Educators from Vancouver iTech Preparatory shared their school’s approach to Standards-Based Grading (SBG) and reviewed their process and considerations in developing an SBG model at Vancouver iTech Preparatory.
Vancouver iTech Preparatory is a public school of choice located on the campus of Washington State University in Vancouver. It is an early college model with emphasis on project-based learning and STEM. iTech’s SBG approach uses the acronym: G.A.U.G.E. Grading for Academic Understanding, Grit, and Excellence.
iTech’s definition for SBG is ‘an approach to learning that assesses students’ growth towards proficiency in clearly defined academic outcomes (standards)’. It attempts to provide meaningful feedback to students about specific skills and skill development over time.
SBG aims to mitigate inconsistencies and deficiencies of more traditional grading, which often does not capture student growth and lacks transparency in scores. Vancouver iTech shared this image to frame the impetus behind switching to an SBG model rather than grading traditional.
A major focus of G.A.U.G.E. is developing a way to effectively and fairly assign letter grades to student performance. Vancouver iTech uses a rubric to assign proficiency levels to specific standards; there are four levels (Beginning, Approaching, Meeting, and Exceeding), which iTech defines by thresholds per the rubric.
To capture student growth, iTech ensures G.A.U.G.E. does not average grades but rather assesses individual and groups of standards and tracks progress to proficiency over time. Their mechanism to achieve this: decaying averages.
1. Decaying Average
2. Conjunctive Grading
Advice for Undertaking a Standards-Based Grading Initiative
First and foremost, the moderators necessitate permission to fail. This is a complicated and timely process that is prone to mistakes. Making mistakes is not detrimental to its overall success and can help improve and elucidate the process further. Second, communication and collaboration between colleagues is paramount. Switching to SBG is a school-wide initiative and colleagues are excellent resources for support and advice. As a corollary, communication with the community: students and parents, is also necessary. Community members will have questions and concerns. Working with them and incorporating them into discussion can allay these fears and hesitancies and generate support. This process, and change management more generally, thrives on transparency.
SBG offers the opportunity to improve student learning, acknowledging it is a process of growth towards proficiency. And, aligning SBG with traditional letter grades allows it to be an accessible grading method within schools. Vancouver iTech Preparatory offered a lens into their process of adopting SBG and converting proficiency levels to letter grades in the hopes of helping other schools develop a similar approach. Check out their full toolbox of resources here!
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