Grading System

What is your grading system? Points? (Weighted) averages? SBG? Random number generators?

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16 Responses to Grading System

  1. mshelft says:

    So – this is also clearly not a post about exactly HOW students are graded, but thinking of ways to include some of the recent literature on standards-based grading with what seems feasible in my class right now.

    I know that the standards should be involved in class somehow in a way that is obvious to students, because how are students to know what they are being assessed on without it being set out in front of them at some point. Now, in looking at the standards for California, there aren’t nearly enough in specific details so I can grade students and they can assess themselves. My question for the world and myself is – are there existent lists of standards or “what we want students to know and be able to do” for various topics (particularly in Algebra 1 and Algebra 2)?

    Also, an idea I had for assessment (if not grading), was for students to take some time in class using their “traditionally-graded” tests in order to self-assess around the standards for the unit they took the test on. Thoughts?

  2. zshiner says:

    A year ago Shawn Cornally wrote a post about the difference between “standards” as a list of skills that the state mandates students learn and “standard” as a self-written list of the cornerstones of your specific classroom.

    Your standards are not the State’s standards, they are skills and ideas that every teacher sees as necessary to the true success of their students. These ideas become your gradebook. These ideas become your core motivation for assessment. These ideas are communicated to students and parents as the places where attention should be payed

  3. Mark Barnes says:

    There are no points or letter grades in a Results Only Learning Environment. Assessment involves ongoing year-long projects, in which students integrate multiple learning outcomes. They are given constant narrative feedback, along with the opportunity to make changes and improvements, based on teacher feedback, so they can demonstrate mastery.

    When report cards are due (the school mandates a grade), students reflect on their performance and mastery of learning outcomes and grade themselves.

    This is a progressive, 21st-century system that students embrace. The freedom they have to decide their own learning and how well they’ve done gives them an uncanny thirst for learning that students in a traditional classroom do not typically have.

  4. Josh Winicki says:

    How you grade I feel depends largely on how many students you have. I am envious of the self-contained classroom when I think about grading. But certainly not envious when I think about some of the other challenges they are faced with, like teaching reading.

    The biggest challenge for me is to divide the grading, and the class time, between the basic skills and the new stuff. In middle and high school there are some basic facts that students just need to know. For instance, they need to know multiplication facts and what not. If a kid struggles with three times four they are going to have a harder time with the distributive property,

    Last year I found a site that students log into and take the basic arithmetic quizzes. This counts for a small amount of the grade. The nice thing here is that the quizzes are graded instantly, which means not only do I not have to grade them but the students quickly see their reults.

    The second aspect of assessment involves weekly quizzes. I copied or stole the concept quizzes that Dan Meyer, dy/dan, posted on his blog. Not only does the weeky schedule give students frequent contact, but it also keeps me on track on what students are, or are not, learning.

    Caveat of the online quzzes: unless they are done in class, there will be ten percent of your students that never even log on…ever. They tend to be the ones that need to practice these skills the most.

  5. zshiner says:

    As I work to create a grading policy there is a difficult (dare I say impossible) balance I need to reach. Questions such as what is graded, how do you assess for learning/formative assess/allow students to self-assess and what do grades measure anyways all have to be answered in ways complement each other and my overall grading philosophy. The policy has to be feasible, realistic, and possible to implement. The students (and their parents) need to both know the policy and buy into it.

    On top of my grading policy needing to be coherent within my classroom, it needs to be acceptable within the norms set by my school and within my reach and ability as a new teacher (yes – that means the ROLE system is out). I have spent a good part of the past two years reading about SBG and am very excited to try my hand at what I believe could be the most realistic useful grading system. However, I fear my inexperience (both in a lack of confidence and as a first year teacher in a well-established school) will limit me to working within a more traditional system. Nonetheless, I still want to include as much of a SBG-esque policy as possible.

    Riley Lark talks about vanilla SBG in which grades are ordered by concept rather than facets of being a student (homework, tests, quizzes, etc.). I know that this format ignores many of the tools and philosophies attached to a true SBG system, but I like the idea a lot as a stepping stone towards my ultimate goals regarding grading policies. I still plan on having homework, quizzes, projects and tests – I still expect to partition my material by unit, but I hope to downplay the necessity of homework/points and focus on mastery of concepts as an ultimate goal.

    Here is how I currently imagine my grading policy (for a single unit). Homework is assigned on a regular basis (I’m still figuring out how to make the homework most useful, but that will go under homework review). It will make up a small portion of the student’s grade; enough to affect them, but not enough to destroy their future. There will be regular graded quizzes which correspond to the different standards of the unit (as well as homework quizzes and participation quizzes, which I suppose will fall in a separate grading policy? Or maybe not be graded? I’m still not sure). I hope to have a standards reassessment policy in which students can improve their grades using something along the lines of Sam Shaw’s reassessment form. The unit test will cover most (if not all) of the standards in the unit, and the grade the students receive on the final will be (averaged? Substituted?) with their grade on the individual standards (or fall in its own category? Again, I’m still not sure).

    While these are my current thoughts, I am sure that this policy will change greatly as I continue to think about other questions, come to understand my school’s policies, and continue to be pushed by the many educators which I look up to, online and off. I have not answered all of my questions regarding my grading policy, nor have a fully explained all of the individual facets of what I have listed. There are also a number of other factors which I have ignored, such as the role of pre and post assessment as well as student responsibilities and initiative, and how I will fight the points game, but I am hoping to keep this at comment length (of which this is already far too long for).

  6. Mark Barnes says:

    Zshiner, you take me back many years to when I was a new teacher. I struggled with some of these same questions. Your propensity for self-evaluation will serve you well, though.

    Are you sure your school won’t allow a ROLE? Perhaps you should explain it to a principal and see what he/she says. I can’t imagine a good educator saying No to student autonomy, mastery learning, collaboration, integration of 21st-century technology and student self-evaluation.

    I do hope you’ll rethink the homework. I strongly recommend Alfie Kohn’s, The Homework Myth. I believe it will have a huge impact on your philosophy; it certainly changed my thinking.

    Your best method of battling the points game is to eliminate them from the start of the year. Coach intrinsic motivation to your students — learning for learning’s sake — and I promise you’ll never go back to points. I taught with points and letter grades for 15 years before eliminating them. That single move forever changed teaching and learning in my class.

  7. Josh Winicki says:

    What is ROLE and SBG?

  8. Josh Winicki says:

    Got the role, need SBG.

  9. Mark Barnes says:

    ROLE is a Results Only Learning Environment. It is built on the complete elimination of traditional teaching methods — lecture, homework, worksheets, tests and grades. These are replaced with a collaborative learning community that is built on student autonomy, self-evaluation, project-based learning and narrative feedback.

    The narrative feedback used in the ROLE is similar to Standards-based-grading, which attempts to create mastery of set learning outcomes. My problem with SBG is I don’t always trust that the standard fits my classroom or what I know from 18 years of teaching is the correct learning outcome for my students. Plus, I don’t want to be restricted by standards, which often feel a lot like letter grades, and I don’t like the idea of leaving one SBG.

    Narrative feedback is much more detailed to each particular student. It automatically encompasses the varied instruction that may take place for different learners. It creates multiple opportunities for students to reach mastery. Narrative feedback is the only way to assess students in the 21st century, I believe.

  10. Fluxion Fred says:

    Mark, where do you work, that you can choose not to be restricted by standards?

  11. Mark Barnes says:

    I work in the South Euclid-Lyndhurst schools, near Cleveland. Administrators still expect teachers in my district to use standards and, sadly, to teach to the test. However, since my students read more than their peers in traditional schools and outperform them on our state-mandated test, I don’t get too much resistance on how I do things.

    I’m still meeting standards; I’m just doing it differently from traditional teachers, who make students copy from overheads or white boards, assign homework, use worksheets and summative assessments. My year-long projects are designed to meet the learning outcomes that I know from 18 years teaching that my students need. Plus, the collaborative environment I use and freedom to choose learning methods that I provide, creates a thirst for learning. When students want to learn, they do. Then, they typically do well on any test — even poorly-written high stakes tests.

  12. Debbie says:

    Could somebody give a brief description of the US grade system? Do teachers award “credit” to students based on a whole range of things, not just test results but homework completion, punctuality? How is there consistency between teachers within a school or between schools?

  13. My Hybrid-SBG: I made the move to SBG in my math classes this past year (and left my Physics classes in traditional land) but felt some pressure from my department to align with the department grading policy. Our policy was articulated as follows: 30% tests, 20% final exam, 40% daily work, 10% participation. So I broke it up as follows: 30% tests, 20% final exam, [30% STANDARDS, 10% QUIZZES] = 40%, [5% HOMEWORK, 5% TYPICAL PARTICIPATION GRADE] = 10%.
    So this is how my class would work: weekly homework, “graded” on effort, a grade that ended up having little to no bearing on their final grade (I had A students who did very little homework, which I was actually okay with), though they honestly didn’t realize that. Then we would have fairly regular weekly quizzes, which would be the way that I would assess Standards the first time. These would also be graded in a more typical manner and this would go in the 10% category (and be a fixed grade, and also ended up having little bearing on their grade, again which they didn’t really realize). I wanted to leave the HW and Quizzes as typical grades just to give students incentive to keep up with the class and not RELY on reassessments. So, from the quizzes they would get two sets of grades – the typical quiz grade, and then grades for whatever standards were being assessed on the quiz. Then the standards grades were the ones that they could reassess.
    I organized my standards around very skill based ideas, though am going to rework that next year for it to be more conceptual. I had around 25 standards a term (we have three terms) each worth 4 points [4=perfect, 3.5=very minor error in units or sign, 3=significant mathematical error but a complete conceptual understanding, 2=really major error or poor conceptual understanding, 1=you wrote something down, 0=you didn’t write anything down]. They could reassess 2 at a time at a time after school.
    I ended up bumping up the standards percentage and bumping down the tests percentage throughout the year (without really telling my dept. head). So I ended up with 40% standards, 10% quizzes, 20% final exam, 20% tests, 5% homework, 5% participation).

    Things I liked: By including quizzes/HW, students were still forced to keep up with the class and spend time doing math (instead of just ignoring it for their multitude of other classes that could have been seen as more pressing because they do give grades). By including tests, students were still tested on synthesis of material, which is a weakness to me of SBG. But, by making the standards still a large percentage, students had many of the SBG benefits (having a large challenge chunked for them, pointing on specific weaknesses/strengths, giving real motivation to work on your weaknesses).

    Things I didn’t like: I still faced many of the problems of a standard system (meaningless “84%” on tests, students having a bad day and bombing tests) and had sometimes a huge disconnect between people’s standard’s scores and their test grades, which was probably the most discouraging thing.

    Good luck, thanks for getting in touch.

  14. p.s. i corrected homework (so i could still give feedback and see what students were having trouble with) but graded on a 1-4 effort scale.

  15. Kevin Lade says:

    At my high school we all use SBG so I’m fortunate to not have to worry about being “different” from my colleagues. I’ve found that our version of SBG (pretty much straight out Marzano if you’re familiar with his recent ideas) seems to address many of the issues that have concerned people in the blogs I’ve been reading. In Algebra 1, I’ve identified about thirty fairly specific objectives and have the 4-point rubrics for them. I don’t do retakes as many others have described; instead I just plan for four assessments of my various objectives. So let’s say in a two-week unit I might have two objectives and every few days I give a brief assessment covering one or both of those objectives with questions at the various levels of my rubrics. Typically I’d give three assessments during the unit and a fourth at some point later. Thus, only in the case of students who desire an additional opportunity to assess do I have to accommodate an “extra” assessment which I hadn’t planned for and incorporated into my normal class time (and I make this fifth assessment be a student-proposed idea and not something that I create).

    When each assessment is returned to students they respond to my feedback by graphing their score on a line graph, examining their trend (is their understanding improving and are they reaching their personal goal of 4.0 or 3.0 or whatever score), and writing specific actions they will do to increase their understanding. My belief is that it is this action plan and analysis following each assessment that makes this system “formative” for students. And, it’s in these action plans that my homework policy resides–I leave it to the students to decide for themselves how many and which problems to complete for practice. Thus, I don’t grade homework.

    Students grades are based solely on their understanding of the objectives as demonstrated on my frequent assessments. And since I use a power regression to compute summative grades (per Marzano) there isn’t a penalty for an initial low score while students are first encountering a new idea. As an example for those completely unfamiliar with this idea: let’s say that after four assessments of objective 1 a student has formative scores of 1.5, 2, 3, and 4. A traditional average would give a summative score of 2.6 (a C?), but a power regression would give a summative score of 3.7 (an A). This method for grading works hugely in the students’ favor and when they see how improvement from assessment to assessment leads to good grades I gain leverage on those students who’ve developed that unfortunate focus on point-grubbing. More importantly, for all it soon becomes clear that they have to improve and thus the effort of doing those action plans and actually committing to their plans is worthwhile.

    This doesn’t magically make every student successful of course. There are still those who are absent too much and those who won’t engage in the formative aspects of this system or follow thru with practice. But it seems a vast improvement over what I’ve done in the past. And, it hasn’t required a huge change to how I teach. I still am organized by units and can use my textbook in a traditional manner (if I’m so inclined); I’m just narrowing the scope of what I base students’ grades on, and I’m giving multiple assessment opportunities and asking students to respond to feedback in a systematic way to help them to learn.

  16. Courtney says:

    Our whole district does SBG with a 4 pt scale, 3.0 being grade level. I love most things about it.

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