, the beginning of the year seems so long ago. This was my second year with a standards based grading part of my class. There have been a lot of improvements, but still areas to improve. I’ve graded almost 350 requizzes with as many as three learning objective on each. That works out to about 800 learning objectives reassessed. With about 35 learning objectives assessed for each, that means each student has on average reassess one third of their learning objectives.
Here’s a mid year assessment if the good, the bad and the ugly.
Things that worked well this year:
- Defined reassessment times
With our two week rotating schedule, I gave students two lunches a week to choose from: Wednesday and Friday on yellow weeks; Tuesday and Thursday on blue weeks. This constraint really helped both me and my students. Last year, students would try and squeeze them in when ever they could. This often mean that they would forget. There have been a number of times this year, when a student walks in ten minutes into lunch and says they remembered because they noticed their friends weren’t down in lunch. It also means that my planning periods are not being constantly interrupted with reassessments.
- Online sign up form
I started using a google form this year for sign ups. It works around 99% of the time with only occasional technical difficulties. I host it on my class website so it is very easy to access it. The students have to sign in with their school google account to keep it secure. It also means that I can have it spit out a list of objectives to print for each reassessment time. It might take ten or fifteen minutes to organize it, but having them ready to go with their names on them makes reassessments go very smoothly. It also helps me hold students accountable for not showing up. I my system that means the scores on the scheduled reassessments automatically go to 1/4. It also is nice to have that set of data to use in narrative comments. I can easily see how often a student reassesses, when they do it, and their improvements.
- Growth mindset discussions
I also started the year with a set of growth mindset exercises and assessments. This helped a lot of students to start making the transition to the growth model essential to a sbg approach. It also tied in well to the discussions of misconceptions.
Things that need improvement
- More parent outreach
Since I run a hybrid grading approach, there hasn’t been much issue since students still receive points based grades on the six texts and numerous labs that occur during the year. Because of the freedom allotted to students with the standards approach, there is some confusion when students triage their quiz grades with the intent of retaking them later on, only to forget. I hope to do more to help parents set up good patterns with their students.
- Dealing with the temptation of triage
With the freedom to choose to retake comes the possibility of choosing not to. Many students only realize this when they reach the end of the first trimester. Some let retakes continue to build up till they outnumber the opportunities left to take them. This is a common complaint about standards based grading systems. Many teachers expect students to already have the responsibility to handle independent learning. But often, students just want to know what the minimum requirements are for their goal. We must recognize that this is normal, and not something to be punished. But it is our responsibility to help them become more responsible. Part of this is to make sure their are consequences to poor decisions. Students will make poor decisions, but also to make sure that these are learning experiences and not just punitive measures. I don’t really have an answer for this yet, but it will definitely receive more thought this summer.
- Written reassessments
I still need to figure out how to move to a paperless reassessment regimen. But I used multiple versions of every quiz, since some students reassess more than once. I also will usually have a different set of learning objectives for each student coming in to reassess. I don’t yet know a way to handle the logistics of this electronically. The electronic method is also an issue since understanding is often shown by showing work. On my peak reassessment days, I can have 30+ students reassessing. I don’t know what program or regimen can handle this more easily than paper versions. If you have ideas, please let me know.
Ideas for next year
I currently use an online grade book through Edmodo. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked that well in a standards based environment. I try to minimize the number of websites my students use on a daily basis. Currently, I’ve got my online resources at chemistryisneat.com and my everyday material on Edmodo. I may mess around with Blue Harvest or Activegrade this summer. Though with Haiku’s recent purchase of Activegrade, I may switch over it they integrate sbg into Haiku. As always so many options, but nothing perfect. I may just end up having students keep tracks of quiz grades in their notebooks with a form.
Any form of summarizing a students abilities will be an approximation. But, in the end I’m reminded of a Winston Churchill quote. I believe standards based grading is the worst form of grading, except for all the rest.