Earlier this year, I viewed the EdCamp Home on Healthy Grading Practices. This, along with teachers at my own school, inspired me to begin implementing standards-based learning in my own classroom. I began reading Elements of Grading by Douglas Reeves. In this book, Reeves talks about the importance of feedback and how our current grading system does not truly tell students how they are doing in school. Instead, teachers use grades to punish students for behavior, reward students who are prepared, and boost students’ grades who have parental support to do homework. Today, an A doesn’t mean “I am proficient,” instead it may mean “I was well-behaved,” “I came prepared to class everyday” and “I completed all of my homework.” Should students be rewarded or punished for something that should be expected of them (well-behaved, being prepared) or something they have no control over (no support at home)?
To truly succeed with implementing standards-based learning, I had to transition myself to unit lesson plans. This created way more work at the beginning of a unit, but made things much easier overall. I saw a vision and a goal for my students and knew the objectives (or “I can” statements) ahead of time.
Prior to beginning standards-based learning, I had to have a talk with students about what proficient, partially proficient, and not proficient actually means. I started by asking students what they thought it meant and placed the following scale on the board:
3: Proficient = 100%
2.5: Partially Proficient = 83%
2 Not Proficient = 67%
1.5 – Incomplete = 50%
At the beginning of each hour, we read the “I can” statement as a class. The first week or so, I reminded students that this was their goal by the end of the hour. Students needed to feel as if they felt proficient in the objective for the day. At the end of each hour, I have students think silently for 30 seconds on a grade they would give themselves based on their goal of the “I can” statement (3, 2.5, or 2). Students then show with their hands how they would grade themselves (I preface this with “it is ok if you are still a 2”). If I am seeing a lot of 2’s, I create the next day’s Do Now related to the concept or revisit the concept at the beginning of class. I also have students grade each other on their thoughts and ideas. Students have a journal where they write down their answers/what they learned relative to the “I can” statements. I have students trade journals and give each other a grade (3, 2.5 or 2) and explain WHY they gave them that grade.
To check student understanding, I have students write down answers in their journal, write down answers on a small sheet of paper that I grade, or give mini-quizzes every Friday. Either way I do it, students ALWAYS receive feedback whether it be student-student or teacher-student.
Overall, I am confident in my transition to standards-based learning. I feel as if students know my expectations, and are more confident in my class. Grades have drastically improved and students are mastering the concepts in my class.