A lesson in financial literacy from J.C. Penney

A friend from church tweeted a picture while he was out shopping today.  See below for the picture.

How would your students react? "Huh?" or "Are you kidding me?!"

So, you're interested in standards-based grading....

Every few weeks, I receive an email from a teacher asking about my experience with standards-based grading.  Usually the questions come from teachers who are interested in changing their practice, but aren't exactly sure how to put theory into practice in their specific context.  I usually respond with how I did it, but also suggest other solutions.  My rationale for this is two-fold:

  1. If Frank didn't want my explicit experience, he wouldn't have emailed me. He would have emailed someone else.
  2. Even though these ideas may have worked for me and my students, they may not work for Frank's teaching style and/or students.

Here was a recent inquiry:

I teach 7th & 8th grade math at WWWWW School in RRRRR. I attended your session last year at the state math teachers conference. I was very intrigued by grading learning targets, but it was really the first I had heard about it and didn’t know what to do. This year our PD is actually on formative assessment.

I have some questions on how my classroom would look. Do I still teach as I do now? Do I give the same homework (even tho it’s optional)? Do I go over the homework in class? Do I give the same tests? Right now I just give mid-chapter & chapter tests. Would I give shorter tests more often? How do you do the multiple re-take?  Do I have “mini-quizzes” prepared for each target? How many times do they get to try? Is it within a time-frame ? the grading period?

Right now I give the kids a list of the learning targets at the beginning of each chapter. We talk before & after each lesson about what they were to learn. Before they take a test, I show them how many questions there are for each learning target and also which review questions match up. After the test they have a check list of each question if they got it right or wrong, then summarize what learning targets they knew & which ones they didn’t.

I think this is a start – but I don’t know how to get to the next level. I realize there is no reason for you to help me out – but I don’t know anyone else who is doing this & you seemed passionate about how good this is for the kids. I really do appreciate any advice you can give me.

and my response:

With a district PD focus of formative assessment, you're in a pretty sweet spot.  I'll attempt to answer your questions one at a time.
Do I still teach as I do now?
Most likely the answer is "yes" but you'll hopefully be more transparent with your students -- telling them about the changes you're making and why they are beneficial.
Do I give the same homework (even tho it’s optional)?
This is a good question.  Does your homework specifically focus on the learning targets on a given day?  If so, you may not need to change it.  If not, you may want to examine the problem sets you are assigning and better align them with your learning targets.
Do I go over the homework in class? 
I suggest figuring out a system that works for you and your students.  I posted all of the answers and had students choose the difficult problems they wanted to go over; sometimes I chose the problems if I knew many students were struggling with the idea.
Do I give the same tests? 
See my comments on homework.  If your tests are tightly aligned with your learning targets, then yes.  When I first starting using standards-based grading, I realized many of my assessments needed to be revamped, so I added questions, omitted some questions and re-worded many questions.
Right now I just give mid-chapter & chapter tests. Would I give shorter tests more often?
You could, but don't necessarily need to.  I know of a science teacher who gives assessments weekly over the learning targets that were covered.  Some teachers give an assessment every three or five or eight learning targets.  That's totally up to you.  No matter what you decide, give as much feedback to your students in between the tests/quizzes.  Formal assessments that go in the grade book shouldn't be the only time students receive detailed feedback on their progress.
How do you do the multiple re-take? Do I have “mini-quizzes” prepared for each target?
Students initiate re-assessments and they typically happen outside of class.  I create multiple forms of assessments that go into the grade book.  Students need not take the entire assessment over, just the questions related to the learning target(s) they would like to demonstrate new understanding.  Some teachers I know do re-assessments during class.  Others do it outside of class, but only on pre-determined days of the week. Still others require students to schedule their assessments ahead of time.
How many times do they get to try? Is it within a time-frame ? the grading period?
I permitted students to re-take as many times as they'd like up until a pre-determined date towards the end of the grading period.  Often it was one week or several days before the end of the quarter.  

You're off to a great start!  Let me know how I can help...

What other common questions are those interested in standards-based grading asking you?  Could some sort of wiki or forum be created to bring all of the bright blogging minds and ideas together?  I'm thinking along the lines of SBGhelp.com -- I'm guessing one of you has already created it and I'm just not aware of it. :)