Saturday, October 12, 2013

Baby Steps into Standards Based Grading

In August I started a new job as Curriculum Coordinator after 23 years in the classroom.  As a classroom teacher I was always a practitioner and advocate of standards based grading, even before the twitter hashtags - #sbar and #sbgchat.  It has been my instinct to provide students with feedback on their progress towards proving understanding of standards or skills or outcomes etc...  It was a lonely road for many years until I joined twitter.  I was finally being validated and questioned and challenged which enabled me to tweak and grow in my implementation of SBG.  I worked to share with my colleagues, but I did not press or push my agenda upon others.  I find that in my new position there is a need in the district for movement towards standards based assessment/grading.  I am also experiencing anxiety, resistance, and uncertainty.  So, this post is the starting point, the beginning of my journey in transitioning a small K-8 school district into an authentic standards based grading district.  I will be sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of this journey as we move one baby step at a time.

I am blogging about the process for a variety of reasons.  First, I was to track the movement of the district so that I can see growth or lack there of.  Second, I will need support, ideas, encouragement, and a group of educators to push and challenge me as I work to move the district forward.  Third, I want to share the journey with others so that they can learn from the plethora of mistakes, restarts, and challenges I come up against in this process.  So, where do I start?

This school year, our district has identified three ELA standards and one Writng standard from the CCSS (common core state standards):
RI.2 - Main Idea and Details of Informational Texts
RL.9 - Compare and Contrast Literary Texts
L.4 - Contextual Clues
W.4 - Writing Informational/Explanatory Texts

We also identified three CCSS Mathematical Practices for the teacher to focus on this year:
Model with mathematics
Make sense of problems
Construct viable arguments

So one of the first tasks I was given was to revise the K-5 standards based report cards.  The first thing I did was eliminate the standards and skills that had nothing to do with Common Core.  Then I made and executive decision to add the six Common Core standards the district had decided to focus on across the K-8 grade levels.  Here is what I have come up with so far:

When I sent these out to the 4/5 teachers it was received with respectful rejection.  The 4/5 teachers are the only ones in the district who have to do both standards based grading and letter grades and they have a problem with the "fairness" of this.  So, we made a decision to divorce grades from tracking standards and allowed the 4/5 teachers to only post letter grades on the report cards with non of the above standards as part of their grade book.  This poses a juxtaposition for me.  As an advocate of standards based grading, my soul, gut, and every part of my being felt like a sell out and/or a failure.  I caved and surrendered my beliefs and what I know is the right thing for students.  On the other hand, I have won over the upper grade elementary teachers by letting them assign what I believe are meaningless grades.  At the same time I know that they will have to assess and track student progress on the identified Common Core Standards our district has identified.

So, here I stand as someone who used to be a singleton classroom teacher implementing standards based grading to a district person who will be working to move the K-8 teachers towards this meaningful way of tracking student proof of understanding.  The gauntlet has been thrown down, and I have to take the baby steps that are required to move a district forward toward standards based grading.  There is no way that I can do this alone, and I am thankful that I have the vast resources on twitter.  I will look to you all to support me, challenge me, and provide resources.  It is such a huge task, but I will do the work and share the process with my #sbgchat folks.