I have been thinking about my grading policy. I love standards-based grading, but I can’t bring myself to go totally that way yet, because of the way things work in my school. For example, if a student is “failing” two or more classes in a given week, that student may not participate in extracurricular activities or sports until she or he is “failing” zero or one class. I am expected to update grades in the school’s system (PowerSchool, owned by Pearson) “regularly” by which the administration expects weekly, at least. So at the beginning of a marking period, the standards grade might look appallingly low, when few standards have been mastered.
I spent many hours last summer working on a compromise I can live with, and I tried it for a year. Results were mixed. My assessments were not frequent enough, the feedback I gave was not immediate enough. I gave students marks for proficiency on standards when I was uncertain that they had truly mastered them, but I felt I did not have the time to asses them better. But I also felt like grades finally reflected actual learning, and that the higher grades earned by kids were truly earned by understanding, not by being organized, neat, and attempting everything.
Last year I entered a standards grade on the students’ PowerSchool records in the last couple of weeks of the marking period, to avoid the extracurriculars problem (the grade requirement for extracurriculars is frozen around marking period transitions, I don’t know why). This year I am going to enter a score weekly, which I am going to calculate somehow from ActiveGrade. I have not figured out exactly HOW I will do that calculation yet, but I am thinking about it.
The following is what I am handing out for students and parents to read:
Each student’s grade is based on the following:
1) 50% of the marking period grade is based on mastery of the standards. The standards for each unit will be available online. Feedback for students and parents will also be available online. The standards grade will be based on demonstrating mastery of core standards (core topics and skills) and secondary standards (additional topics and skills). Mastery of all the core standards will earn a grade of 70% for this portion of the grade. Mastery of all the secondary standards will raise the standards grade to 95%. Grades above 95% will be awarded to students demonstrating exceptional individual achievement on goal-less problems, projects, or work in additional topics not covered in this course.
Students and parents must rely on communication with the teacher and on the online progress-tracking site ActiveGrade to determine how well the student is progressing on the standards. Each student’s standards achievement grade will be entered into PowerSchool (the school grade system) once per week starting no later than September 14th, 2012. Expect this grade to change as students master standards and as standards are added. This single number is not particularly helpful, however, and parents and students should make a habit of checking ActiveGrade (link to be provided). If either the student or parent feels that they are not getting enough feedback, they are encouraged to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and arrange for a phone conversation, Skype conversation in the evening, or a face-to-face conference.
2) 15% of the marking period grade will be based on points earned through homework, classwork, class participation, and other activities. The score will be determined by how many points were earned by the student divided by the number of points available. There will be extra credit points available to be earned as well.
3) 15% of the marking period grade is based on laboratory work. Students are required to participate in all laboratory activities, record and keep data, present results to their classmates, and write lab reports. Sometimes laboratory analyses will be assigned as homework. Again, the score will be determined by the number of points earned by the student divided by the number of points available.
4) 20% of the marking period grade is based on the Quarterly Assessment. The Quarterly Assessment will provide opportunities to demonstrate mastery of standards (both core and secondary, and thus also contribute to the standards grade) and may involve in-class testing, out-of school projects, laboratory work, or some combination of these.
I am going to hand each student a card with a link to ActiveGrade, and I am thinking of making a little screencast to explain the system, with a sample class and sample assessments. I can link to that on my website, which I worked on earlier this summer but which I haven’t done anything to lately…I made it on Google Sites and that platform is a little annoying to work with. I can also put a link on Moodle. I feel like I have a lot of online spaces that I need to get better organized… Sigh. There is always more I could be doing!