NTY pretty much sums up the struggles of math education

Pi does deserve a celebration, but for reasons that are rarely mentioned. In high school, we all learned that pi is about circles. Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference (the distance around the circle, represented by the letter C) to its diameter (the distance across the circle at its widest point, represented by the letter d). That ratio, which is about 3.14, also appears in the formula for the area inside the circle, A = πr2, where π is the Greek letter “pi” and r is the circle’s radius (the distance from center to rim). We memorized these and similar formulas for the S.A.T.s and then never again used them, unless we happened to go into a technical field, or until our own kids took geometry. (Emphasis mine)

"Why Pi Matters" - New York Times, March 13, 2015

Standards-Based Grading: Converting to Letter Grades [VIDEO]

In my experience and observation, teachers and systems have used one of three systems when converting standards to letter grades in a standards-based grading environment.


In the video above, I suggested each standards to letter grades conversion method has its own limitations, however they also bring with them specific strengths.

Strengths and limitations when considering the Marzano Method

  • Some student information systems or grade books may not allow teachers to average standard scores and in turn the teacher would need to do this calculation and override the final grade.
  • One limitation of this method is that a student can have a poor understanding of a concept (standard), however it does not dramatically affect the overall letter grade and in turn a grades-driven student may not be driven to continue learning the concept.
  • Although a broad scale was illustrated in the video (3.00 - 4.00), it could easily be further broken down to include plus and minus letter grades (i.e. 3.00 - 3.25 = A-).  The conversion scale parallels many schools' grade point average scale.  For some buildings/districts, this may be helpful in communication with parents while in others in may create additional confusion.

Strengths and limitations when considering the Convert to Percentages Method
  • Because this method uses total points and percentages, this method probably plays the best with many student information systems and grade books.  
  • One limitation of this method is that a student can have a poor understanding of a concept (standard), however it does not dramatically affect the overall letter grade and in turn a grades-driven student may not be driven to continue learning the concept.  
  • I'm going out on a limb and believe this method may be the easiest for parents and students to understand due to their experience with traditional grade books.  
Strengths and limitations when considering the Piecewise / Logic Function Method
  • I have not yet seen a student information system or grade book that allows teachers to create this type of standards to final grade conversion, therefore it will take a teacher manually calculating the grades or utilizing a spreadsheet to do the calculation.  In turn, final grades will likely need to be manually overridden by the classroom teacher.
  • The teachers I have spoken with indicate this method helps grades-driven students focus more on their current weaknesses and less on a percentages/averages game.  
What other strengths and limitations have you experienced with these three methods?

What other standards to final grade calculations have you used?  

Feel free to add your experiences in the comments! 





Why does a 4-point grading scale make sense in standards-based grading? [ACTIVITY]

Experience it yourself:

  1. Invite four teachers in a room to score 20 essays, math problems or lab reports using a 10 point scale. 
  2. Look at the diversity of scores among the 20 essays, math problems or lab reports. 
  3. Now, ask the same four teachers to score the same 20 student work samples using a *4-point scale.
  4. Once again, examine the diversity of scores among the 20 essays, math problems or lab reports. 
*The same exercise could be done using a 3-point scale or a 5-point scale.

--
I (sort of) gave this exercise a try once and concluded "When using a smaller scale (4 scoring possibilities vs. 10 scoring possibilities), mathematical logic kicks in: humans are more consistent when given fewer scoring possibilities."



Class rank...an example of higher education adapting to K-12 policies and practices.

Myth: High schools must adapt to the way higher education operates.

Reality: When high schools change the information they're willing to provide about their graduates, higher education will eventually adapt.

Case in point:

Applicants to University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and University of Northern Iowa who graduate from high schools that do track class rank will continue to be assessed under the original formula. Only those students without class rank will assessed using the new model.
But that number is growing. About 31.6 percent of freshmen across the three regent schools in fall 2013 didn’t have a class rank.
The board charged its staff to create a standard alternate admission calculation for those without class rank because each university has developed a different approach for assessing those applicants

What would happen if high schools stopped calculating grade point average or issuing letter grades?

SBG Video Project

Eric and I have embarked upon a new project: a 12 episode video series communicating the most pressing standards-based grading topics we've encountered during our experiences as teachers and administrators.

The first episode (embedded below) describes standards-based grading and provides an overview of the series.


In the second episode, we do our best to flesh out the similarities and differences between competency-based education and standards-based grading.  We will be posting the rest of the videos as soon as they're recorded!

A big thanks goes out to Iowa ASCD for publicizing this video series.