The Problem with Traditional Grades

Here are some things we know about Tyler:

  • He is a quiet kid and rarely participates in class voluntarily.
  • He struggles completing homework on time, if at all.
  • He is a history buff and aces every test and quiz without studying.
  • He has been tardy to class several times.

Now, if Tyler had Mr. Lincoln for American History, his grade would have been an “A”, even though the content expectations and Tyler’s behavior are identical:

  • He is a quiet kid and rarely participates in class voluntarily.
  • He struggles completing homework on time, if at all.
  • He is a history buff and aces every test and quiz without studying.
  • He has been tardy to class several times.

The Standards-Based Grading Alternative

Some of the questions that we have tackled in the past few years on our standards-based grading journey include:

  • How can we manage reassessments so the process is manageable?
  • How can work standards-based grading into a system that forces us to use percentages to correspond with letter grades?
  • How do we let go of things we have traditionally scored and counted toward a grade?
  • How do you get other teachers to hop on board?
  • How do you teach students about standards-based grading and empower them as learners?
  • Our (Marzano) Level 4 means “Above and Beyond Expectations”. How do you manage students getting to that Level 4?
  • What happens when new teachers come on board?

Our first session at the Rubicon Professional Development event in Michigan, “15 Fixes for Broken Grades”, is designed for folks interested in an overview of what research tells us a grade should report and what should be reported in other ways. We will also address misconceptions about what standards-based grading is and is not. We want you to learn about our journey with standards-based grading in our math department at Warner Middle School as well as with our district. The session will not be long enough to discuss in detail each of the fixes, so we will send, for those interested, a blurb to your e-mail each week, addressing a couple of the fixes in digestible chunks so you may begin your journey in your classroom, your department, your school, or your district.

Our second session, “Standards-Based Grading: Now what?” is a session designed for educators who have begun (or have thought about beginning) the journey into a standards-based grading classroom. We want participants to come with issues and questions about standard-based grading issues from assessments, reassessing students, computer gradebook programs, and helping others in our departments and buildings take the journey to reform grading. We do not have all of the answers, but we can give you ideas about what has and has not worked for us in our 5-year journey. We also hope that others in the room may have solutions that educators could try as well.

To read more in depth about one school’s journey to a standards-based grading system, click here! Interested in learning from other educators? Join us at a Rubicon professional Development event near you or online.

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