Standards Based Grading: What About the Kids?

By: Mary Kienstra on: August 30, 2015  in: #tlap, assessment

We are in for a huge upheaval in my elementary school this year as we are changing our report cards.  We’re moving from the traditional grades that we have used forever to standards based grading.  To say that teachers are freaking out would be a huge understatement, but I’m excited!  I say it’s about time that our grading practices reflect our beliefs.

Teachers are being trained on the fly as we struggle to understand how these changes will affect everything we do.  We’ve learned about learning targets, proficiency scale rubrics, online grade books, and reporting standards.  We’re collaborating to discuss what to assess, how we “grade”, and how we report.

All this time, I kept wondering, who is going to tell the kids?  I knew they should hear it from us, their teachers, not from the newspaper or their parents.  We are the ones who should communicate this new system to them.

So I decided I should tell my fourth and fifth graders about our new system.  I brainstormed with my principal and my learning coach and we came up with a plan to introduce standards based grading to the kids.

I made up a silly example of a Jumping Jacks class and told my students the target was to perform 100 Jumping Jacks without stopping.  I showed them the scores of 2 different students in jumping jacks class and we discussed how to grade them.  They discussed averaging and if that was truly fair.  It was very difficult for them to think about it any other way… at first.

I told them then that we are no longer giving grades such as A, B, C, etc.  They wanted to know why!  We talked about changing the focus from grades to learning.  They began to understand that assessing their work with a rubric for the standards was the most fair. I explained that we will be using rubrics and proficiency scales to assess their work from now on and that I really didn’t have all the answers… yet.

Next I showed them the rubric for the current standard for order of operations and asked them to assess their most recent exit slip.  This concrete example helped to provide the understanding for the new system.  As they looked over the previous day’s exit slip, they wanted to correct their work.  This was another interesting discussion as I explained that if they corrected their work, they were showing that they were moving closer to meeting the target.

My students left that day with a better understanding of the new standards based grading system.  I know we will be discussing this over and over this year as we all learn our new way of assessing.  For now, we’re off to a good start!

Let’s talk about grading from marykienstra


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