19 August 2007

Calling Upon the Eduverse

With a lot of help from the Repairman, I have drafted a standards-based grading policy to use with secondary students. You can read it here (please feel free to use any of it that you like). Any and all comments are welcomed and appreciated in terms of helping me shape this beast.

I feel comfy with the mechanics of the day-to-day process of formative and summative assessment. I'm not worried about providing constructive feedback to students on assignments. I am, however, a bit stymied as to how to distill this information into a final grade for a report card. This is where I'm really calling upon you for ideas.

In elementary schools, each standard is reported separately. Secondary schools don't have this luxury---all of the standards are mashed into a single letter grade. This also brings up an issue of "translating" a grade from a rubric scale to a letter grade. I know that letters and numbers are just symbols, but my goal here is to use them to communicate something meaningful. Like it or not, parents and students may very well have different ideas about what A, B, C, etc. mean as compared to mine. Here are some brainstormed ideas I've had. Keep in mind that I'm not saying that they're good. :)

  • Determine a percentage which indicates the consistency of meeting the standards. For example, if a student is meeting all assessed standards 75-85% of the time, s/he would be assigned a "B" on the report card.
  • Use power standards as a guideline for the A, B, C scale. Let's say that there are 3 targeted standards in a given quarter. In order to earn an A, a student would have to show mastery of all three.
  • Directly equate a rubric scale of 0 - 4 with F - A. Or, should a score of 0 - 2 (not meeting standard) always equate to an F?
Okay, eduverse---help! How would you assign a report card grade?

Update: If you're so inclined, come over to this later post and see the gradebook I developed to accompany my new policy.


The Tablet PC In Education Blog said...

Your thinking makes sense. Here's another idea, this time from possibly a different, and not popular view with educators.

The logic behind standards is that they are thresholds, not ultimate learning or performance goals.

That means, passing a standards test with 100 percent earns a "C." An "A" means the student crossed the theshold and demonstrated superior command of the class material, however the teacher or curriculum defines superior.

Thanks for asking for comments. Best wishes.

The Science Goddess said...

I keep pondering this, too.

At this point, my thinking is that a student who is consistently earning no more than a "2" (out of 4) cannot receive credit for the course. Students who perform at level 3 or 4 would be eligible for a "passing" grade (in this district, a "D" earns credit).

I also believe in providing opportunities for level 4 work.

DrPezz said...

With the traditional scale, the grades are supposed to be competitively earned (C = average), which I absolutely abhor. If a straight model is used, like a curve, failures are guaranteed as are top grades regardless of achievement.

However, with standards based assessments (which I love) I go round and round in my department with what letter equivalent a minimum passing score should receive. I feel a minimum passing score (on my five point scale a three is passing) would be a 'D'. This is the absolute minimum to pass as grades currently stand. I use the five point scale because it's easier for students to see the correlations.

Our state uses a four-point scale with a 3 being a passing score. This, of course, raises the question: to what should this correlate on a traditional scale? A 'C' would seem appropriate, but how do we show this correlation adequately?

If I can keep up with the paperwork, I'm going to record how the students do if I used only a standards-based scale and only a traditional scoring scale, essentially two grade books. Maybe I'll just do it for a quarter and see how it looks. This way I can see how the students perform under each system. Currently, I combine the two with standards-based grades used on major assignments.

The Science Goddess said...

Note from Science Goddess: I'm pasting in the comment below. I "published" it after it was sent to me for moderation, but somehow, it never showed up here. It's from "Tablet PC" (who also graciously contributed above).

This is an interesting discussion. When did responsibility for learning turn into the perceived duty for a teacher to inspire it or to connect with students? The reality is, teachers know more than students, so students must figure out how to learn what teachers know however the present it, or receive an evaluation that indicates they did not learn it. Of course, I know the answer to my question. The change started when students began evaluating teachers during the 1960s, and complaining that the work was "too hard." It's disappointing to read comments by teachers about how they don't and didn't pay attention in classes. That leads to many of us wondering about the content competency of teachers. Hmm, too direct?

The Science Goddess said...

Dr. Pezz,

Are you saying that with your five point scale, a "2" would equal a "D"? I think I understand what you said---and like the idea of a five point scale---but thought I'd make sure I got it. :)

Keeping up with the paperwork for two parallel systems seems downright Herculean, but it would definitely be intriguing to know the results.

I plan to play with my grading policy more this week. I'll repost if I think I have some sort of "solve" for the end of grading period conundrums.

The Science Goddess said...

Tablet PC,

My particular take on things is that in the U.S., the shift in the responsibilities for learning began about the same time as the civil rights movement. We may have always said that every kid could learn and had a right to a basic education...but we didn't necessarily walk that walk. Starting in the 1960's (post-Sputnik, as well), we really started getting serious about what it would mean to educate everybody and finally started to have some significant educational research done on what that would take.

I do believe that learning requires conscious engagement between student and teacher. I absolutely agree that kids need to be evaluated on whether or not they have learned. My struggle at the moment is how to more accurately and effectively communicate that final grade. The day-to-day stuff is a cakewalk.

My own experience with schools and look into educational research is that content area expertise can be lacking for teachers...but so can knowledge of instructional practices. I think that sound assessment and grading is not something which has been focused upon in ed schools and we're not seeing much change in schools as a result.

Roger Sweeny said...

I think Grading Guideline 1. should read, "Students will be graded ..."

My daughter and I have sometimes been accused of having the souls of proofreaders. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing:


The Science Goddess said...

Yea! Thank you, Roger. I am definitely interested in all manner of feedback.

And better a proofreader with a soul than one without. :)

DrPezz said...

On my five-point scale the basic (very general) breakdown is as follows for writing:

5 - Absolute mastery (able to manipulate language and content for effect)
4 - Beyond mastery (surpassed the minimum and starting to have own voice)
3 - Basic mastery (mechanical in sound but basic minimums met)
2 - Emerging (slightly below the minimums)
1 - Beginning (not close to mastery but an attempt made)

I just divide the score earned by 5, so a 3 is 60%. However, there are numerous categories affecting the overall score. Most students start in the 2-3 range and finish in the 4 range, though many surpass those ranges as well.

Did that make sense?

The Science Goddess said...

Yes, it does. Thank you!

I was confusing it with how you determined the grade you put on the report card each reporting period.