Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Lone Wolf and Standards Based Grading

I am the lone wolf when it comes to standards based grading at my middle school.  That is a very loaded statement and some at my school would disagree for the following reasons:

  • Our report card has the following grades: A, B, C, NM (No Mark) meaning the student has not demonstrated proof of understanding in ONE or more Essential Standards 
  • Every department has 10-12 "Essential Standards (ESC's)" for their courses
  • These ESC's are tested at the end of each unit using common assessments and the following rubric:  4- advanced, 3- proficient, 2- developing, 1- beginning, 0- did not attempt
  • If a student does not earn a 3 or 4 on an ESC then their OVERALL grade is a "No Mark" which means they are not passing the particular course
  • As a department we agree on how the students earn a particular rubric score based on agreed upon criteria for each problem or assessment item
  • If a student has a "No Mark" then they must complete a corrective activity or activities and then a re-take.  
Some of you may be wondering how this does not illustrate standards based grading.  I agree there is a lot of good stuff in all of this!  However, it breaks down when teachers combine the above with: zeros for missing homework, grading homework on completion, 10% off your grade for every day an assignment is late, formative quizzes count for 10% of your overall grade, and other types of grading based on behaviors rather than proof of understanding.  If you want to be reminded of my beliefs on grading behaviors etc... Read This

So, as the lone wolf, I have come to understand some things:
  • I really admire and respect the teachers I work with because first and foremost they LOVE working with middle school students
  • I understand their reservations in making the full fledged jump to grading students solely on their proof of understanding (or lack there of) of the Essential Standards - students, parents, board members, etc... ( a blog post for another time)
  • Change is difficult
On the other hand:
  • Teachers can't keep grading the way they are because that is the way they were graded
  • It is not okay to stay the course and maintain the status quo
  • It is a different world and we must be flexible and adapt
What I really wanted to write about was standards based grading and the correctives process, so I will share some quick thoughts and some resources I have created/gathered.  The whole idea behind implementing SBG is including the students in every aspect of the process.  What I find is that even though I am using a standards based grade book, the students have not utilized it fully.  I expected them to check their grades see NM's, highlight what they need to fix and come to me for correctives or what others call remediation.  About 2 months ago I came across this blog post: Mathy McMatherson's Wall of Remediation and I realized I needed to create something similar or duplicate this for what my district call correctives.  Instead of creating a physical wall, I created a virtual one.  So I created the following Google documents:

Now keep in mind these are beginning drafts, I am still searching for better online resources that will give the students practice.  Also keep in mind that these are very skill based which is the opposite of what my classroom is all about.  I am still working through all of this and also please remember that my implementation of standards based grading is a work in process! 
Please give me ideas and feedback!


  1. oh so close---and they wont take the final step to SBG.
    i am a lone wolf in a high school (2 at the JH have picked up in it & one in elementary). I find my students do not utilize it well , dont remediate. three weeks after a quiz they say "i got a 0 (or 1) can i retake that?" and I tell them "yes, show me that you have done something to learn, lets discuss some practice problems..." and they dont do anything

    1. I completely understand and can relate to your frustration and disappointment with the lack of initiative. I think the difficult thing with SBG is that the students are so used to traditional grading and they have to become more involved when a teacher implements SBG. It is easier for them to ask for extra credit than to prove their understanding of an essential standard or skill. It is a battle, but one that I find worth the fight.

  2. What if the key standards that we are teaching students are non cognitive skills (like participation, timeliness, follow through, perseverance). By that I mean, the skills that will make our students successful in college and career are not the content standards, but instead the socialization to a system of commitments and deadlines. I agree we need to separate grades for content mastery from grades for non cognitive skills I disagree that we gain a lot by saying a grade is only based on content mastery. You could make the argument that SBG actually does a better job of teaching non-cognitive skills like perseverance (which I believe), however I think we need to recognize (and record in the transcript) that the perseverance we teach a kid who keeps trying to master the standard is actually the more beneficial learning objective than the standard they mastered.