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Standards Based Grading

Standards Based Grading


In this lesson you will understand the similarities and differences between standards based and competency based instruction and the implications for assessment and grading.

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Source: Calendar, Pixabay,; Tennis, Pixabay,; Sky, Morguefile,; Globe, Clker,; Stick Figure, Clker,

Video Transcription

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Greetings, everyone, and welcome. Today's lesson is on standards based grading. My name is Gino Sangiuliano. I hope you're having a great day. Let's get started. I play in a doubles tennis league that's a lot of fun. I've made many friends, get some exercise, and get the competitive juices flowing just enough.

The way it works is, we play three sets a night, rotating partners each time. At the end of the night, each individual earns the total number of games that they won. The most points you can get is 18, by being on the winning team all three times. However, you can lose all three sets, but if the scores were 6-5, 6-5, 6-5, you would still get 15 points. Not bad. If, for some reason, you miss a night, you are given the lowest score on the court that night minus 1. I'll be referring to this story later on in this lesson.

Standards based grading means students are graded on a scale of proficiency toward meeting the end of year standard. The transition to standards based grading can be difficult for both teachers, and especially parents, because it's probably not what they were used to growing up in schools themselves.

Another hurdle is that parents who are accustomed to seeing consistently high scores are report cards are now seeing measures indicating growth, and language such as below proficient, nearly proficient, proficient, and proficient with distinction. Traditionally, students' grades have been predicated on percentages derived from scores on an array of factors.

The term dirty data is used to describe these grades, because they include such things as behavior, attendance, participation, homework, and punctuality. Although extremely important and relevant to report, those indicators do not give a true picture of how proficient a student is on a given topic, thus making it difficult for parents and students to pinpoint areas of strengths and needs.

You've probably heard the following phrase. We are preparing our students for jobs that don't exist yet. And as teachers, that's never been more true. As we identify skills that students need to possess to succeed no matter what the future holds, we need accurate data and grading practices that support our work.

If a student does not know how to write a persuasive essay, that can't be covered up by the fact that they're a good kid, always on time, or completes their homework. We need to know what the student needs to grow in that area, and target our teaching toward that.

The power of zero. That's what the tennis story I told was all about. Although not a perfect analogy, the fundamental principle is the same. I earn the points for what I did. If, for instance, I only got points for the sets I won, I clearly wouldn't try as hard if I was losing a set five to one. But knowing what I do counts, I want to earn every point I get.

Furthermore, if I miss a night, I don't get a zero. I get the lowest score on the court minus 1. That gives a much clearer picture of my ability as a tennis player. As far as school goes, here are some practices that we should consider following. We should never use grades as punishment. Missing work should be completed, not given a zero.

Placing too much emphasis on one assignment can be very detrimental, and researcher Rick Wormeli recommends changing zeros to 50s, because not using zeros gives a more accurate picture of the student's ability. There is a huge difference between not completing the work on time and not being able to complete the work.

If a class or school culture is created that completing the work is non-negotiable, and teachers and principals put structures in place for all students, standards-based grading will work. Learners want to demonstrate proficiency, and they will if they know that they will get credit for what they can do rather than being punished for what they can't do, or do late.

The work of Marzano, Guskey, and Reeves demonstrate clearly that a zero can throw off an entire grade. It's ethically and mathematically wrong. The best example I read about came from Dr. Douglas Reeves.

If we were tracking the temperature for an entire week, and we wrote down that Sunday was 95 degrees, Monday 92, Tuesday 88, Wednesday, we forgot to take the temperature so we put a 0 in, Thursday we put a 90, Friday it was 94, and Saturday 89. With that 0 for the forgotten day, our average would be 78 degrees for the week. Obviously, that's not a clear representation of what the weather was that week.

If you're learning about this topic and want to know even more, you'll definitely want to check out the work of John Hattie and his 15 years of extensive research on what works best in education. There are three major outcomes for teachers to pay special attention to in his work, and they are as follows. As you listen to them, you're sure to see the connection between standards-based learning and grading.

They are, the more transparent the teacher makes the learning goals, then the more likely the student is to engage in the work needed to meet the goal. The more the student is aware of the criteria of success, the more the student can see the specific actions that are needed to attain this criteria. And the more there is feedback about progress from prior to desired outcomes, the more positive attributes to learning are developed.

It's time to summarize what we covered in today's lesson. We began by defining standards-based grading. We looked at traditional grading practices and why we should go to standards-based. We talked about the power of zero. And we looked at John Hattie's research on visible learning.

Here's today's food for thought. Take a close look at your grading practices. Are they closer to standards-based or more like the traditional system? Where do you want to be with your practices?

For more information on how to apply what you learned in this video, please view the additional resources section that accompanies this presentation. The additional resources section includes links useful for applications of the course material, including brief descriptions of each resource. As always, thanks so much for watching. Have a great day. We'll see you next time.

Notes on "Standards Based Grading"

(00:00-00:12) Intro

(00:13-00:52) Tennis Story

(00:53-01:24) Definition of Standards Based Grading

(01:25-02:03) Traditional Grades

(02:04-02:38) Why Standards Based Grading?

(02:39-03:35) The Power of Zero

(03:36-05:36) The Research

(05:37-05:56) Summary

(05:57-06:30) Food For Thought

Additional Resources

A Better Grading System: Standards-Based, Student-Centered Assessment

This article from the National Council of Teachers of English by Jeanetta Jones Miller includes practical strategies and examples of standards based grading and tracking mechanisms for teachers to use in their ELA classrooms.


Standards-Based Grading Information (resource list)

This blog by Jason Buell offers extensive resources and advice on implementing standards based grading practices. Click on the link of the topic that you are interested in exploring relative to standards based grading. If you are interested in having students track their own performance, scroll down for a ready-made template that you can personalized based upon your learners.