Standards Based Grading

This year I am committed to fully transitioning into a Standards Based Grading (SBG) system in my AP Chemistry class. In order to merge the process with the inquiry cycle described below (Explore-Flip-Apply), I re-wrote, and unpacked my old standards to fit into “cycles”. Each cycle consists of an in-class guided inquiry activity, a teacher and/or student created sceencast outside of class, followed by an application phase. The next day begins with a quiz to conclude the previous cycle. Obviously not all the standards could, or needed to be, reworked this way.

Students explore the core objective of the cycle first and reflect on their own constructs, models, and ideas together in class. The subsequent screen cast provides introduction to lower level content standards (definitions, etc.), and during the application phase, students work through higher order standards collaboratively. Standards are then noted next to each quiz question and students track their performance, as do I. Each standard is graded and entered into the gradebook individually. Only the standards are placed in the grade book:

Gradebook Snapshot
gradebook snapshot

Student Tracking Snapshot
student tracking snapshot

I find this makes the reassessment process much easier as students know which standards they are still not proficient in, and then I can design reassessment opportunities on the spot that are more meaningful and rigorous (usually by writing questions spontaneously on class whiteboards) without creating an entire new assessment. I enjoy doing this in class rather than online (moodle, etc.) as it allows for conversation following the reassessment. If students are ready to reassess without extra help, they may do it on the same day. If they need extra tutoring from me, I decide on a reasonable time, usually the following day, in order to create a more authentic and valid assessment experience.

If an assessment given in the future includes a previously assessed standard, for now, I am simply replacing the old score with the new one. I have a hunch this is where I have a lot of growing to do, but for now, it seems to be working with students, and in a course that concludes with a year long cumulative examination, I am hopeful it will motivate students to recall their specific strengths and weakness more directly.

What interests me most about Standards Based Grading and the associated reassessment process, is the way students naturally talk about the material. Rather than discussing issues around “Quiz X” or “Exam Y”, students now use terms like “I really get Standard X”, or “I am completely lost on Standard Y”. When students come to reassess, their comments are also much more directed. “Mr. M, can I reassess Standard X”, is now a common statement, rather than the infamous, “I need to re-take Exam Y”. The prior gives me, and the student, much more critical information. I hope :).

Below is a screenshot from a student that demonstrates this idea:


If you are interested in SBG, I recommend reading Frank Noschese’s blog. His resources are amazing and provided the energy I needed for my SBG process this year.

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