Educating parents and students about standards based grading

My phone and email were quiet one week after Open House. A parent however ran into my principal while attending another grade level’s open house and gave him some feedback which he passed along to me. They were two great suggestions: 1) continue to send emails over the next couple of weeks announcing when updates have been posted to the online grade book, and 2) explain once again why I am doing this.

The end of this post details what I sent home. It’s been only one day, but I’ve received just two emails requesting clarification. The clarification was what I anticipated–taking a score of 2 or 3 out of 4 and intepreting it as a 50% or 75%. I reiterated that it was not a grade, but merely a record of where the student is at.

Parents and students are accustomed to a gradebook that captures the end result. They need time to digest the idea that a grade book can be thought of as a running record of progress. This hit home today when a student said to me, “Rumor has it you are counting a pre-test as a grade.”

I told Emma, “No, I entered it in the grade book only as documentation that this is where you are at as of this date. It is not a grade.” She slowly began to understand this grading practice. This is an adjustment period and I hope everyone will come to appreciate SBG over the course of the quarter.

Another student questioned why I don’t just make each assessment worth 10 points. I understand where he is coming from, but returning to a point value defeats the purpose of SBG and students still end up focusing on the grade.

I’m curious as to how others have handled this question. Again I’m doing SBG using a percentage based grade book.

I haven’t forgotten. Here’s the email I sent to parents:

Parents,

For those interested in learning a bit more about standards based grading, please read the information below. Again, if you have questions or concerns, please contact me via email or phone.

Why SBG?
1.  SBG measures and reports the learner’s progress in a clear, precise manner. An assessment reported in the traditional grade book would have very limited information such as rational numbers test, 85%. This type of grade book entry does not describe the student’s strengths and areas that need more practice.

Continuing with the rational numbers example, in SBG the concepts are recorded and reported individually. This way everyone knows where the student excels and struggles. The grade book reflects individual levels of mastery such as adding and subtracting fractions, mixed numbers, decimals, and integers, as well as a separate entry for multiplying and dividing these concepts.

2.  Another important feature of SBG is maintaining a running record of the student’s understanding of the major topics in each unit. Parents often ask, “How is my child doing?” Seeing your child’s trend moving from 2/4 to 4/4 indicates your child’s learning is moving closer to the learning target and beyond.

Today and tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday, I am explaining the process to the students and returning to them their “pre-test” on the first learning concept(s). In Home Access today you will see your child’s current level of proficiency. If I see your child on “B” days, I will share the pre-test results tomorrow, Tuesday. As I mentioned at Open House, 3 is the target and 4 is more complex content.

Thank you for the opportunity to teach your child and I look forward to a great year of learning.

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