SBG: Reassessment without going crazy

Reality: Providing students multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding may require more time and effort on the part of the teacher.  Reassessments may be initiated by the student, the teacher or both.  

Approaches to consider:
[Note: None of these approaches in isolation are to be considered a “silver bullet.” A combination of these approaches that is flexible, customized to your discipline and is well communicated with parents/students is strongly recommended.]

Increase feedback opportunities prior to assessments that are entered into the gradebook.  

  1. Students complete practice assignment and receive feedback.  
  2. Students complete exit slip and receive feedback.  Teacher uses exit slip information to shape future instruction.  
  3. Students complete quiz and receive feedback on how they’re doing related to the standard.  
  4. Students complete another assessment.  Teacher enters current level of learning in the gradebook.  
  5. Teacher or student initiates future assessment opportunities.

Drawbacks to this approach: Students may not initially be motivated to try on the early assessment attempts.  [Possible solution: Talk explicitly about students about the value of practice]

Strengths of this approach:  Because students have received feedback multiple times before the standard was entered into the gradebook, more students will have demonstrated a high level of understanding and fewer will require additional assessment opportunities.

Teacher-initiated re-assessments: Looping standards on future assessments.

  • After students complete an assessment which is entered into the gradebook, students participate in learning opportunities based on standards they have not yet demonstrated understanding.  For example, students complete covering Quiz A on standards 1-4.  Students later complete Quiz B covering standards 5-8 and 1-4.  

Variation:  Differentiate Quiz B by student.  If Johnny aced standards 1-3, he would only need to complete prompts for standards 5-8 and 4 on Quiz B.

Drawbacks to this approach: Students must wait until the next assessment to demonstrate their understanding.  In addition if all students are completing all of the same assessments, students may complete an assessment on standards he/she has not even thought about since the first assessment which is a losing scenario for the student (similar poor performance) as well as for the teacher (extra work marking the assessment).  

Strengths of this approach: Students are guaranteed reassessment opportunities during class and do not need to learn a new protocol as this approach may seem very natural to them.  In theory this approach caters to timid students who may not otherwise seek out reassessment opportunities.  

Student-initiated, individualized re-assessments: Require students to complete _____ before they can take the next optional reassessment.

  1. Johnny completes practice assignment(s).
  2. Johnny completes first assessment that goes into the gradebook.
  3. Mrs. Smith uses first assessment to differentiate instruction to students.  Johnny and his classmates did not do well on standards one and two, so she devises a new lesson to help the class better understand these big ideas.  
  4. Johnny completes second assessment that goes into the gradebook.  Newer evidence of learning replaces old evidence of learning.
  5. Johnny is not satisfied with this “not yet proficient” on standard one.  Because he completed his practice assignment, Mrs. Smith gives Johnny three options.  (If he did not complete his practice assignment, he would need to do this first.)  He must complete at least one of the following options before he can complete a third assessment.  
    1. Complete extra problems from the textbook focused on standard one.  
    2. Respond to a big idea question after watching an instructional video and/or (re-)reading a portion of the textbook.
    3. Participate in an outside-of-class individual or small-group tutoring session with the teacher.

Variation: Allow the student to suggest an option for #5.

Drawbacks to this approach: If students can only complete reassessments outside of class, it creates an added burden on students who are involved in jobs or activities during non-school hours.  Timid students

Teacher-initiated, individualized re-assessments: Require students to complete _____ before they can take the next optional reassessment.

Utilize the approach above with a little more teeth.  Require students to complete re-assessments and one of the three options during class.

------------Hold on, what does this look like?-----------------------

Beginning of the unit/semester:
Mr. Townsley gives each student a handout listing all of the standards.  

“These are the standards we’ll be learning.  They come from the state standards list, but I’ve re-written them to make a little more sense to you and me.  I am going to do my best to ensure every one of you learns these big ideas at a deep level.  You won’t see specific tests or quizzes in the gradebook, however you will see your current level of understanding of each of these standards listed in the gradebook.”  

Mr. Townsley engages students in an small group activity in which students use their previous knowledge of Pythagorean’s Theorem to develop a relationship among the sides and hypotenuse in various 30-60-90 and 45-45-90 triangles.  The activity has several checkpoints where groups are required to raise their hand and check with the teacher before they can continue.  During the activity, Mr. Townsley is circling the room listening in on student discourse so that he can direct probing questions towards groups/students that may have come up against common misconceptions.  The last prompt on the activity asks students to generalize the two different right triangle relationships.  Once completed, students end the class by completing a small, carefully selected problem set focused on 30-60-90 and 45-45-90 triangles.  The answers are posted in the front of the room and will be posted online, too.

As students enter the room, they are asked to complete three tasks:  First, students who may not have internet access or who have not yet checked all of their answers, do so using the answers which are still posted in the front of the room.  Second, students write the numbers of problems they’re still struggling with in the box next to the solution set.  Third, students complete two warm-up problems which ask students to apply their knowledge of 45-45-90 and 30-60-90 triangles.  Students are encouraged to work in pairs or trios if they are experiencing difficulties.  Mr. Townsley circles the room to provide feedback to students as they complete their warm-up problems.  Next, Mr. T. has a decision to make. Will he take the time to go over #12 and #29 from last night’s problem set?  He uses his professional judgement based on student’s struggles and successes the previous day on the activity and their warm-up problems to decide how much time he should spend going over these two problems from last night’s practice set.

Mr. Townsley teaches another standard today and utilizes another small, carefully selected problem set.

Students enter the room and complete the same three tasks.  Mr. Townsley teaches another standard (or two) today and assigns a small, carefully selected problem set which also includes a few prompts connected with standards taught earlier in the week.  

Repeat the three student tasks, however the warm-up problems are focused on all of the standards taught so far this week.  Mr. Townsley has a decision to make.  Are his students ready to complete a more formal assessment of the standards taught so far this week?  He uses the information from today’s warm-up to determine that many students appear to be ready, so he hands out a carefully constructed quiz.  Prompts on the quiz have been carefully constructed to assess students’ understanding of all of the standards taught so far this week.  Before students turn in the quiz, they’re asked to assess their own level of understanding of each standard using a rubric at the end of the quiz.  

Mr. Townsley spent time Thursday night writing feedback on students’ quizzes.  He also circled where he thinks each student is on the rubric for each standard.  

(Example rubric)

Rather than handing back the quizzes to individual students, he calls them up in pairs.
“James and Suzie.  I’d like you to review your quizzes together during the next five minutes.  Earl and Horace, here are your quizzes.  I’d like you to get together to review your quizzes right now, too.”  
James and Suzie will soon find out they can immediately help each other out.  James dominated the 30-60-90 and 45-45-90 triangle standard, but he bombed the rest of the standards.  Suzie did very well on all of the standards, but she had no clue what she was doing on the 30-60-90 triangle prompts.  Earl and Horace are in a similar situation.

Overall, students continued to struggle with the standard Mr. Townsley taught on Wednesday, so he decides to teach it an entirely different way after students collaborate on the quiz.  All students are asked to complete a small, carefully selected problem set on this standard to end class.  In addition, Mr. Townsley lists optional problems next to the name of each standard on the board, so that students who would like extra practice in this area can quickly and easily check their newly acquired understanding.  

Option A: No numbers are entered into the grade book yet, however Mr. Townsley tells students and emails all parents to let them know about the feedback opportunities so far and that the test will take place on _____.

Option B: Numbers are entered into the gradebook based on students’ current level of understanding of the standards taught so far.  Mr. Townsley reiterates to students and parents (via email) that the grade book is like a thermometer - a current, but not static, reading of students’ level of understanding, and that the test will take place on _________.  The test score will replace the quiz score for each standard.  

Monday - Thursday (week 2):
Mr. Townsley teaches several more standards and administers another quiz.  This time, no single standard stands out as needing to be retaught to the entire class.  Before students complete the review assignment from the book, Mr. Townsley asks them to look at the list of standards they’re doing really well on right now.  The problems corresponding with these standards should be completed last.  After circling the problems corresponding with the standards students have not yet demonstrated a high understanding, they’re working in pairs and trios, checking their answers in the front of the room.

Friday (week 2):
All students complete a test covering all of the standards in the chapter.

Monday (week 3):

“You will notice that I did not give you an overall score on your test. Instead, you see a number for each standard.  Think of me like your volleyball coach.  I’m trying to tell you if you’re good at serving, need help with bumping, etc.”

Option A (continued): “These standard scores are now in the gradebook.”
Option B (continued): “These scores replaced the standard scores from your quiz in the gradebook.”

“I am guessing that some of you are not satisfied with your standard scores.  I want you all to learn these big ideas. If you would like to complete a reassessment on a standard or two,  you will need to complete one of three options...
1.  You can complete the problems I have listed over here for a specific standard.
2.  I will be available tomorrow after school, during Seminar A all week or before school on Wednesday for re-teaching sessions.
3. You can read pp. __________ and complete the activity on p. _________.
When you’ve completed one of these three options, speak with me to schedule your reassessment.  See you soon!"

Reassessment done right [Standards-Based Grading]

I stopped by a high school classroom today and in the middle of our conversation a student stopped into his room.

"Hey, Mr. Smith!  I want to retake the test we went over today.  When can I do it?"
As the central office guy that's excited about our standards-based grading journey, I started to wonder if this was setup.

The teacher thought for a moment and then replied:
"Tell me what you've done to study those areas."
The student replied what she planned to do tonight and the teacher then asked her to bring it in to him tomorrow so that he could look at it.

Many of the questions I hear from teachers about standards-based grading implementation focus on reassessments.

  • "Won't students reassess every day until they get it right?"
  • "What is stopping a student from not doing his/her homework and waiting until the last day to demonstrate understanding?"
  • "This will create an impossible workload!"
I was reminded today that we should never work harder than our students and that may include asking students to demonstrate evidence their learning has improved before they're given an opportunity to reassess.  (Another option is to build in reassessment opportunities to all students classroom learning)

As I used to frame it with my high school math students..."It is going to take a little bit of extra time for me to create a new reassessment and I'm happy to do that.  In turn, I would like you to demonstrate to me that you have put in some extra time on this standard."

Comments are open - what are your reassessment go-to strategies with students? 

Technology for new teachers?

Technology for new teachers!?
One of my roles as district technology and curriculum director is to lead our annual two-day "new teacher institute."  Educators new to our district learn about curriculum initiatives, spend time with a seasoned mentor, and connect with district and building personnel.  I've struggled with the role technology should play during these two days.  Should it be tool-centered.... step-by-step tutorials of our primary management and instructional systems?  Should it be totally avoided so that the new staff do not feel overwhelmed?  The answer for us seems to lie somewhere in the middle.

Every teacher in our district is issued a laptop.  This year, the IT department provided new teachers a laptop on the second day of the institute.  Rather than a step-by-step walk through of using a MacBook Pro, we showed them how to access the web and their email.  That's it!  Additional "how-to" questions about the hardware or operating system were to be directed to the mentor or to IT at a later date.

Using our time wisely
A few years ago, several staff members requested that a "quick links" page might be a great way to help new and veteran staff easily locate the most important systems and resources offered by the district.  After the web and email access directives, we spent the next twenty minutes articulating the most relevant links and noting the necessary login credentials.  For example, we know that new teachers need access to our copy center before the fist day of school.  Field trip transportation requests may be important to share, however it is not something on new teachers' minds in August.

Take Aways
  1. Our new teacher institute feedback indicates we need to extend the amount of time with technology next year.  Should this include more tutorials?...additional time for general Q&A?...Apple-specific shortcuts (knowing many of our staff come from a Windows background)?
  2. Putting computers in the hands of new teachers sooner rather than later is important. We waited until the second day to provide computers to new teachers, admittedly because it was easier for IT staff.  Looking back, providing a computer to the new teachers well in advance of the new teacher institute has it's pros and cons.  Pros: "Just-in-time" training becomes a more realistic scenario; additional time for staff to utilize it if they choose to work during the days or weeks leading up to the institute.  Cons: It may require repeating training (i.e. how to use email and other resources) to individuals and in turn taxing our limited IT staff resources.
I am interested in learning from other technology directors.  What is your workflow or protocol for providing computers and training to new teachers?

Standards-Based Grading "Explainers" [Handouts]

I appreciate all of the feedback provided this summer during the SBG "How-to" crowdsourcing project.
The goal was to provide a discipline-neutral guide for teachers to use as they begin or continue to implement grading guidelines approved by our board of education.

As promised, here are the current explainers we're using as a part of our district-wide SBG journey.  Feel free to use them in your own classroom or with your colleagues.

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 anytime.

3. Students will be allowed multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of classroom standards in various ways.

4. Teachers will determine grade book entries by considering multiple data points emphasizing the most recent data and provide evidence to support that 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.

The edublogosphere is exploding with SBG goodness

I have a TON of posts queued up in my RSS reader.  Here are a few I'm planning to dig into during this extended weekend:

It doesn't get any more practical than CareyLehner 's "What an assessment looks like for SBG"

You will notice that we include the rubric on the assessment.  We feel this is important as the students are then asked to reflect on their learning when the assessment is returned.    The rubric will help them to see what they know and what they still need to work on. 

Mary Dooms shares the video she created for parents on standards-based grading. 

I’m preparing remarks afterwards to explain what it will look like in the gradebook as well as how students will track of their own progress. I hope everything goes according to plan!

Sadie Estrella writes about "My first date with SBG"

OK WAIT!  I know you are thinking “um yeah that is what you told them to do?”  yeah but i have not collected or graded homework at all this year.  I walk around sometimes and look over their homework and see what they did or sometimes I have them put it on their whiteboards and talk with their table partners about their homework.  I know this is a honeymoon stage but I really feel like this group of students GET IT!  I have put learning in their hands and they have GLADLY accepted it.

It's no secret that I'm a big Frank Noschese fan.  I'm surprised his post, "Keep it Simple Standards-Based Grading" hasn't been more popular though.  I'll be pointing folks new to SBG to this one because of it's simplicity and cross-disciplinary practicality.  
Could my system have been better? Sure. But don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. You can tweak and modify next year. Keep it simple, and just do it. 
Oh, and if you've read these already and are in need of some more SBG goodness, may I recommend any of the 300+ bookmarks tagged sbar?

Happy reading!