A teacher recently asked...
"What is the connection between our district's professional learning community philosophy and standards-based grading?"Here is what I came up with and shared with our teaching staff...
The questions guiding the work of our professional learning community philosophy are in orange followed by a comparison with assignments-based grading (likely the system we all grew up with) and standards-based grading.
1. What do we want all students to learn?
Assignments-based grading: Grade book entries may say “test” or “project.” The specific standards students should be learning may or may not be communicated with parents or students. Students who are receiving low grades may ask to complete or re-do activities rather than learn at a higher level.vs.
Standards-based grading: Grading guideline “Entries in the grade book that count towards the final grade will be limited to course or grade level standards” Standards explicitly stated on tests, quizzes, projects, etc. These standards are also listed in the grade book to give parents, students and teachers a clear picture of what students are to be learning.
Teachers plan classroom activities and assessments that have explicitly communicated connections with course or grade level standards.
2. How will we know when each student has learned it?
Assignments-based grading: Grades based on quizzes and tests determine students who may need extra time and support. A “B’ may mean a student has not turned in some work, but is learning at a high level. This makes using letter grades as an indicator challenging to determine which students have learned at a high level.vs.
Individual teachers determine student proficiency and there may be significant variability between classes or grade levels.
Standards-based grading: Grading guideline, “Teachers will determine grade book entries by considering multiple points of data emphasizing the most recent data and provide evidence to support their determination.” Teachers collaboratively create common formative assessments and their corresponding rubrics. These assessments are based on power standards, a subset of the class standards, which are communicated to students and parents.
3. How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty?
Assignments-based grading: Teachers may respond when students are receiving a low grade or do not perform well on an assignment or test.vs.
It may be challenging to differentiate which specific standards students are experiencing difficulty. Extra credit may be used to provide students an opportunity to raise their grade. The extra credit activities may or may not be related to standards students are currently experiencing difficulty.
Standards-based grading: Grading guidelines, “Students will be allowed multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of classroom standards in various ways. Retakes and revisions will be allowed” and “Extra credit will not be given at any time.” Teachers respond first in their class to students who do not currently understand class standards. This information is readily available, because assessment feedback is broken down by standard.
Teams of teachers collaboratively discuss results of common formative assessments. Students who are experiencing difficulty are provided extra time and support, i.e. supplemental groups, in-class differentiation, after school tutoring, additional teaching during home base or seminar time.
This time is more purposeful, because individuals and teams of teachers can clearly pinpoint what students are struggling with and provide the focused support they need to learn the standards. When students later demonstrate higher levels of understanding, this information is communicated in the grade book and does not penalize slower learners.
4. How will we respond when a student has already demonstrated understanding?
Assignments-based grading: Teachers may respond when students are receiving a high grade or have performed well on an assignment or test.vs.
It may be challenging to differentiate which specific standards students have already demonstrated understanding. Extension activities may or may not be related to areas in which students have already demonstrated a high level of understanding.
Standards-based grading: Grading guidelines, “Students will be allowed multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of classroom standards in various ways. Retakes and revisions will be allowed” and “Extra credit will not be given at any time.” Teams of teachers collaboratively discuss results of common formative assessments. Students who have already demonstrated understanding are provided extension activities related to course content and/or non-essential standards, i.e. supplemental groups, gifted education services, in-class differentiation.