Dec 4, 2008

standards-based grading: more popular by the minute

Blog-neighbor TRP's school is starting to have the same conversation we are: how to get smarter about grading. The TRP's initial take on one principle--no zeroes--isn't too favorable.
My colleague also said that if a student understands the material, than he or she is "an A student" and should get an A. She cited a positively brilliant kid--one of the best writers I've ever had in 12 years on the job--who got a C for me last year and is getting a C for her this year in AP. Why? She skips assignments. "But you've seen her writing," my colleague says. "She's an A student."

My response: "No. She has an A brain...but A students do the work. Therefore, she's not an A student."

We kicked around some possible alternatives: A 4-point system, where an A is worth four, a B three, a C two, a D 1, and an F zero. It penalizes kids less for screw-ups. (The aforementioned kid with 3 75s and a skip would get a C- under this system.)

I wouldn't buy into that means that the kid who tried and struggled gets the same grade on a paper as the kid who played video games instead. That's unjust.
But then, that's because SBG requires something that most schools aren't doing: meaningful grades. As I explain in a comment over there,
The problem is that one grade (A, B, C) means too much and too little at the same time. I like some of the theory behind standards-based grading--but it requires a smarter report card. If "A" represents only learning, then we need separate categories (on the transcript, natch) for things like behavior, effort, and timeliness.
And it can be done.

We just need to be more--how do I say this gently?--Canadian.

See here for an example [pdf].


Dr Pezz said...

I am slowly coming around to the idea of two grades for every class, an academic grade and a citizenship (student behaviors) grade. Not only would this more accurately measure a student's progress, but the academic grades could have the same meaning across the board.

Dr Pezz said...

I've been posting on standards-based grading for the last few days, and some interesting debates are starting, much like the ones my department had this Monday when discussing these ideas.

However, I haven't yet come across an entire department or school using standards-based grading. Have you?

Stidmama said...

I think this is an excellent idea -- make it clear when a student's lack of performance is due to something other than ability -- and also reward students who DO work hard, but just don't understand at the level you are aiming for.

It seems to me that my grandmother's old report cards (from the 1920s) had something like this on them.

Anonymous said...

This isn't particularly my place to speak- but I suppose I will. As a student, there's nothing like feeling the 4.0 slip away because of one-dimensional grading.

I'd like to think that MIT actually looks into other parts of the application, but...

Mr. J. Spencer said...

The grading should be based on the curriculum and as far as I am concerned, being a "good" citizen is not in most state curricula and NCLB requirements do not base scores on how well of a citizen our students are. Is not good enough to let students see that success at learning is the reward instead of a citizen grade? This is like all the kids on a sporting team getting a trophy because they played...why reward not good enough that the student experience academic success?