02 August 2008

One More Try

Last week, I blogged about Advancing the Gradebook. Maybe gradebooks should be treated like the six million dollar man: The electronic gradebook. A tool barely useful. Gentlemen, we can rebuild it. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first meaningful gradebook. X will be that tool. Better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster. You get the idea.

Since my original post, a couple of things have happened. First of all, Paul over at Markscan sent me a link for the software he masterminded and had developed. His goal was to have something which would allow Ontario teachers to comply with the requirement that they use the most recent/most consistent level of achievement in determining grades. The image below is from the website for his software.

The idea here is that formative and summative assessments are different shades (and you can display one or another or both), with the width of the bars communicating the weight of the assessment. There are some good features here. I like the graphical display and the ability to distinguish between types of assessments.

Another thing that has happened in the last week is that I've been in contact with the Microcharts people. They do offer a 15% discount for educators, which is a start. This is a company based in Germany and therefore immune to the NCLB hoopla. I think they're missing a huge market here; however, I do want to give things a try.

Finally, I mocked up something in Excel:

It's not perfect. I did not use conditional formatting or formulas for this---I was more interested in seeing what something could look like at this point. However, I do want to go back and see if I can get the program to reproduce the results.

I have the bullet graph broken down into three colours representing the Response to Intervention levels of intensive (red), strategic (yellow), and benchmark (green). This would allow a teacher to easily see who needs reteaching/interventions and group accordingly. Secondly, I wanted something that shows progress (or at least a range). This is what the horizontal lines on the bullet graph are for. The vertical hash marks on the graph indicate the median scores. In two cases (Linus and Pigpen), we have students who are performing consistently, albeit at different levels. One might not worry so much about Linus (other than wondering if we're challenging him enough), but Pigpen is troubling. An alternative to the graph would be to just use conditional formatting in Excel that would change the colour of a cell automatically depending upon the score entered. You wouldn't need this for every cell. Instead, you could just choose a column to represent the median score of a range of other cells, then have it ready to turn red, yellow, or green depending upon that information. Personally, I would prefer a graph that can also display range. A sense of progress is important to me. Maybe a kid hasn't reached benchmark yet, but if they're growing, that's still good information to have.

I showed this at my presentation this week and one of the participants had a very good question about the time that this would take to set up and use. She was concerned about the "old dog new tricks" impact on more experienced staff members. First of all, I don't think that everyone should have to use the same tool for tracking grades. Reporting is different, since the information has to be integrated and accessible to others, but for day-to-day classroom a teacher needs to find what best suits the way they work. Secondly, I'm thinking that setup in Excel would only need to happen a couple of times a year. Once you know the formulas you want to use, you're good to go.

I'm still pondering the "dashboard" idea for integrating either all of a student's information or all of a classes information into one display. It's still summer for a few more weeks, so I still have some time to play with that.

Any other gradebook ideas to share?


Hugh O'Donnell said...

SG, I think you're on the leading edge here, so I wouldn't be surprised if you got no suggestions. I'm learning from you on this subject.

Weighting, however, is a subject that is, well, weighty. In fact it weighs down the whole concept of standards-based grading.

My preference would be to give equal weight to each "power standard" assessment. I just don't get how we can assign weights without falling into the old idiosyncratic routine. What are the objective measurements of "weight"?

What do you think?

The Science Goddess said...

Personally, I don't like the idea of weighting assessments, but I can easily see how hard it will be for some teachers to give up. After all, should a long term project for a course provide "greater" opportunity to show ability to meet the standards vs. an in-class test on one day for the same standards? Paul's software would allow a teacher the option of weighting, but one wouldn't have to use it.

At the moment, I'm more enthralled with what Excel/Microcharting could offer in terms of feedback to teachers about student progress. It's versatile, relatively user-friendly, and readily available at nearly every school (and works with existing tech). But we'll see what I can cook up. :)

Hugh O'Donnell said...

I'm hot to see what's cookin'! ;)

Unknown said...

I'd love to see what you discover. I'm trying to grade two of my four high school English classes this term almost exclusively on standards (10% comes from "responsibility" scores I'm not ready to give up yet). My biggest hurdle: reporting on progress toward standards in our district-mandated and -provided, web-based grading system. It's built for a traditional points system.

I'm looking for a more useful system to pilot, possibly with grant money, by the last twelve weeks of this school year. I have my principal's blessing (bless her) and several colleagues waiting to see how it works. Now the trick: find a system that doesn't double my workload (I already spend weekends on essays) and that DOES report electronically to parents.

I crave insight and direction!

The Science Goddess said...

I have found a lot of promise with Excel---which won't solve your issue with reporting electronically to parents.

As for grading, which is a very different issue, I found that standards-based practices actually cut down a lot of the time I used to spend grading. No more counting points and calculating percents, etc. The question becomes "Does the kid get it and how do I know?"

Click the "grading" tag at the bottom of the post to see all related content here.

KEB said...

I am trying this as well at the high school level, based on Marzano and a great presentation at the Model Schools 2007 by a principal from Miami who ruined traditional grading for me forever with her powerful images of how we so often "turn our backs on a kid with a grade." For software I am trying Easy Grade Pro, which I have always used for traditional grading and seems able to handle standards as well. I'm still learning so I can't say for sure but you would know if you saw it...www.easygradepro.com by Orbis, only $49 when I bought it, and less than $500 for an entire school. It is web-capable and does great reports for traditional grading, with lots of graphs, so it might do the kind of graphs you are looking for as well.

Unknown said...

Thanks, KEB! I'll check out the Easy Grade Pro.

SG, thanks for your great blog. I ran across it in August when I was challenged to start thinking about grading, and your inside scoop has been my best single resource yet.

As an English teacher, I'm used to grading essays on the six traits (standards-based). Literature and reading are taking more work. Frankly, it's easier to enter total points from a single assessment that covers several standards than to separate the standards assessed in that activity and report them all. So far it's taking me considerably longer--but I consider that the price of change. I'll figure out quicker systems over time. I'm committed to seeing this through (and administrators are on board).

The Science Goddess said...

Glad to share and help. It does take some time to adjust---but well worth it. Rock on!