Standards-Based Grading: District-wide journey

EDIT: This is a follow-up to a previous post.  

It's a pretty exciting time to work in my current school district.  About twenty years ago, the elementary school implemented a standards-based report card.  Over the past several years, we've seen a grassroots movement in the area of assessment and grading reform in our secondary buildings.  Dozens of teachers and building leadership teams have visited and/or inquired about what's going on in our high school and middle school, which is one of the reasons we'll soon be co-hosting a standards-based grading conference in eastern Iowa (before you ask, we've reached our registration capacity and the waiting list has been closed as well).

The purpose of this post is to create a "one-stop shop" illustrating various artifacts that document our district's standards-based grading journey and next steps.

What is standards-based grading (SBG)?

SBG implementation background

Timeline - unabridged; includes implementation timeline and next steps.  

Purpose and Grading Guidelines
  • The primary purpose of grading is to communicate achievement status to students, parents and others.
  • Secondary purposes of grading include providing feedback to students for self-assessment and growth and encouraging student progress and self-monitoring of learning.
  1. Entries in the grade book that count towards the final grade will be limited to course or grade-level standards.**
  2. Extra credit will not be given at any time.
  3. Students will be allowed multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of classroom standards in various ways. Retakes and revisions will be allowed.  
  4. Teachers will determine grade book entries by considering multiple points of data emphasizing the most recent data and provide evidence to support their determination.
  5. Students will be provided multiple opportunities to practice standards independently through homework or other class work.  Practice assignments and activities will be consistent with classroom standards for the purpose of providing feedback.  Practice assignments, including homework, will not be included as part of the final grade.  
**Exceptions will be made for midterm and/or final summative assessments.  These assessments, limited to no more than one per nine-week period may be reported as a whole in the grade book.  

Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are all middle school and high school teachers required to use the same grading rubric?
A: Yes, after receiving feedback from parents and students, a group of teachers and administrators agreed on a consistent 4-point scale.
4 - Demonstrates thorough level of understanding of course or grade-level standard.
3.5 - Demonstrates understanding of course or grade-level standard.
3 - Demonstrates a developing understanding of course or grade-level standard.
2 - Demonstrates partial understanding of course or grade-level standard.
1 - Demonstrates minimal understanding of course or grade-level standard. 
Q: How is the 4-point scale translated into a letter grade to calculate grade point averages?
A: Sixth through twelfth grade students currently receive letter grades on their report cards.  The specifics vary from class to class, however many teachers use a straight conversion.  For example, if there are 10 standards in a quarter, 10 standards x 4 = 40.  A student with all "4's" except for one "2" would earn 38/40 = 95%, A.

Q: Is this similar to competency-based education (CBE)?
A: Although it is not yet an example of a pure competency-based education environment, steps taken in a standards-based grading philosophy may be a big step towards CBE in the future.
Reference: "What is the difference between standards-based grading and competency-based education?"
Q: Can I/we visit your teachers in action? 
A: Feedback from dozens of teachers and leadership teams who have visited in the past several years indicates the most valuable use of time is conversation between educators rather than classroom visits.  You're encouraged to check out the resources above to gain a more in-depth understanding of our background and philosophy.  If you'd still like to visit, contact me to setup a virtual or face-to-face meeting.

School Leadership - Beyond 140 Characters

This is a 3 post collaborative effort between Russ (classroom teacher), Eric (building principal) and myself (central office admin).  Full disclosure: Eric is also my brother and Russ is also my brother-in-law.

We are planning to lead a session at EdCamp Eastern Iowa in a few weeks.  The three of us spend countless hours on Twitter, on the phone and at family get-togethers talking about our differing perspectives on education based partly on our current roles as teacher, building administrator and district administrator.  We don't claim to have all of the answers, but I think we're pretty confident we have lots of questions about what school leadership can and should look like from the perspectives of our roles.  A few of my questions follow.

  1. What is leadership?  
    • a person with influence?  
    • a person with a specific title? 
    • a noun?  a verb?
  2. What does a leadership structure really look like that values teachers as leaders?
  3. Beyond 140 characters, what does "teacher leadership" look like in practice at the building level?  district level?
  4. How might a building administrator's actions "in the name of giving teachers leadership experience" actually abdicate his/her responsibility as a leader?
  5. What are examples of district and building administrators giving teachers a false sense of influence and voice?
  6. As a teacher, in what ways can your principal realistically utilize you as a leader in the building that still allow you to focus on your day-to-day role with students?
  7. As a building principal or teacher, what are you looking for in a central office administrator?
These are just a few of the questions I am hoping to add to the #edcampiowa conversation.  

For those that plan to be in Bettendorf on February 16, I hope you'll consider joining the three of us for this conversation.  No slides.  No experts. Bring a writing utensil (Russ is a language arts teacher, so I am guessing we'll all journal about our feelings :).  

If you're not able to attend, but are passionate about taking the topic beyond leadership quotes and 140 character snippets of wishful thinking, I'd relish your thoughts in the comments.