Friday, November 6, 2015

Confessions of a SBG hold-out

by Kirsten Fletcher

I'll admit, I have been slow to shift to Standards-Based Grades. I admire the Spanish team at my school that has already adopted Standards-Based Grades at all levels.  I'm still not completely there, but I'm inching my way toward Standards-Based Grading. Previously, my French gradebook was divided into categories: Homework, Quizzes, Participation. Homework weighted equally with Quizzes because I wanted to reward kids with a good work ethic.

I still haven't eliminated my homework category altogether, because I find having it in the gradebook is a visual cue to students that I'm paying attention and that the work is valuable. However, it is now the smallest part of my weighted grade. I added categories: Speaking assessments, Written assessments, and Interpretive communication (listening and reading) to my gradebook. In the short time that I've been grading this way, I've already discovered several advantages.

1. The categories force me to make time for assessing the skills that really matter (reading, writing, listening, speaking) instead of always focusing on grammar and vocabulary. While the latter are important building blocks for language, they are not the skills that students will ultimately be judged on in life or on the AP test. They need to be able to apply their knowledge of vocabulary and grammar to interpret texts, write letters, and speak to others.

2. Organizing my gradebook this way communicates to students their strengths and weaknesses. For example, they can look and see that their writing meets expectations whereas their speaking needs work.

3. The categories are useful for parent communication. At parent-teacher conferences, I felt it was so much more informative to give parents insight into their child's specific skills than simply telling them whether or not their child was completing homework. We actually discussed evidence of learning as opposed to habits of work.

At this point, I am still converting standards-based assessments to letter grades and reserving a small part of the overall grade for homework completion. I am lucky to work in a school where my colleagues continue to discuss our grading and assessment policies to move toward the goal of measuring all students against the same set of standards.

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