In response to Evan Abbey's thoughts on assessment for learning and student information systems as it related to the Iowa Core Curriculum, I felt compelled to share my current progress towards standards-based reporting. A week ago, we started a new reporting period so I decided to make a drastic change by going (nearly) 100% standards-based reporting in two of my math classes. I had been assessing my students based on "learning targets" (standards) for a few weeks at the end of the last grading period, but had still been reporting their assessment scores as total points in our student information system.

"Old" way of reporting
Here is what the grade book looked like from my perspective in the "old" way. Notice the typical categories along the top: test, homework, quiz, etc.

Standards-based reporting
Here is a screen shot of what my grade book looks like this quarter so far. Notice the different categories along the top. The learning targets are the main (only?) area of focus.
I give students a list of the learning targets - the "big ideas" I hope they'll learn from our unit of study. Here's an example from the assessment reported above.

  1. Define and classify special types of quadrilaterals.
  2. Use relationships among sides, angles and diagonals of parallelograms.
  3. Use properties of rhombuses and rectangles.
  4. Write ratios and solve proportions
  5. Identify and apply similar polygons.
  6. Use and apply AA, SAS, and SS similarity statements.
  7. Find and use relationships in similar right triangles.
  8. Use the Side-Splitter Theorem and Triangle-Angle Bisector Theorem
Each learning target is assessed on a sliding four point scale. Multiple measures would be ideal for determining where each student's understanding is at for each target, but I'm still working on how this looks in a math class. For right now, I've come up with the following scale:
4 – demonstrates thorough understanding
3.5 – high level of understanding, but with small errors
3 – demonstrates understanding, but with significant gaps
2 – shows some understanding, but insufficient for a passing grade
1 – Attempts the problem
Student response to standards-based reporting
Students in my class are now accustomed to detailed feedback in the form of 1-4 scores on each learning target, however a few were a bit hesitant when I told them that beginning the fourth quarter all tests would be recorded by learning target ONLY in the grade book. Their parents would now see (via the student information system) a break down of their current level of knowledge by learning target rather than seeing only a single score.
One student chimed in, "I don't want my parents to see that I got an F on one learning target."
He was making reference to the fact that he had 4's on all learning targets with the exception of one. I explained that previously using the "old" system, his score would have been recorded as 30/32 or 94%. Now he would see seven 4's and one 2 in the grade book - still 94% overall if calculated by points, but the standards-based reporting approach makes his learning more transparent to me, him and his parents. Parents now see that their son has a solid understanding of seven key ideas, but has failed to demonstrate a sufficient knowledge for a passing grade for one learning target. The student wasn't convinced that this was better for him, because he did not want to face the possible repercussions at home for a "failing" grade!

Looking ahead:
You'll notice that my grade book only includes scores for learning targets and no longer homework or quiz scores. Here is my thought process on adding homework and quiz scores:

Homework and quizzes are both "practice" or "formative assessment" opportunities and should not negatively impact a students' overall "grade."

Consider Student A who bombs the homework, bombs the quiz, but "gets it" between the formative assessments and the test (assessment that "goes in the grade book"). Now consider Student B who "gets it" on the homework, aces the quiz and aces the test. In the old system, Student A is penalized for not "getting it" early, so his/her grade suffers. Student B's grade looks outstanding because he/she "got it" right away and earned all of the points along the way. If Students A & B both have the same level of understanding, I believe that what is reported out about these two students should be consistent as well.

At the current time, I am keeping track of students' homework completion and learning target scores on quizzes (formative assessment that drives my instruction), but am not sure if/how I will add these to the grade book. As I figure out how best to play the "grading game," I think I may need to somehow record the homework scores in the grade book to give the students an external incentive to do it. Many, but not all, students see the connection between completing the practice (homework) and formative assessments (quizzes) and the positive impact it has on understanding/learning. On the flip side, I don't want to simultaneously report out "understanding" via learning targets and "effort" via homework completion, because I fear it is a step backwards towards the "old" system and it also confuses stakeholders along the way. I have heard of other schools using citizenship grades, which I think lends itself nicely to separating the reporting of understanding and responsibility.

This new way of reporting learning has been a time-consuming, but rewarding process. It is also a work in progress that will surely need to be tweaked along the way. I'm open to any suggestions/comments from those who may also be stepping up to the challenge of standards-based reporting.