Saturday, April 12, 2014

Standards Based Grading - Beginning the Process

I recently received an email from one of our board members suggesting that our school system would soon move toward implementing standards based grading. At first I was confused - we JUST implemented 1:1 technology this year. Now a grading change? That's a lot in a small amount of time.

I had never even heard of standards based grading until this October (I am a first year teacher, remember). One of my principals held a few PD sessions over lunch with discussions on the different articles in ASCD's Effective Grading Practices edition. We read many different articles that all called for grading reform. When we turned our attention to the article "Grades That Show What Students Know" by Robert J. Marzano and Tammy Heflebower, I immediately questioned the value of standards based grading. I had just graduated college and was supposed to be trained in the new educational trends, yet I had never been exposed to this type of grading. I didn't know how to respond to the idea of implementing an entirely new system of grades. I didn't get it, to be honest.

I didn't understand the concept of standards based grading, true, but more importantly, I didn't understand how utterly broken our current grading system is.

Suddenly, I became faced with the question that we all have to answer at some point as educators: what do my grades represent?

I decided that I wanted my grades to represent mastery and learning rather than behavior, and it was time for me to stare at my mistakes and questions in the face and make sense of my grading practices. Here are just a few of the thing I've begun to consider -

-Turning in assignments on time is important, but isn't the work turned in what really matters? 
-Bringing materials is a necessity, but should I be grading HIGH SCHOOL students on this?
-No matter how much I love for students to do group work, it will never prove individual mastery.
-Practice should not be counted against students. No wonder they're afraid of failing.
-Students should be given multiple opportunities to prove mastery. This promotes creativity.

As we move to standards based grading, I have a lot of things to change. We all do. But it's important that we stay open to this change. Ultimately, it keeps teachers and students accountable on an equal playing field. Students will leave our classrooms confident and sure that they are capable of living up to a standard.

There are plenty of implementation questions that are still on the table. How will my computer-based grade book work? How will GPAs be weighted? What about elective classes? (If you have any tips, please share!)

I'm excited for the change, and I'll be slowly introducing my implementation process here on the blog if you're interested. 

Until next time,
Ms. Z

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