Standards-Based Grading

I went to a professional development session on standards-based grading the other day, and here are the main ideas.

Formative assessments (practices) should not be factored into grades. This menas homework and classwork is not graded.

Only summative assessments should be recorded into grades. Only course requirements and final assessments should be used to assess student achievement.

Citizenship should be a separate score. Cheating, tardies, and absences should not be a part of the final grade.

Grades should only reflect student achievement. This means that only final assessments should be recorded for final grades. If a student needs five chances to pass or meet standard on a skill, only the final attempt counts as part of the grade.

High school is not college. High school teachers should not succumb to the pressures of colleges when determining grades. Our kids are not adults and should not be treated as such. We are a different entity entirely.

Zeroes are not mathematically just. When looking at mathematical formulas, a zero (on a 100 point scale) is an overwhelmingly unfair measure. Zeroes should be counted as 50% when considering grades. Using a GPA scale this makes sense because each grade is a factor of 1 (4 = A, 3 = B, 2 = C, 1 = D, and 0 = F). On a 100 point scale the F range is 60 points versus the 10% each other grade receives.

Cheating means a student gets another chance with a non-academic consequence. If grades are to reflect achievement only, then consequences for cheating cannot impact the grade. Students who cheat should receive an alternate assignment and a non-academic punishment.

No one fails a class; students can receive an A, B, C, D, or NC (no credit). The psychological effects of an F can overpower what an F should represent. Students cannot separate their self-worth from their products, so they equate the two; if a student receives an F on an assignment, he/she feels like a failure even if that is not the case.

I don’t agree 100% with each of the preceding suppositions, but I understand the thinking behind each of the aforementioned ideas.

I always feel, as an English teacher, that I have to teach to the state standards, but I also have to teach the unwritten curriculum: cultural literacy. There is little way to measure how well a student acquires the cultural literacy of my discipline. I just know that the experiences I provide are invaluable but not always measurable. Thus, I have a bit of a hybrid system, and I’m ok with my system.

How do you feel about the positions listed above?

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9 thoughts on “Standards-Based Grading

  1. mrschili

    I’ve got some issues with this, too. One of my dear friends teaches at a charter high school which implements this policy, and while he’s all for it, I see some flaws – and some fairly serious ones at that. Still, I like it more than I don’t.

    As for the cultural literacy angle, I’m with you – I think that’s one of the more important aspects of an English (LA) class. Since it’s not included in the standards of the curriculum, though, we have a lot more wiggle room as to what we want our students to come away with. I find that the best way for me to assess how well my students are catching on to that angle of the class is to listen carefully to the ways in which they discuss the texts. If they make connections and talk in ways that make me think they see more than just the plot, I’m heartily encouraged.

    Reply
  2. ms_teacher

    Grades should only reflect student achievement. This means that only final assessments should be recorded for final grades. If a student needs five chances to pass or meet standard on a skill, only the final attempt counts as part of the grade.
    This I take issue with because of the number of student contacts, time constraints due to district mandated pacing guides, do not afford me the luxury to allow students to re-take tests or re-do assignments. However, that being said, I offer students a couple of options when it comes to assignments and tests. Even though I often give deadlines, they are considered “soft” deadlines in that, I generally never tell a student that they can’t turn something in. Tests/quizzes are often handed back with the added incentive of making corrections to boost the original grade and students are told they can re-take (some) tests at lunch.

    No one fails a class; students can receive an A, B, C, D, or NC (no credit). The psychological effects of an F can overpower what an F should represent. Students cannot separate their self-worth from their products, so they equate the two; if a student receives an F on an assignment, he/she feels like a failure even if that is not the case.
    This I think is a really good idea because I detest giving students “F”s and it’s the primary reason why I don’t do zeros in my gradebook.

    Reply
  3. Jim Van Pelt

    Hi,Doc! As you noticed, reposting at my blog, http://jimvanpelt.livejournal.com, the main points you brought up here caused a mini-storm. What you didn’t see is what happened when I sent the same post to the entire staff at our school. Lots of heated discussion.

    The ideas of refiguring zeros so they are proportionately fair, and taking late work with minimal or no penalty came up last year in one or our last faculty meetings. Would you say these ideas are progressive? If so, our principal, who is a hard as nails administrator, is also a progressive.

    The hurdle on grading, I think, is a firmly established mind set that an “A” grade is not just a measure or a student’s understanding, but also a labeling of the student’s work ethic. “He was an ‘A’ student in school” doesn’t just mean to most folks that he has a full grasp of the course’s subject matter; it means that he’s hard working, a rule follower, and an example of the way we hope other students would behave.

    The other arguments deal with the school as being a place where students learn to be responsible, and that the school prepares students for the “real world.” In these arguments, the point seems to be that if students are allowed do-overs, or can turn in late work without consequence, that they will be ill prepared for the work world that charges them for paying bills late, fires them for not being the best they can be the first time, and generally makes their life miserable for failing to follow standards to the letter.

    The best argument I have for these folks is that the grade should only be a reflection of the student’s academic achievement. Giving a student an “F” for a class because he hasn’t learned the material is very different from giving a student an “F” for not turning work in, even if his final summative assessment indicated he understood an “A” amount of the material. Also, we can hardly claim to be teaching responsibility if our only teaching tool is the draconian “no credit” or “so little credit it’s not worth doing.” We teach responsibility by making them do it. I have a lot more power on my side to get a student to do work if I will give them the full credit for doing it. The “penalty” for late work in my class is that it’s very hard to get away with it. I conference with students, sometimes daily, e-mail and phone parents, and, if I have to, contact the FLEX team for help with other interventions. Teaching this way is fully embracing one of our mantras of the last few years: “Time is the variable.”

    The problem becomes, then, is that we have no way currently of showing how a student is performing in the non-academic areas, which I think any employer or admissions officer would like to know. I would like to know if a student has a “C” because he only has grasped a “C” amount of the material, but he made every deadline and turned everything in, or if the student has a “C” because he can’t make deadlines. And in the same sense, I think there is a difference between a student who makes an “A” and makes all the deadlines, and one who gets an “A” by turning in good quality work late.

    I think the objections to a pure academic grade have some validity if there is no way to show how a student is performing in timeliness and responsibility. What we need is a “citizenship” grade along with the academic one. A kid with a 4.0 GPA but with a 2.0 in citizenship has a problem that is evident and can be worked on.

    But I think if we did a citizenship grade, that it should be a rolling one that only reflects the student’s last semester or year. We’re trying to teach citizenship, not just measure it. So, a kid who has a 1.0 in citizenship his freshman year, but by the time he’s a senior is a 4.0 citizen, his total grade should not be an average of the freshman 1.0, the sophomore 2.0, and the junior 3.0 combined with his senior year 4.0, when he finally matured enough to recognize he needed to be responsible. If his last semester is 4.0, I’d give it to him. He’s demonstrated a mastery of citizenship. One way to look at it is that his first three years were formative, while his senior year was summative.

    Oh, here’s an issue you haven’t brought up, extra credit. Many teachers offer extra credit for non-academic activities. We have teachers who will raise a student’s academic grade for bringing in food for the Christmas food drive, or for helping to assemble a homecoming float. I offer extra credit if a student will go to a play and write a critical analysis. Although my extra credit may foster improved understanding, I don’t have a way to measure it with a summative tool. I just give them extra points.

    How we assign extra credit needs to be looked at also.

    Reply
  4. drpezz Post author

    According to the standards-based grading workshop I attended, extra credit should not exist at all since grades should represent only achievement as related to the standards. Layered assignments and the like can be created to reveal A, B, C, and D level work, but nothing over and above the normal classwork should be included in the grade.

    By the way, a citizenship grade was recommended to accompany the achievement grade.

    Reply
  5. Jim Van Pelt

    Hi, Doc. I thought the citizenship recommendation was a good one. I think it exists in some schools, but the folks I’ve heard from make it sound like a grade that is only a reflection of unexcused absences and tardies, not one that looks more closely at a student’s performance in class.

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  6. Pingback: Standards-Based Grading Continued « The Doc Is In

  7. drpezz Post author

    I feel absences and tardies could be part of a citizenship grade, but preparedness, participation, attentiveness, and industry should also be a part of the score.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: Standards-Based Grading « The Doc Is In

  9. Pingback: Standards-Based Grading Presentation on Monday « The Doc Is In

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