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Oct 15

Standards Based Grading: An Experiment

As I prepped for back to school in June and July, I was excited about the prospects of standards based grading – or even going as far as abolishing grading. I wanted to provide an environment where my students learn and our focus is not on the “A”. I played with my gradebook, and found the skills section provided a perfect way for me to make notes and provide progress information. I have the ability as well to send detailed information on progress reports. I was excited, optimistic, and ready for the challenge before me.

Then school started.

At first, things were working as planned – at least from what I could see on my end of the gradebook. However, we have a new online portal for parents to check in on their child’s grades daily. The ParentPortal does not read the skills category of the gradebook correctly. Even though my skills were not entered as letter grades, it interpreted them as such and assigned U’s (F’s). Of course parents were concerned by this. Additionally, all of the notes I carefully included in my gradebook did not transfer over to ParentPortal, so parents were unable to see the provided information. Previously, we emailed home grade reports which allowed this information to be viewed by parents. Now we do not email these homes (and have been told not to do so), so all of this valuable information is lost. I was able to include it on mid-term progress reports, but those only go home once a quarter. Too little information too infrequently to make it work.

So my first experiment in the realm of standards based grading has failed. I have reverted to the traditional gradebook as that is what parents can see and interpret. I don’t have the tools at hand to make it work at the moment.

Perhaps I am just not up to the challenge right now. I am sure part of it is that I don’t want to push too hard and stretch the boundaries. Part of it has to do with timing. Our school did not make AYP this year, so as you can imagine, grades and test scores are our primary focus at the moment. I stand by and watch and dream of doing it differently, but I lack the courage to make it happen right now.

Not that it has been a total failure. I have made some changes. If students showed mastery of an objective on the final exam that they had not shown on the unit assessment, I adjust grades to reflect that. I took many opportunities like to adjust scores to better reflect students’ ultimate understanding. I feel in this way I am making baby steps towards showing true learning.

My students also have their own blogs this year for web based portfolios. It is working well, and I think it adds a new dimension to our learning. I see much more authentic reflection than I have ever seen when I have asked them to handwrite this information. (You can see some of those reflections here: http://mrswilsonscience.com/tags/tag/5/). It helps us all see what they feel they are learning and where they feel there are gaps. I hope to refine these reflections as we continue through the year.

So where do I go from here? How do I show true learning while still providing grades as expected by parents and administrators? Have you come across these challenges? If so, how have you addressed them?

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  2. TEACHING|chemistry» Blog Archive » Standards Based Grading Gala #3

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