Reflecting on Standards Based Grading

Now that the school year has come to a close I find myself reflecting on the changes I made in the classroom. One of the biggest changes was with my grade-book and my grading scale. I started the year using Standards Based Grading and overall I am very encouraged by the results! Now I will say the Fall semester was better since I had prepared during the summer but the Spring……well with my health issues in the Fall and the busy life of a teacher, it wasn’t as organized lol Either way I love the adjusted grading scale (students can only score grades between 50-100). Below you’ll find my reflections for each semester.

The Fall Semester – During the summer I began unwrapping standards and developing learning scales to use in my classroom. The goal was for students to use the scales so that both the student and I would know where they stood in their learning for a particular standard. When it was implemented it worked like I thought it would….for the most part. I learned that while Level 4 on the learning scale equaled an A it needed to be more than a flat 90. Level 4 should be a 90-100 so that if a student missed one question he/she would not slip to a B. I feel this was my biggest hurdle, trying to figure out how to use Standards Based Grading with our current, traditional model of grading (100-90 is an A, 89-80 is a B, etc.). I made more detailed answer keys, and truly thought about each students response and how that showed their level of understanding. I would place a score next to each question as it related to the learning scale (a 1-4), add those up when I was done, get an average and that would be their score on a quiz. Students slowly began to understand how their grade was determined and I had no protests. I made sure to encourage them to ask me questions about their scores and if I couldn’t explain my reasoning for it, we’d look at it together and determine a better grade. The only way to fail a quiz was to make a 0 or 0.5 on the learning scale, which would equal a 50% or a 55% in the grade-book. I never entered anything less than a 50% (I’ll discuss what this looked like during the Spring semester when I didn’t have learning scales in just a moment). This grading method worked great! My boarder-line students tried a little harder (a 50% seems easier to bring up than a 20%) and my final grades at the end were the best I’ve had in my 5 years of teaching. I made these changes to assist my struggling students (F’s and D’s) so those are what I’m using as data. On average, about 10% of students would fail Chemistry however this last Fall I only had ONE student fail! That was just 1%!!! This made me very happy!

The Spring Semester – The Spring semester was a little different. I did not have the time to unwrap standards and design corresponding learning scales like I did for the Fall. Instead I used learning scales from the previous year (which still help but are not as grounded in Bloom’s Taxonomy) but I kept the same grading scale: no one would have below a 50% entered in the grade-book. Instead of using the scales for grades as I did in the Fall I would enter a student’s percentage (so all quizzes were worth 100%). This would ensure that concepts were still weighed equally so that one bad grade wouldn’t ruin a student’s overall grade in the class. When I submitted my final grades for the Spring, about 4% failed. Not as great as the Fall semester but still much lower than previous years. There could be many factors for this (we do a lot of applied Algebra in the Spring) but a part of me wonders if I was able to provide the students with the same scales as I had in the Fall would it have helped? This is something I plan to have for my students next year.

Overall I am very pleased with the results. Implementation was hard. Change always is but I feel it was worth it. I plan on improving and applying this method of grading again. Hopefully I’ll continue to see advances in student learning.

***Side note: If you want to learn more about the grading scale I used, why I used it, and how I used it in the grade-book, I plan on writing a post about it soon! So check back in the next week or subscribe to this blog and you’ll get an email when it’s posted! Have a relaxing summer!

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