Someone started a new thread on the #flteach listserv about Standards Based Assessment, and so I of course had to jump in on the conversation. I’m posting my response here because I was filled with warm fuzzies while I was writing it. Standards Based Assessment is the best!! If you’ve not made the switch, you’re missing out!!
This is my third year using Standard Based Assessment, and I’m hooked.
First of all, my students’ grades reflect their performance in the language, not their performance as a student. In my old grading system (quizzes, tests, homework, classwork, projects, participation), students could earn high grades by simply being a good and responsible student, and all the language ability in the world could not keep a ‘slacker’ student from achieving a high grade. The frustrated teacher in me liked this because I liked rewarding students that worked hard and “punishing” students that didn’t. “See! You have a D because you never turn in your work!”. But that is not just. My course is called “Spanish” not “Work Habits”, and my students’ grades should reflect their ability to interpret and produce the language. My categories are now Reading (25%), Writing (25%/20% depending on level), Listening (25%), Speaking (20%/15% depending on level), Culture (5%), and Citizenship (5%). More on Citizenship later. I have fewer Fs and Ds, but not fewer As. Most students have As and Bs because I am focused on their proficiency and I know that if my students are getting Cs and Ds on assignments, it’s not because they are lazy and not doing their work but because they don’t understand the material. I spend more time working on it until the majority of my students are proficient. The other great thing about this system is that typically my students’ grades go UP as the year goes on instead of down.
My students receive a score of “Advanced”, “Proficient”, “Developing”, “Emerging”, “Beginning”, or “No Attempt” on each assignment. These correspond to A/95%, B/85%, C/75%, D/65%, F/55%, and F/50% and to ACTFL proficiency levels. For an example, please see this document that I created by combining the ideas of about a million different brilliant minds (it’s free!): http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Proficiency-Targets Even though my students are well aware that an Advanced is the same as an A and an Emerging is the same as a D, I have found that it encourages them to work harder to move to the next level. An “F” means “FAIL”–an ending–whereas a “Beginning” shows that there is hope and that the student is just at the beginning of the journey. Students WANT to jump to the next level. If they’re Developing, they want to be Proficient. If they’re Proficient, they want to be Advanced! I also like it because students know that they cannot improve their grades by doing extra credit or handing in missing assignments. They have to perform better in order to improve their grade, and so they actually STUDY and PRACTICE in order to bring up their grades. It’s fantastic!! Best of all, I have students re-take my course BY CHOICE after they have failed to move on to the next level (D or F). I think that that is the most wonderful testimony to the hope that this grading system gives them. They do not think that they have failed, but instead that they need more work to become proficient. I love it.
As many of you have brought up, the great conundrum caused by Standards Based Grading is how to hold students accountable for anything but summative assessments. Some schools issue two grades for their students: one for their content performance and one for their behavior/study habits. I wish this were the case for me! My solution is the Citizenship category. It’s only 5% of my students’ grades, and it includes formative assessments, participation, attendance, behavior, work completion, etc. It’s a catch-all. It is such a low percentage that it has almost no affect on their final grade, but it’s something that the frustrated teacher in me can hold onto and hold over their heads. It’s a grade that I can point to at Student Led Conferences or mention in a phone call to show their parents tangibly how “studious” their child has been. Now, my kiddos are middle schoolers and don’t really have any concept of just how little of an affect a 5 percent category has on their overall grade. If you teach high school, when students actually understand percentages, you might bump it up to 10 percent. But I think it is very important that even an extremely low grade in Citizenship (namely, an F) not bring the students’ overall grade down more than a single letter. In most situations, students’ grades have already suffered because of their poor work habits, and so adding on additional punishment simply to stick it to them is really not necessary.