From Points to Learning

On April 21, 2010 Eric and I were invited to speak to 250+ teachers and administrators in the Eastern Iowa.  Our afternoon presentation followed Margaret Heritage's morning session on formative assessment.  The day was part of a year-long Iowa Core Leadership Series sponsored by Grant Wood AEA.  The folks at Grant Wood were kind enough to record the entire day, but it's taken me until this week to post it online.  I hope you'll enjoy watching us in action as much as we enjoyed challenging the traditional assessment and grading schemes of those in attendance.  Bear with us for the first few minutes as we work through a few technical glitches on the stage.

From Points to Learning from Matt Townsley on Vimeo.
April 21, 2010 - Grant Wood AEA Iowa Core Leadership Series: Educators Matt Townsley and Eric Townsley discuss changing the culture of their secondary classrooms from an emphasis on points to learning. Standards-based grading is a theme throughout this nearly thirty minute presentation. For more information, visit

Feel free to critique our presentation in the comments. 

Other teachers grade that way, too? - Take 2

One of the most request pages on this blog is "Other teachers grade that way, too?"  Five months have passed since I scoured the twitter/edu-bloggersphere to highlight some of the brightest minds writing about their experiences related to standards-based grading.  My guess is the list of teachers (in my small virtual network) I know interested in standards-based has doubled.  Check out the #sbar hash tag on twitter on any given day.  If you're lucky enough to be on Twitter during the evening hours, check out the #sbarbook hash tag and dive into with a group of dedicated math teachers conducting a book study related to standards-based grading -- @MrsLHenry, @Druinok, @fourkatie and many others have been busy planning their assessment overhaul strategies by posing some really tough questions directed towards each other.  If you're interested in connecting with other twitter users who have expressed an interest in standards-based grading, my twitter list is up to thirty-five (35) people. 

The most encouraging change I've seen this summer is the number of teachers taking the leap of transparency and blogging through their questions and thoughts on standards-based grading.  Readers of this blog were asked to submit their own writing in the first ever standards-based grading gala.  I thought it be great to provide an update on the list of blogs I've personally aggregated:

  • How can a list be complete without including Shawn Cornally's ThinkThankThunk?  My personal favorite is a post in which he attempts to "save SBG" in a rant aimed at those on the SBG fence.
  • Undefined is a blog which is less than a month old.  Check out her summer think aloud post as Jami attempts to put theory into practice.  Jami says she is "drawn to SBG because I have such philosophical issues with our traditional grading practices
  • Teaching Statistics is a blog that has been around for several years.  I have a soft spot for anyone who teaches high school statistics, so I was naturally drawn to this one.  Two posts worth reading related to assessment are "Nitty Gritty Details" and "What I've learned this summer."
  • Always Formative is written by Jason Buell, a middle school science teacher.  I see a lot of myself in Jason - not always confident about his writing ability, but in the end usually has more than enough content to fill a page.  I bookmarked his "It's not the end, it's the beginning" post, because it illustrated how SBG is more than just a change in reporting grades - it leads to changes in so many other areas of teaching and learning. 
  • Gas Station Without Pumps is only a few months old at the time of publication.  A critical eye towards standards-based grading is seen in this post.  The author suggests SBG may not be for every course.
  • Jessica Alzen's middle school math department is practically adding a new car to the SBG Express through the use of common assessments and planning times.  Sure, this post was featured in SBG Gala #1, but it was too good not to pass on again.  Frustrated with the solo assessment reform act going on in your school?  Jessica's experience may be invaluable as you attempt to move forward.
  • Persida teaches HS math and has a year of standards-based grading experience.  Wondering what it's like a year after giving it a whirl?  Check out "...Regrets and Reflections."
  • Frank could have taught me high school physics.  He's either that old or I'm that young - you make the call. :)  Either way, I'm really happy he's decided to not only join twitter, but also start blogging about his classroom experiences.  I enjoyed reading Frank's thoughts on standards-based grading and trust and I think you will, too. 
  • Space Between the Numbers is yet another new blog this summer.   I enjoy reading about teachers frustrated with grading who want to do something about it
  • MissCalcul8 has been an avid Twitter user for sometime.  This summer has been the ideal time for her and several others to begin planning their SBG fall roll out.  Check out this blog and leave your comments.
  • I had the pleasure of meeting Karl Fisch in person at ISTE 2010.  Due to budget cuts in his district, he will be teaching a section of Algebra during the upcoming year.  You guessed it - he's interested in standards-based grading and is sharing his thoughts on assessment with the world!  I appreciate Karl because he takes the time to respond openly to all of his comment-ers in a way that makes every bit of push back feel worthy of more discussion. 
  • Terri Johnson joins the ranks of bloggers with a year's worth of SBG under her belt.  Her "Year in Review" is unique because it is written from the perspective of an instructional coach and not related specifically to math.
  • Kate Nowak posted several lists of SBG checklists towards the end of the school year.  Browse around Kate's blog for lesson ideas and humorous stories about her students. 
  • My sister, Becky Goerend, is still one of my standards-based grading heros.  When I started this journey over a year ago, she listened to me talk on the phone for what seemed like hours.  Not only did she listen, but she didn't think I was silly and decided to give it a try with her 6th grade math students.  Becky doesn't blog as much about SBG as I do, but when she does, I read it several times.  One of my favorites revolved around re-takes
  • David Cox lays out his entire assessment system.  Enough said.
  • Teaching/grading/assessing/reporting responsibility usually comes up when discussing standards-based grading.  Riley Lark shared his thoughts on that very topic.  Riley also hosted the Virtual Soft Skills Conference.  While not directly related to SBG, there's plenty of sharing and learning taking place via his blog. 
  • Sarah writes the Math Bratt blog. She shares her thoughts on implementing standards-based grading in a post from earlier this summer.
  • Adam Glesser is jumping aboard the SBG Express this fall in his Finite Mathematics and Precalculus courses.  He elaborates on four problems he needs to overcome in order to change the culture of his classroom using standards-based grading.  If you're a new or experienced SBGer, Adam's writing is worth reading.  
  • Chris Ludwig is another blogger I was fortunate enough to meet in person at ISTE 2010 in Denver, CO.  His science background makes him unique amongst so many math teachers in this list.  "...Chemistry vs. Biology Standards" discusses differences between quantitative and qualitative courses as they relate to SBG.
  • JT shares some thoughts on "What's working - for now..." related to SBG. 
  • Is standards-based grading possible in a history classroom?  Stephen Lazar is on it.  Read all about the journey here.  So is Liz Becker.  Check out her blog here.
  • Signed Numbers is a blog written with a hands-on approach to teaching math.  Jessica is interested in your help narrowing down her concept lists. 
  • Finally, Lisa Henry is one of the most enthusiastic bloggers/tweeters I've met this summer who is also rolling out standards-based grading this fall.  Her "Tentative SBG Plan" is waiting for your comments!
With so many bloggers, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep track of all of your excellent writing!  I'm sure that I've forgotten someone again between this post and SBG Gala 1, so please leave your name and URL in the comments.  I'll update this post as the list grows over the next several weeks.

Thanks to all of the comments, here are a few I missed:
  • Eric Townsley, my brother, taught high school math for nine years and is now a middle school principal.  He blogs at Assessment for Instruction about his grading practices and other education topics.
  • Russ Goerend, my brother-in-law, has given standards-based journaling a try in his middle school language arts class.  I'm secretly (guess it's not a secret anymore, eh?) hoping he'll blog more about this during the upcoming school year.
  • Elizabeth Horner is utilizing SBG to help her 5th grade students actually like math.  Standards-based grading has "elementary" roots, so it's great to have her on this list.  Us secondary folks could probably learn a lot from Elizabeth and her colleagues.
  • Mark Olson is from Sweden and is investigating criteria based grading.  In his post, he writes "Students cannot focus on points … there are no points!"  I have never been to Sweden, but it might now be added to my world travel short list.
  • Amber Caldwell lists her Algebra 2 standards in a recent post.   She laments, "I no longer use “Chapter 1 Test” or any other nonsense title.  It has helped my students and parents so much."  Rock on, Amber!
  • I am ashamed to admit I forgot "Math Mama" Sue Van Hattum the first time around.  Sorry, Sue!  Her "Wading in the Water" commentary lays out her current SBG plan of attack. 
  • Ellena Bathea is a new blogger in my RSS feed.  (Thanks for the tip, Chris L.!) She teaches chemistry and has a nice little series started, entitled "Unhelpful Grading Practices."  Check out part 1 and part 2.

Tenets of Assessment/Grading Reform

(These thoughts were cross-posted on Jason Bedell's Reflections on Teaching and Learning blog)

First of all, I'd like to thank Jason for inviting me to be a part of his summer guest blogging series on assessment practices.  In a way, it seems a bit out of my comfort zone to be asked to write somewhere other than my own blog, because I firmly believe that anyone can become an expert in today’s world of self-publishing.  The difference between me and many other educators interested in assessment reform isn’t knowledge – it’s context.  Assessment reform (a.k.a. “standards-based grading” or “SBG”) will look a bit different at different grade levels, with different students and in different disciplines.  No matter what it looks like, it should be more than a mere change in the way grades are reported out.
“…changing classroom assessment is the beginning of a revolution – a revolution in classroom practices of all kinds…Getting classroom assessment right is not a simplistic, either-or situation. It is a complex mix of challenging personal beliefs, rethinking instruction and learning new ways to assess for different purposes.” (Earl, 2003, pp. 15-16)
In my reading and six years of experience, I’ve found a few core beliefs of assessment worth hanging on to – the “tenets of assessment/grading reform,” if you will and I’d like to share them with you.  Without further ado…

Allow new evidence of achievement to replace old evidence.
“Classroom assessments and grading should focus on how well – not on when – the student mastered the designated knowledge and skill” (McTighe & O’Connor, 2005)
Consider the following example. Assume that homework is graded on completion and quizzes/tests on content mastery.
Bobby: Homework: 50% Quiz: 60% Test: 100%
Suzy: Homework: 100% Quiz 100% Test: 100%

Bobby did not understand the concepts and therefore did not complete the homework. Somewhere between the “quiz” and the “test” Bobby came in for extra help and finally “understood” the concept which explains his sudden improvement on the “test.”
In the traditional grading system, which student earns a better grade? Suzy, of course. A traditional points system penalizes “later learners.” On the “test,” both students demonstrated the same level of understanding, but Johnny is penalized for initially struggling. Do we have a realistic expectation that students will “get it” the first day we teach concepts to them? If so, then why not have daily tests?
Some educators, in their standards-based grading implementation plans, have mentioned assessing a single skill twice and then averaging the two scores or adding them up before entering the scores into the grade book.  I question whether these tweaks to the grade book truly serve the Bobby’s in our classrooms – the ones who learn later.  Priority of “what” a student knows should take precedence over “when” he/she learns it.

Traditional assessment and grading schemes tell students…
"You must learn (insert big idea) by Thursday.  If it took you until Friday, too bad!”
Sure, we all have grading deadlines pre-determined by our schools, but if students are permitted to ask questions about daily/homework/practice assignments during or outside of class, what can’t they do the same for “tests,” too?  Students only see “tests” as final, because our traditional grading systems treat them that way.

New assessments and grading schemes tell students…
"Learning on Thursday is just as important as learning on Friday.  In fact, opportunities exist for you to learn the essential concepts and skills, even if it is a week or two later."
We’re in the business of helping kids “get it,” right?  Our assessment and grading schemes should encourage and reward students who understand the essential concepts and skills throughout the course, not just on our firm and rigid time lines.

Feedback trumps grades, numbers and percentages.
“Assessment always has more to do with helping students grow than with cataloging their mistakes” (Carol Tomlinson in Fisher & Frey, 2007, p. 119)
“The most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is feedback.” (John Hattie in Marzano, 2006, p. 5)
I used to think I was providing feedback to students by writing scores on their homework, quizzes and tests.  I assumed that a 15/20 on a quiz was sending the message “you need to work on some of this stuff before the test.”  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Instead the message I was sending was “get our your calculator…congratulations, you just earned a 75% in the grade book!”  As much as I hoped students would examine the quiz questions and the correct answers I wrote in, they weren’t.  Ask your students what they do when a quiz lands in their hands.  I’m fairly confident the super-majority of them will respond “I look at the score and then recycle it/throw it away/put it in my folder.”
“To be effective, feedback needs to cause thinking. Grades don’t do that. Scores don’t do that. And comments like ‘Good job’ don’t do that either. What does cause thinking is a comment that addresses what the student needs to do to improve” – Nov. 2005 Ed. Leadership article.
One strategy I found to be very helpful in making this shift in my classroom was going from number/score feedback on quizzes to a lykert scale/narrative feedback based on specific learning targets.
Quiz lykert scale

This subtle change provided clear descriptive feedback to students where they are in a learning progression.  In some instances, students were asked to first complete the lykert scale themselves in pencil.  Under each learning target narrative, the problems numbers associated are listed.  After writing in correct answers and providing written feedback on individual problems, I circled in pen where I felt each student was on the continuum, too.  When large gaps existed, it created some much needed conversation between the student and myself.  A follow-up class activity involved matching Students with relative strengths and weaknesses for 5-10 minutes to ask questions of each other or me for the sake of learning from their mistakes.  These quizzes are not entered into the grade book – they are intended to be structured feedback opportunities before the unit assessment takes place.

Grades, because they’re necessary, must have meaning.
“When grades are not deliberately connected to learning, they provide little valuable feedback regarding students’ academic strengths and weaknesses, and can even be counterproductive.”  (Winger, 2005, p. 62)
I’d enjoy eliminating grades if it was possible, but for the past six years that decision hasn’t been mine to make.  Grades are a reality in most of the secondary schools in America, so making the most of them is the best many of us can do.  In workshops I’ve conducted, I usually ask questions such as “What does an 85%, B, mean in your classroom?”
  • Does it indicate a student understands 85% of the material?
  • Does it mean a student understands 100% of the material, but didn’t turn in 15% of the assignments?
  • Is this B a result of a student who understands 90% of the material, but turned in an assignment late?
  • Did this student understand 75% of the material, but turned in a few extra crossword puzzles raising his/her grade to an 85%?
Homework, extra credit and late work penalties vary from classroom to classroom.  In my opinion, these factors only contribute to the points game and something I call grading pollution.  If you’ve taught secondary school for any length of time, you’ve probably received emails like this one…

Point accumulation without knowing where these points are coming from is the norm in the minds of our parents and students.  Low grades should communicate gaps in learning, not factors too difficult to synthesize from the list of assignments and points in the grade book.  I am a firm believer in standards-based grading.  Rather than reporting homework, quizzes and tests separately, points are assigned solely based on a students’ ability to demonstrate an understanding of essential concepts and skills.

Notice the different categories along the top. The learning targets are the only area of focus.  When parents and students click on the learning targets in the student information system, the target description such as “Define and classify special types of quadrilaterals” is displayed. I’ve found success using a four-point scale correlating to key phrases:
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
Grades now have meaning.  A 100% indicates a student has a thorough understanding of the learning targets assessed up until that point in the course.  Grades communicate one thing (learning) rather than leaving the percentage-to-understanding conversion up for grabs.  Parents and students gain a clearer picture of the learning goals for the course and how closely the individual student is to mastering those concepts and ideas.  That’s a good thing, right?

Assessment and grading reform isn’t a simple task.  Many of us grew up playing the points game and for some of us, we played it very well.  We earned A’s in courses we knew very little about because we completed worksheets and turned them in on time.  We earned B’s in courses in which we were bored silly – we were sleeping through lectures of seemingly little importance and forgot to turn in an assignment or two.  We also earned C’s in courses we knew very little about, but because we knew more than our peers, the curve permitted us to pass.  Sadly, we also earned A’s in courses because we caught on to content “by the test” while our slower learning peers were punished for learning the same content a few days or weeks later.  We could rarely distinguish between As and Bs because the game was played with different rules in different classrooms.  Each and every one of us has an opportunity to change the culture of our classrooms and our buildings by taking a careful look at our assessment and grading practices.  Do grades reflect the speed of learning or learning itself?  Are the majority of our assessments feedback-driven or do they seem terminal to the students?  Finally, are the grades we communicate polluted or do they represent learning?
Works Cited:
  • Earl, L. M. (2003). Assessment as Learning: Using Classroom Assessment to Maximize Student Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  • Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2007). Checking for Understanding: Formative Assessment Techniques for your Classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  • Marzano, R. J. (2006). Classroom Assessment & Grading that Work. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  • McTighe, J., & O’Connor, K. (2005). Seven Practices for Effective Learning. Educational Leadership, 63(3), 10-17.
  • Winger, T. (2005). Grading to Communicate. Educational Leadership, 63(3), 61-65.

Standards-based grading Gala #1

Welcome to the first ever Standards-based grading Gala!  In case you're wondering what this gala is all about, check out Jason's tweet and the history of the #sbar gala.  Educators in the trenches from around the world were asked to submit their thoughts on the topic of standards-based grading and assessment practices.   When the July 15th deadline arrived, twenty unique posts scattered across three categories were in the queue and ready to be posted!  If you're reading this blog, you're probably interested in networking with other teachers who want to change the culture and assessment practices in their classroom; you want to connect with like-minded individuals who have grown weary handing our participation points and your body aches when a colleague mentions late work penalties.  Sharing your questions, ideas and success stories on Twitter is great, but the 140 character limit frustrates you daily.  You realize that blogging and commenting on others' blogs is where the real nuts and bolts are discussed.  Without further ado, I present to you the inaugural Standards-based grading Gala...

Standards-based grading - Misc.

Ellena Bethea presents Standards-Based Grading in Chemistry posted at TEACHING|chemistry.

Josh Giesbrecht presents Summa-wha? Defining our assessment buzzwords posted at josh g.'s notes, saying, "Not directly on SBG in particular, but strongly related (talking about what the heck we mean by "formative" and "summative") and uses SBG as an example."

Ms. Miller presents Not Losing the Main Idea posted at Take It To The Limit.

Jason Buell presents Picard, not Data posted at Always Formative.

Standards-based grading - Questions

Think Thank Thunk presents Think Thank Thunk » Standards-Based Grading: FAQ posted at Think Thank Thunk, saying, "Frequently. Asked. Questions."

Elissa presents SBG: FAQ posted at Miss Cal.Q.L8.

Lisa Henry presents SBG Questions posted at An "Old Math Dog" Learning New Tricks, saying, "Follow up to my first post with lots of SBG questions."

TIC presents Do You Give Zeros? posted at Technology In Class, saying, "Do you give zeros?"

Liz Becker presents Standards Based Grading and the History Classroom posted at Not All Who Wonder Are Lost, saying, "I'd love to see more conversation about SBG in humanities classrooms, so I thought I'd submit this to help generate more on that topic. Thanks!"

Standards-based grading - Implementation

PersidaB presents SBG Part 3 (The Design & Plans) posted at Quips From 114.

Sarah presents Grading posted at Math Bratt.

Lisa Henry presents A Very Tentative SBG Plan? posted at An "Old Math Dog" Learning New Tricks, saying, "This is my tentative plan for starting SBG. I am looking for others thoughts/comments. Thanks!"

Jessica Alzen presents Department Wide Standards-Based Grading Year 1 posted at Team Alzen!.

Henry Ho presents Standards based grading ? it?s easy? posted at The Reflective Educator.

Frank Noschese presents My SBG Journey posted at Action-Reaction.

William McNeary presents Standards Based ..... Whatever posted at McMath Zone, saying, "A summary of my experiences during the past school year."

John Spencer presents taking the judgment out of assessment posted at Education Rethink, saying, "an honest reflection about how standards-based grading helped lead our school from a paradigm of judging to a paradigm of informing."

Dan Englender presents SBG - Assessment Generator posted at Education Et..., saying, "Basically, I wanted assessments that were differentiated to students’ needs, but didn’t require me to write millions of questions. So, I wrote an assessment engine. It’s still in progress. I’ve listed some benefits below, and then some potential pitfalls."

Chris Ludwig presents Standards-based grading: Chemistry vs. Biology standards posted at Science Education on the Edge.

EightFalls presents Criteria Based Grading in Sweden posted at, saying, "A Swedish perspective on criteria based grading. No percentages, no averages ... a holistic approach."

Interested in submitting your thoughts for the next Standards-based grading Gala?   It takes two simple steps.
  1. Write up your thoughts, ideas and questions via your blog.
  2. Submit your information here.

Formative Assessment & SBG: a 15 hour course

Eric and I taught a course last week entitled, "Formative Assessment and Standards-based Grading in the 6-12 classroom."  It was open to any teacher in Iowa, but was mainly advertised via word-of-mouth and through our local area education agency.  From the online course description:

Formative Assessment and Standards-Based Grading in the 6-12 Classroom
This course will highlight formative assessment (assessment for learning) techniques from a 6-12 classroom perspective. Beliefs about assessment, homework and reporting will be challenged and refined as they relate to this Iowa Core Curriculum characteristic of effective instruction. Many examples and illustrations will be from math classrooms, but examples from other disciplines will be integrated throughout the course.
umber: 4427-10-01
Dates/Time: Jul. 7, 8, & 9, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Location: Grant Wood AEA, 4401 6th St SW, Cedar Rapids
Audience: Grades 6-12 Instructors, Curriculum Directors, Administrators
Registration: Complete registration form or register electronically at least two weeks in advance.
Fees: Registration is not complete until all fees are paid in full two weeks in advance of the first class. Total for non-credit or renewal credit = $80 paid in full at the time of registering. Total for Morningside credit = $160 paid in full at the rime of registering. Total for Drake credit = $165 paid in full at the time of registering.
Credit: R, D, M - 1 Sem. Hr.
Instructor(s): Eric Townsley and Matt Townsley, Educators

Every once in a while, people will ask me how to help their colleagues jump on board the standards-based grading express.  I will write about that in a future post.  This experience was unique, because thirty-one teachers and administrators actually paid money to hear what Eric and I had to say.  It was hard to believe that so many people took time out of their summer to take this course.   We would have been thrilled with fifteen participants.  Thirty-one was beyond our wildest dreams.  In fact, we originally capped the course at twenty, but the professional development coordinator emailed us less than a month before the course and asked if we would be willing to increase the cap due to it already being full.  Talk about a humbling experience!  Enough with the pre-course hoopla.  Here are the nuts and bolts of how it went down:

Course Objectives
Each participant will be able to…
  1. develop an increased awareness of the differences between summative and formative assessments, and
  2. develop an increased awareness of the impact grading has on assessment practices, and
  3. demonstrate multiple forms of formative assessment.

Established Norms:

  • Attend all sessions for credit
  • If you need to use the restroom, please do so
  • If you must make/take a cell call, please step out of the room
  • We will challenge you, please don’t take it personally
  • Please challenge our thinking as well!

Day 1
Module 1 - Intro to formative assessment.What is it?

What do you know about it?

Opener: Impossible quiz; check; "turn in for a grade" Discuss our default teach, check, grade sequence.  Is this a good thing?

brainstorming - forced groups of 3 to 4 answering questions (What is it?  What do you know about it?) about FA. 

Chappuis, "Helping Students Understand Assessment" article
New groups of 3-4 answer questions.  After reading and small group discussion, share out in large group.

  1. How does it relate to your previous thoughts on FA?
  2. What did you learn new?
Module 2 - HomeworkWhat is homework’s role in formative assessment?Scenarios spread out in room. Small groups rotate once the music plays. 

Challenge group with questions related to their HW policies and practices.  How does these ideas relate to Chappuis article big ideas that FA helps answer...

Where am I going?
Where am I now?  How can I close the gap?
Module 3 - Re-takes, late work and make-up workWhat do these have to do with formative assessment?Read Winger, “Grading to Communicate” article.

Small group discussion into large group discussion
- What do re-takes, late work and make-up work have to do with FA?

END: Journal prompt, "Describe how your ideas about formative assessment and standards-based grading were stretched today.  What questions do  you have?"

My notes from Day 1... 
Some of the participants have heard me/us talk already.  They've already taken deep sips of the standards-based grading kool-aid and are growing impatient based on their non-verbal cues and notes in their journals.  Other participants admitted they were not anticipating the challenges presented by the readings and our questioning.  Grading responsibility and using grades to report learning alone seemed to be the two most controversial topics, but that wasn't too surprising. 

Day 2:

Module 4 - Formative Assessment Techniques #1Journals - Eric
Red/green card - Matt
Fist to Five - Matt
Exit Slips - Eric
Self Assessment Slip - Eric

Demo each of these;  Hand out example of self-assessment slip. 

Fist to Five notes - one possible way to set it up in your classroom:
5 - I could teach this to someone else!
4 - I get it!
2 & 3 - I think I get it, but I need more help
Fist & 1 - I'm still lost!

For each technique, leave time for participants to discuss how they might use it.

Small groups - share the technique you're most excited to try out so far
Module 5 - FA Techniques - Matt
Google form - Matt - Eric
FA techniques smackdown - Eric
Demo each.  Leave time for participants to discuss how they might use it.

Smackdown is time for participants to share the best techniques they've tried in their classrooms with the large group
Module 6 - Formative Assessment - what do we do with all of this data?Addressing the “How can I close the gap?” questionGive out sets of exit slips...what do you do now?  Rotate around the room while groups are discussing to challenge their thinking.

Discuss connections with PLCs, common formative assessments; interventions are difficult to handle on an individual basis.  

END: Journal prompt, "Write about one lesson and how you will use what you learned today to improve it."

My notes from Day 2... 
We promised not to talk about grading today and it worked!  Participants were in a great mood today and appreciated the time to talk about ideas that work in their classroom.  I was surprised to find out how many participants had not used exit slips or thought of using journals as a way to reflect on the day's learning goals.  We modeled journals throughout the course!  I think this is the type of class most folks were expecting: low key and little, if any, challenges to their educational philosophy.  Some are asking how to put it all together and are anxiously awaiting tomorrow.

Day 3:

Module 7 - Intro to standards-based gradingWhat is it?
How is it different?
Why do it?
Guest Speaker: Shawn Cornally (Shawn's notes on his talk are here)
Module 8 - SBGLearning Targets
Gradebook changes
Multiple models
Questions? Clean up Shawn's mess. :)Divide group into two to provide a more intimate setting to answer implementation questions.
Module 9 - Putting it all togetherLingering implementation issues/questions.Piece everything together.
END: Action plan
My notes from Day 3... 
Shawn's talk wasn't as practical as I anticipated, but it was more emotional and effective than I ever dreamed possible.  He knew coming in that responsibility and allowing new evidence of learning to replace old evidence were the two major hang-ups of the group.  His talk started out slow.  At first, I thought to myself, "Shawn, can you just get to the point?"  He started talking about bacon and that's when I knew it was starting to get interesting.  The guy received a round of applause - something Eric and I hadn't even come close to earning on the first day.  Participants asked quite a few questions about implementation.  Based on the questions, comments and action plans, I estimate that 25+ of the 31 participants were tasting the sweet flavor known as standards-based grading.  I'm not kidding when I say that a core group of the class asked if we would teach a follow-up course of hold a mid-year meeting for the group to get together to discuss their progress.  This was a strange, but encouraging turn of events.

A course website was created to post additional resources as well as archive those discussed during the three-day course. 

Final thoughts:
We told the group towards the end of Day 3 why we felt like Day 1 had to be so frustrating.   Without challenging one's educational beliefs related to grading, the formative assessment cycle tends to be viewed as an add-onSo many educators claim they believe all students can learn at varying rates, but few secondary teachers embrace this philosophy through their grading practices.  Three days seemed like just enough time to break down the majority of the participants' educational philosophies related to assessment and grading.  Cramming the workshop into a two-day format would have been a stretch.  Teaching this course online as we had originally planned to do this winter would be nearly impossible due to the face-to-face real-time interaction needed on Day 1 to challenge each others' beliefs.  Teachers in so many other schools face the same realities we do - even if they change their grading practices, it takes a systematic change in order to maximize SBG's impact on students' learning in the long haul.

What do you think?  What topics/ideas about standards-based grading did we leave out?  What would you add or omit to the course? 

Technology has been around forever. Is 1:1 enough?

Russ and I led a session at ISTE Unplugged in Denver, CO on June 28th. 

Title: Technology has been around forever. Is 1:1 enough?

Description: Many schools in Iowa are implementing 1:1 initiatives. Is placing a computer in every students' hand the end? What next? Bring your thoughts to this forum.

Thanks to those who were able to make the session live and/or online.  The archived Elluminate session including audio and a faint video of our discussion outline is available here.

Is your school embracing or on its way to a 1:1 student computer to laptop ratio?  In a follow-up post, Russ poses some great questions on his blog related to this conversation.  Here's a snippet of "I'm more interested in your teaching than your technology..."

Is 1:1 change a teacher?

Is 1:1 change a classroom?

Is 1:1 change a school?

Is 1:1 engage/empower/enlighten students?

Is 1:1 get politicians off our backs?

Is 1:1 move education into the 21st century?
We don't have all of the answers, but we're hoping to raise awareness of them through conducting this type of conversation.