I have been frustrated with grading for as long as I’ve been teaching. The numbers don’t tell me what I need to know about students’ learning. They certainly don’t tell students anything informative, unless it’s “Oh sh*t! My parents are gonna kill me!”
Each year I swear I’ll do something different. Each year I fall into the same old traps. I’m grading too many assignments. I’m not re-teaching enough. And by the time the unit test rolls around, I realize too late that way too many of my students don’t have a clue what they’re doing.
Worse, no one really seems to care until the week before grades are due. Then, they
ask plead for extra credit. I, looking at the mountain of work I need to get through before I input grades, refuse to give them extra work (why didn’t you just do your work in the first place?). No one is happy with this scenario.
There has to be a better way!
And then. At the end of the year. I discover it! Standards Based Grading. The holy grail of formative assessment. I realize: this is what I’ve been making baby steps towards for the past several years. And here’s a system that someone else has already figured out, tested, tweaked. I go from baby steps to strapping on my seven-league-boots.
I sigh with regret that I found this too late to implement it during the current school year. But next year…I’m gonna rock this SBG thing. But, with one small modification. No grades.
My school for next year doesn’t do grades. Instead, students and parents get a combination of narrative reports and rubric checklists. [Note to self: need to see what’s on those checklists, will come in handy for my new SBG gradebook.] For about three point seven seconds I wonder whether this would be a problem. Could I do SBG without the G?
Then, I mentally smack myself upside the head. Uh, yeah. The whole point is to use an assessment system that tells me information about my students’ understanding. Who cares if I’m not going to turn that data into a letter grade at the end? The important thing is to collect the data. So that I know what my students know, and so I can communicate that information to my students. Not so that I can assign them a letter, or a percentage. That isn’t the point of SBG.
I’m looking forward to seeing how things go next year and posting that information here. Definitely one of my big goals for 2010-11. Who else out there will be trying SBG for the first time?
Update: Maybe add a dash of G after all. Upon a closer reading of the school handbook, I discover that grades will need to be submitted after all. Not sure how I mixed that up. There are still narrative reports and rubrics, but also letter grades in the end. I think that this is better than just grades alone because of the scope of feedback that students/parents receive, but there’s just something about grades that bug me. I think it’s a labeling issue.