Last Friday was a teacher institute day. I spent my time planning, working on report cards, and listening to a speaker in the afternoon. The speaker spoke to all of the elementary teachers in the district. The event ended up being in the cafetorium (that’s what we call the auditorium/cafeteria). It’s a huge wide-open space that usually holds elementary and middle school lunches. The speaker introduced himself and told everyone that he was there* to chat about standards-based grading/policies. There’s been talk that the district will be moving towards standards-based grading at some point in the next few years.
The presenter went through questions related to why teachers grade students, why standards are used, and how inadequate a 100 scale is while emphasizing the need to use feedback instead. I think most educators there were aware that specific feedback is a more useful tool than points. The presenter reaffirmed the audience’s beliefs and also dolled out research by Paul Blake and Dylan Wiliam’s “Inside the Black Box” study.
After about an hour and half the presenter mentioned how he would introduce a standards-based reporting model. He also prefaced this saying that there’s not a perfect model.
4 – “Blows the expectations out of the water”
3– “Meets the expectations”
2– “Student needs a little help to meet the expectations”
1– “Student needs a lot of help to meet the expectations”
I’ve never had standards-based grading explained like this and it was refreshing. I noticed a few teachers nodding and a few commenting about the simplicity behind the reasoning. The presenter went through a number of submitted questions related to what happens when teachers have different opinions on what “blows the expectations out of the water.” Questions also came up about how many standards to report for the report card. There wasn’t exactly a right answer with this, but the presenter mentioned that students have “all of the year” to meet the standard. There were questions about this. Consistency with teachers’ expectations was also addressed and many teachers believed this would be a good use of PLC time.
in some schools that use standards-based grading, I’ve seen a number models where teachers use a percent scale and then convert that value to a 1-4. I’m sure there are plenty of standards-based grading models out there and doubt there’s a fool-proof way to implement this new communication tool.
The good news is that I believe teachers are already using standard-based practices. Some teachers are eliminating points and percentages on some of the assignments. They’re also moving towards a “Not Yet” or “Met” policy with tasks. Report card grades tend to reflect unit assessments. I know of some classrooms that are already using classroom policies that reflect a standards-based model, while others don’t. Moving forward, I believe there’ll need to be support in developing consistency as districts move towards new reporting models. Some Illinois districts have moved towards or have already started using standards-based policies and some have encountered turbulence. I believe there’s consensus that averaging grades isn’t always the best option. Moving away from that will cause some to squirm and ensuring that there’s a smooth transition won’t be easy. Communication and consistency will play a major role in how it’s received by all stakeholders.
*Bonus – the presenter introduced the think, ink, share process. I wasn’t aware of this and am planning on trying it out in a couple days.