Guess what, ma? It’s taken me half a year of mulling, some cajoling from the “inspiring ideological cult”, and the realization that even though I think I’m teaching responsibility, I could be doing way better. So here I am, naked, standing before you… wait, no, that’s not right at all. I have clothes on. Scout’s honor.
Here I am, standing before you, newly self-inducted member of the Standards Based Grading (SBG) cult.
I can’t roll it out for Algebra II next year, but I am plunging — head first — into standard based grading in Calculus.
I made a list of skills that I taught last year — maybe it’ll be of some use to someone out there:
This ordering and skill set probably won’t be changing much for the upcoming year. But it will definitely have to be rewritten for the SBG skill/topic list.
I wasn’t going to blog about my SBG system until it was done, but someone (forgive me, for my mind is weak, and I have forgotten who) mentioned that it might be useful to watch the process unfold. Plus, I have a bunch of questions.
Here’s what I’ve definitely figured out:
1. I am going to assess most skills/topics twice.
2. The skills/topics I won’t assess twice are mainly “explain this idea, statement, or claim (using words, diagrams, tables, graphs)” questions. (Students can reassess those questions on their own, if they want.)
3. Students will have to email me by Sunday night to be able to reassess during study hall on Tuesday, and students will have to email me by Wednesday night to be able to reassess during study hall on Friday. This way I have time to prepare for these individualized reassessments, and students won’t have to individually work on tracking me down.
4. I am not going to be including homework in their final grade.
5. Students keep a binder with all their assessments in it — so students can have them to study from, and I can ask them to see them if I need to.
Here are where I still have to make decisions:
1. Do I want my gradebook to have skills listed, or topics listed? This is a big one! David Cox says this is a false dichotomy, and I can buy that — because skills and topics are really part of the same tangled net. Or two sides of the same coin. Or some other cliched metaphor. But I guess I still think in these different terms. A list of skills, and a list of topics, seems very different to me. Skills tend to be more specific, while topics tend to be more “umbrella”-y. I am leaning towards skills, because that’s where I’m comfortable.
2. Do I want a bunch of short assessments given frequently, or regular (longer) assessments? I think I’m going to go with the shorter assessments, even though it is going to be harder for me to do because I usually have a plethora of students (read: more than 50%) with extended time. I have to figure out a way to not spend too much class time on these assessments.
3. When I give assessments, I might have a few problems testing various cases of something. For example, I might put four problems asking for the limit of rational functions at infinity. Or eight derivative problems asking to apply various skills (e.g. product, quotient, sum, difference). How do I combine these multiple problems into one score? I’m leaning towards a holistic approach, using the rubric, and a lot of feedback.
4. Do I require students to demonstrate/explain to me what they have done to fix gaps in their understanding, in order to be able to reassess? Would setting up the expectation that they need to have done something before they reassess, and then having a place on the reassessment for them to write what they’ve done to fix gaps in their knowledge, be enough?
5. A student’s grade on a topic/skill will either be the average of the last two scores they earned, or the average of the top two of the last three attempts. I’m leaning towards average of the last two scores they earned.
6. Do I allow myself to throw “old” skills on assessments? Like, if students are taking an assessment on derivatives, and I throw on a limit question, is that kosher? This rubs me the wrong way. When I did this in Algebra II in previous years, I told my kids I when I would be including older skills, and I would give them a general idea of what the problem would be on (e.g. absolute value equations and inequalities). Does that seem like a fair compromise, or is that spoon-feeding too much? I am leaning towards including older material, but with a general warning. It just rubs me as being fair and clear. And I do want students to know that retention is important.
7. Should some skills/topics be worth more than others? I’m thinking of making almost all skills/topics worth 5 points, but I think I might highlight a few and make them worth 10 points. Specifically, I’m considering something like: “Apply the sum, difference, product, and quotient rules for derivatives.” Alternatively, I can break it into two 5 point skills, making one “Apply the sum, difference, product, and quotient rules for derivatives of basic functions” and “Apply the sum, difference, product, and quotient rules for derivatives of more complex functions.”
8. Even though I am not including homework in a grade, I do want students to keep their homework organized someplace, so we can refer to it together. I want it to be powerful — when a student doesn’t do well on a skill, and then we can look it up. If they haven’t done the problems, it will be clear what they need to do to improve. If they have, we can use that as a starting point for a discussion of why they didn’t do so well. So how do I get them to keep their homework, and keep it organized?
So there is where I am. Providing any and all advice and thoughts in the comments would be SUPER welcome!