The Plan…is to adapt…small things first…


Ken O’Connor, How to Grade for Learning Linking Grades to Standards, states “when changing practices, start small; adapt, do no adopt.”

I’ve always given a lot of mini-quizzes, quick quizzes at the beginning of class based on previous HW, I walk around the room looking at student work during step 3 of “I do , We do , You do,” white boards & wikki stix for graphing equations, have students flip their TI-screens around to see their graph, post-it note quizzes, student self-assess with the STOPLIGHT strategy.  I have students rework/explain missed problems on tests – so formative assessment wasn’t a big adjustment for me.  However, this summer, I’ve come to realize how important it is to have a formal one planned and in place before teaching a new target.  I’ve always been an informal assessor – but I must be more purposeful to make the assessment even more meaningful to me and my students.

I’ve always listed my daily objective / goal on the board for students, so they would know what we were doing when they walked in the classroom without having to ask “What are we gonna do today?”  I make sure they’re in student friendly terms and focused on a related standard…and now I realize the importance of addressing them at the end of a lesson as well as at the beginning.  So again, no big adjustments here.

The whole idea that formative assessments should not receive a grade- that’s one I struggle with (notice struggle is present tense).  At times, early in the unit, I completely agree-no grade should be assigned, the content is new.  However, at some point, I feel it is important to determine at what level the student is able perform a skill/apply a concept.  Even though I assign a grade/level of mastery – it is no longer set in stone.  If a student is not at the level I feel they should be, some type of action must occur – so I initiate.  It may be as simple as verbal/written feedback to actual one-on-one time with further instruction or a different learning activity.   If a student is not happy with their level, through self-assessment, they may be the one who initiates the action – questions me, finds an online resource, asks a friend for help or simply revisiting the practice assignment.  Formative assessment simply helps us determine if we are able to move on…

Last school year, along with a few colleagues, we took a step closer to where we need to be…summative assessments 70% and formative /daily grades were 30% with the intent to make a step closer this school year 80/20.  Beginning this year, my state’s End of Course Assessment score is supposed to be 20% of students’ overall grade.  My school district has adopted/submitted a policy to count EOC 10% this school year, 15% next and then to the full 20% suggested by the state. 

Averaging.  One cannot argue with Guskey’s analogy of averaging the martial arts belts…   I knew SBG was going to be an issue with Infinite Campus (which I’ve despised since day 1). After hearing Dr. Guskey speak last week – he confirmed that of all software out there, one of the worst is IC.  Oh well. 

As a transition year, I will continue using IC as a reporting tool.  From all that I (& my colleagues) have tried, it forces you to average at some point.  I will utilize a points system within IC.  If its not as smooth as I would like, I am able to enter final grades manually at the end of the grading period…looking at student learning overall using evidence gathered – each unit separately, but then all of them as a whole to determine the level at which a student has mastered the entire content.  

Another issue I will have to address is the need for a grade for KEES money.  In Kentucky, students are awarded Kentucky Educational Excellence Sscholarship money based on their grades and ACT scores.  The higher your grades/ACT, the more money (up to $10,000) a student can earn for post-secondary education at in-state institutions.  I will likely model this after a graphic Frank Nochese has included in his letter to parents concerning SBG when entering grades for each unit.  I appreciate the idea that he sits down with each student to discuss this.  Communication is essential to assessment – throughout the process, not just at the end of a unit of study.

Summative – Unit tests, quizzes – all standards-driven

Daily – to include projects, assignments and certain class activities – things I may use on a daily basis for students to demonstrate learning (I know, I know, but I’m adapting small things…)

10% EOC – this will begin with a course diagnostic test, every 6 weeks (this idea, I’m sorry, I cannot remember the blog I read it on…) a cumulative exam will be given and the grade will replace the prior exam.  However, the grades will remain in IC to show growth / allow parents, student and teacher to observe change…with final EOC score to be weighted per district policy. 

0% Formative Assessments / Standards reporting, allowing parents to see the student’s mastery on each standard.  I will use a 4 point scale, its very similar to a marking system we’ve used in Kentucky on our open response assessments, so students should be somewhat familiar with it.

0% HW Completion, Participation, etc. to allow parents an opportunity to see the students’ work habits.

All in all – I believe the most important idea about SBG is just that – your grades reflect learning/achievement and nothing else.  My grades no longer include fluff – no bonus points, no extra credit, no penalty for taking longer to master a concept.  No grades given for effort/completion of an assignment.  My grades are based on defined learning targets.  Students must show they can perform the skill or apply the concept.  To “get the A”…one must learn and demonstrate learning and go beyond the standard.  Yes, I want the focus to be on learning and not the grade.  As I’ve often heard people state, I learned more from that B that I did from most of my A’s – b/c that teacher pushed me and challenged me…

I really like Frank Nochese‘s letter to parents and will use some of his ideas to develop my own letter.  He has some wonderful tools to share for recording progress and reporting as well.  I will continue to study his process and others like Shawn Cornally of Think, Thank, Thunk.  I know where I’m going, but I’m not ready to make the big changes.  This year will be a learning experience, but I am choosing to adapt small things, become proficient at those first, then I’ll be ready to adapt some more next year.

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