Thursday, August 2, 2012

Revising My Grading One (?) More Time

I am in my classroom for the first time since May.

I switched over to standards based grading a few years ago, and while I love the way it sets up my classroom, I have yet to find that perfect balance. I have been grading on a 4 point scale and I don't like it. This seems to be the most popular set up, but for me, it has just turned into a nightmare.

Assigning a 1 means you don't get it. Did you totally get it? Good, you get a 4. What if you just made a minor error? Okay, 3.5. But what if you started out like you knew what was going on and then wandered off somewhere? Is it a 2? Did you explain it well the other day during whiteboarding? Maybe it should be a 3.

This is where I really start to have issues. I found myself so often making a judgement call as to whether or not I thought the student really got it.

I am totally intrigued with the binary set up that some are moving towards. This makes it more black and white. You either get it (1) or you don't (0), right? The problem is that I do like a little bit of gray, kind of a light at the end of the tunnel. Some kids just aren't quite there yet and I am a bit nervous about a 0 being taken the wrong way.

So here's what I got:

2 = You got it. No errors, you have mastered this idea.

1 = You are on the right track. There may have been some errors, be it in the arithmetic, set-up, units*, but you at least seem to have an idea about what is going on.

0 = Yeah, you don't get it.

Is this still binary or do we call it tertiary? I'm not sure, but I am pretty excited about getting rid of that middle ground.

Part two of my overhaul involves how I mold this into a letter grade. In my 4 point system, I counted two grades for each standard. The highest mark received was added to the most recent mark. This worked out to being a percentage out of 8 total points for each standard. This worked okay. Some kids never seemed to really understand how their grade was figured, even when I had the keep track on their own.**

With this system, I am going to drop the highest and go with only the most recent. There are few things more frustrating than kids thinking they can forget everything after the test. And so much of what we do in chemistry builds on itself that I can't really allow that to happen.

Now comes the translation. I am still playing with this for a couple of reasons.

First, this is where the only resistance I have ever had from my principal comes in. I am having an incredibly difficult time getting him to let me move away from percentages. I'm not sure why. Well, okay, I'm sure he believes he will have to field more calls from parents. I'm going to hit him up again tomorrow after I finalize my system.

Which brings me to the hard part. Here's my thinking.
*Three or more 0 can't get you through the class.
*0 on any objective and the majority of the other scores are 1 = D.

Now here's where I get stuck. There are some ideas in chemistry that simply must be understood. Conservation of matter, lab skills, nomenclature. (There are more, I am working on my list.) These are the "gold" standards. You must have a 2 on all of these to get an A or B.

*2 on all gold standards, 0 on any objective and the majority of the other scores are 2 = C.
*2 on all gold standards and no more than two 1 on the others = B.
*2 on all standards and and at least two capstone projects = A.

This could change. I am rewriting my objectives today so that they fit more into this grading scheme and also so they are easier to understand. I am thinking I will have 10 gold standards and probably another 12-20 others. (Going to have to call them "blue" I suppose, school colors and all.)

What do you think? Does this even make sense? Is it too hard to follow?

*Not labeling numbers are killing my kids. From here on out, you can't convince me that you have mastered the idea until you label everything. I am pretty sure someone wrote about this at some point this summer, but I can't seem to locate that post. Whoever you are, thank you for putting that out there!

**Of course, an alarmingly large portion of that group didn't know where any of their percentages came from.


Knaus said...

I like the Gold and Blue standards. I would average out the scores for Blue and Gold. I'm going to keep thinking on this because I see it translating to my AVID class.

Bryna Goeckner said...

I'm sure you probably know of what Kelly O'Shea is doing with SBG in her physics class - what you are proposing sounds very similar, and I myself am thinking about implementing some variation of this. She also has some minimum standards (I think they are her "A" standards) that everyone must meet to pass the class, and some higher level standards (her "B" standards). If I remember correctly, meeting all the minimum standards means you've earned a 70. Meeting the higher level standards earns between a 70 and 90 (meet half of the higher level ones and all the minimum standards = an 80) and the final 10% comes from something similar to your capstone projects. Here's a link to her an SBG post on her blog that describes this in much more detail than I have:

I think this idea of minimum standards to pass the class and higher level ones to show you really know what you're doing makes a lot of sense.

I personally am still a bit stuck at the beginning step of trying to figure out what I want my minimum standards to be and also how to describe my standards in a way that will be clear to me, my students, and my administration that students are (or are not) meeting a particular standard.

Are you willing to share what you have for your standards (or even collaborate)? (I too use the Modeling Chemistry curriculum, so at least we are covering the same material and in the same order/manner.)

Also, for the capstone projects that you mention you might use... Do you have specific projects in mind? I really like that idea as well, but since I don't have anything lined up, I might just do some basic SBG without the capstone for this year and incorporate it next year...

Tracie Schroeder said...

Hey Bryna
Haha, actually, I just posted about how I completely missed Kelly's post last year! I wish I had, I would have saved some frustration :)

My minimum (gold) standards aren't necessarily easier. I want them to be those overarching themes that just keep coming up. Conservation of mass is the first idea we talk about. Then it comes up again. And again. My feeling is that if a kid can't apply LOC to various situations, then he hasn't really learned enough about chemistry and shouldn't get a credit that says he has.

Those are my "gold" standards. You have to get those to pass. Now, to get an "A", you have to do the capstones. I don't really have any projects in mind at this point. I am considering coming up with a question for Unit 1 and having everyone do some type of project just to give them an idea of what I expect. My kids come to me with zero science skills (don't get me started) and I really don't think they will be able to do this without a little guidance.

I would love to collaborate with you. I will get my standards typed out this afternoon and get them shared.

Anonymous said...

I think the 1 is key. Even though it means "no" instead of "very no", and even though the system really is still binary once you get down to a number grade, the 1 is pretty essential. If it were just yes or no, students would feel a lot more upset with not getting the "yes" on an objective because having no clue would feel basically the same as making a sign mistake (or something like that). That's my experience with a very similar system, anyway.

I'm also right there with you on units, etc. For problem solving objectives (my "B" objectives), your work has to be perfect for the 2. Anything at all that isn't perfect, even units or arithmetic, and I want to see you do another one. On core objective (my "A" objectives), that doesn't usually matter because they are mainly about drawing diagrams. On summative assessments (semester exams), though, that perspective changes. Then I'm looking as best I can for understanding and am more forgiving of non-conceptual mistakes. On the formative ones, though (every other quiz/test during the year), I'm a crazy "hard grader".

Finally, the core objectives are a great selling point when talking to parents, especially. It's a promise that you're going to make sure every kid learns at least that much Chemistry this year. You will reach out with help and support, give lots of opportunities for assessments—anyone who is committed and puts in the work will learn that minimum amount of the most important ideas in the class. With number grades, you really don't make that kind of promise (at least, I sure didn't!), even if every kid was getting a "decent" grade.

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