Friday, June 17, 2011

SBG and the Nightmare that is Grading

So I've implemented SBG. More or less. I have written my targets. I have savagely edited my targets. I have overcome mutinies and parental skepticism. I have brightly colored signs all over my room reminding kids what they need to learn.

Now, how in the name of everything scientific am I supposed to keep track of all this?

This is my first full year of grading by standards. While there are a lot of tweaks I need to make for next year along with a couple of major adjustments, the foundation has been laid and I just need to build on it.

Or out from it. I am so on board with all the calls to get rid of grades. I am so frustrated with kids coming into my room the last week of school wondering how they can get just a few more points. I flat out asked some of the kids if they were more concerned with grades than with learning. Talk about some blank expressions.

So here it is. A break down of the good, the bad and the ugly.

My Chemistry, Applied Chemistry and Applied Physics targets were pretty good. I ended up editing them a little bit, but this is more of a skill based class and I found that to be easier to assess. Can you balance a chemical equation or not?

The big problem I had were with my Earth Science Classes (I get to separate out into Astronomy, Geology, Meteorology and Ocean Science). I tried to make the target too skill based. This resulted in beyond epic failure. The thing about the Earth is that it is a system. Everything is interconnected and it makes it hard to separate out those ideas. And even when you do, those ideas do not easily translate into skills for assessment. For next year, those targets are going to be more ideas based. I'm sure this will probably result far fewer targets and we will circle back around several times to those ideas. How in the world I am going to teach in that way, I have no idea.

Man, I'm beginning to hate that word. I created a semi-complicated way of recording students' grades. Each target was (ideally) assessed at least twice with a score of 4 points each. So each target was worth 8 points. To determine how many points each student received out of 8, I took the most recent score and added it to the highest previous score. So assume little Johnny received the following scores of five assessments on balancing equations: 3, 2, 3, 4, 3. The most recent score (3) is added to the highest (4) for a total of 7 out of 8. My kids were so stunned by the Modeling and just the introduction of not getting an actual test grade that not many of them even stopped to consider how the number was actually determined.

I like it, but I don't.

I read Marzano's Formative Assessment and Standards Based Grading. I am now reading Guskey's Developing Grading and Reporting Systems for Student Learning. Marzano's book talks about how to set up levels within each standard. So in order to get a 1 out of 4, the student must answer this question correctly. In order to get a 2 out of 4, a second, more difficult question must be answered correctly. And so on. I like this and am going to try this next year with a little adaptation. There has been a bit of discussion about binary grading lately that I has me intrigued. If I can get it set up, I would like to make a standard out of the "1" question. You either get it or you don't. A separate standard would cover the "2" question. You get a 1 or 0. To me that seems like there would be less interpretation between the levels. That seems like an awful lot of work, so we'll see how far I get with that.

I was pretty inconsistent on this. I got swamped later in the year and just couldn't sit down and get it done to the level that I wanted. This is going to be a main focus for me next year. I am thinking about having kids assign their own scores based on what I have written as feedback. I'm sure that will go over well.

These are gone. It became so unmanageable I took to hiding in my closet during my plan period. Especially in the second trimester (Chemistry), everything builds so much that we ended up assessing every target over and over anyway. If I can write my targets well enough, this shouldn't be a problem.

This got better as the year went on. I kept a bright orange notebook on my desk that contained a spreadsheet for each unit that we covered. The targets were written at the top and the scores were recorded. Red pen indicated a test, black was a quiz, pencil was a retake, any other color was something else (projects, etc.). I know this reveals a bit of my OCD, but it helped me keep track of why a certain kid was missing a grade since I wasn't recording it as "Test 3" anymore.

I started working on a Google docs method of recording grades that would also let me add in feedback. I know Riley has Active Grade available, but for some reason, I just never got the hang of it. Maybe if I can sit down for an hour or so without any interruptions (this seems to be my issue with a LOT of things) and just play with it I could get it to do what I want. I also see Shawn is working on something that I'm sure will shake the education table. I love the idea of getting rid of scores. I think my curriculum director might be somewhat tolerant of the idea, but my principal probably won't want to deal with all the questions it is sure to generate. He's kind of a don't-rock-the-boat sort of guy. Maybe I just won't mention it to him.

On the whole, I like the general set up of SBG. It makes so much more sense to me as opposed to the more traditional method of recording grades. I asked my kids at the end of the year if they liked it or not. 79% said they preferred it, so that is really encouraging and it also gave my principal something to grab onto other than me saying how wonderful it was.

So that's how last year stands. Now that the dust has settled and I can breathe again, I'm going to sit down and start over on my Earth classes. Chemistry just needs some light editing and it's good to go, but those big ideas are what is going to do me in next year.


Lisa said...

Ken O'Connor's How to Grade for Learning was another helpful book as I set up my SBG last year. You may want to read that one over the summer.

I hope that you don't mind that I included this post in the latest SBG Gala - you may find some helpful reflections in that also when it is posted June 24th.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts - it's good to know others are going through what I am, too!

Kara said...

Can we get together and chat about SBG? Because I just DON'T know where to start! And it will be so much better if I can go to my All-In-One and say "They're doing it in Council Grove - we want to be cutting edge, don't we?" ;)

Tracie Schroeder said...

Kara - absolutely. When is a good time for you?

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