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Update on Standards-Based Grading

Students working on a Nearpod Lesson

It's official.  I have made it through the first month of school with standards-based grading!  I must admit that I was nervous because I had only put formative assessments in the grade book as of Thursday. None of those count towards the student's grade, so I was expecting some concern from parents.  Obviously, they want to know how their child is doing!  Well, lucky for me, they did not complain (at least not to me). I am grateful for their support and made sure to explain my system through a letter, as well as at Back to School Night.

As I pondered this new system over the summer, I grappled with wanting students to be able to practice and learn the standards while not being penalized for mistakes.  I decided to make all of the formative work worth 0% of the student's grade and make summative assessments worth 100%.  Of course, my biggest concern was how to get students to do this work if they weren't getting points.  I think I came up with a good solution!  Students must complete all formative work before they can receive credit on a summative assessment.  It has worked beautifully.  Students are completing the work, getting feedback, and learning but in a way that hopefully puts less stress on them. They know it is okay to make mistakes as they learn the new material. They seem to be enjoying these activities and practices  more now that they know they won't be "graded" on them  It's so refreshing not to be asked, "How many points is this worth?"
Students Reflect on the Learning Targets

Standards-based grading has also made me think much more carefully about every single thing I do in the classroom.  Once a month or so I give students a handout with the learning targets we are working on.  I then create lessons and activities to help them reach these targets.  I also let them know ahead of time what the summative assessments will look like.  I keep the learning targets at my desk and refer to them when planning my lessons. This keeps me much more focused than in the past! I also write them on the board and refer to them regularly with my students.

Additionally, I committed to using stations on a regular basis this year. I try to have a variety of station types--group work, online lesson/activity, work with the teacher in a small group, and/or complete an individual activity. I have found Nearpod, Edpuzzle, and Actively Learn to be engaging online resources for stations! The past few weeks I worked with a group of students for one rotation on their essays. This allowed me to provide feedback to every student before they submitted their essay for a grade.  It's pretty exhausting, but I think the results speak for themselves.  The quality of work I received was excellent overall.  A few students need to revise parts of their essays, but I am hoping that I am instilling the mindset in them that learning is a process; sometimes it takes more than one try to get it "right". No child is ever stuck with a bad grade.  My desire is for my students to achieve mastery of every standard.  Even if they have an A in my class, if they receive a 1 or 2 on a summative assessment, I am pushing them to revise to achieve proficiency.

I look forward to asking students and parents for feedback at some point.  This is definitely a huge undertaking, but I think it is worth it.  I am sure there will be some tweaks and changes along the way!

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