Thursday, June 20, 2013

No Averaging!

I am here to sort through my issues with using SBG to determine an effective final grade.  I've already decided that I'm not going to allow any scores below a 2 (partial proficiency)...well maybe I'll extend it to allow some 1.5s, but definitely not 1s or 0.5s or 0s.  Students who score below this level (whatever I decide) will have to re-learn and re-assess.

The big challenge I'm thinking about though, is how to accurately give students a final grade.  I want it to be fair and make sense.  This past year I averaged scores students had earned (and I was not good about requiring re-learning/re-assessing), and I was very dissatisfied with the results.  I really don't feel like averaging everything is what I want to do.  (Consider this extreme example for why I dislike averaging.  For a student to pass Algebra s/he should meet these standards:  a, b, c, and d.  Say a student shows adv. prof on a and b and receives 4s, but then shows low learning on c and d and receives 1s.  This would average to a 2.5, which I believe in my grade book would be a C+.  But is this student really ready to move on to Geometry/Algebra 2 if they have failed to show proficiency for half of the Algebra standards?  This is the issue for me.)

Also, I want something that is more clear for students.  I could never predict how one retake would affect their grade, and neither could they.  My goal is to set up a rubric of sorts to determine their final grades (which we only give out 2/year--semester grades).  I'm not sure if this is something PowerSchool can do for me or if it is something I will have to do on my own.  I'm pretty sure Active Grade ( can do it, but not sure I want to try to operate 2 grade books.  I may just have to hand calculate a few times a year.

Here are some ideas:
  • To earn an A, 50% of the scores must be 3.5 or 4, and no more than 5% are 2.
  • To earn a B, 50% of the scores must be 3 or above, and no more than 10% are 2.
  • To earn a C, 25% of scores are 3 or above, and no more than 25% of scores are 2.
  • To earn a D, 100% of scores are at or above a 2
  • To earn an F, any scores below a 2.
This is just my thought for now.  Would love to hear feedback on what others are thinking.  My school does give more than just straight grades, so I would have to add more for A-, B+, B-, etc.  Which will be complicated...especially since there will be around 20 scores per semester (I think...haven't finished breaking down all standards into learning targets yet).

I'm done.  Now it's your turn.  Do you think I'm crazy or not?

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I have been reading Fair Isn't Always Equal  by Rick Wormeli and it has made me think a lot about assessment.  Obviously working through SBG makes me think a lot about assessment too, but through that and my conversations with math tweeps, I think I have enough thoughts that I need to process them.

Here are some random thoughts to start:

  • Quizzes are a type of formative assessment; need to be used that way
  • I want to pre-assess all my students for each learning target
  • I want the pre-assessments and formative assessments to be a learning experience for students
  • I don't want my students to feel like they are constantly being quizzed/tested
  • I need more than just one data point to score a student on a learning target (thinking in terms of SBG)--this is where formative assessment comes in
  • I want to assess retention of learning as well, not just once
  • I want to allow reassessment to encourage (and sometimes require) students to relearn (probably a different post later...)
  • If pre-assessments and formative assessments are used well few students should need to reassess
After a conversation with Garnet Hillman at #sbgchat, I decided that I want to report out achievement, growth, and behavior for each student.  I had already determined that I wanted to report out achievement and behavior, but I hadn't really considered growth.  (Not sure why, but I'm getting off task, so I won't reflect on that now).  However, growth is an important variable to measure, and with a pre-assessment, not that difficult.  So I added it to my lengthening list of goals for next year.  Achievement will be the only aspect that affects the letter grade students receive in the class (next blog post on constructing final grade), but reporting out behavior and growth are important as well.

Wormeli recommends that pre-assessments be as similar to the summative assessment as possible.  The goal is to pull out the basic ideas from the summative and give a short and sweet pre-asssessment.  I'm think that my pre-assessments will only be measurements of 0 (no proficiency), 1 (minimally proficient), 2 (near proficient), or 3 (proficient).  I will likely exclude advanced proficiency from pre-assessments mainly for the sake of simplifying and shortening the assessment.  (If you have comments on this feel free to leave them!)  

But like I said, I want pre-assessments to be more than just one-and-done.  I want to be able to use them for learning experiences.  One way I thought I could do this would be to help students prepare for the summative assessment.  Here's is how it would go down.  I would give groups of 2-3 the pre-assessment again (one copy).  Group 1 is instructed to work through the assessment at a 2 level.  Group 2 is instructed to work through the assessment at a 3 level.  (They wouldn't know what other groups had been assigned.)  Then group one and two switch papers and score the paper they were given.  Then either as double-groups or a class, students would discuss why they gave the score they gave and students would defend if they feel the "earned" a higher (or lower) score as they were initially instructed.

This past year in my implementation of SBG, my quizzes and tests were organized by Learning Targets, and students received a score on each LT.  I started giving quizzes on 1-2 LT to show students they could be successful if they would work on retention (low test scores after knowing students had learned at one point). I included both the quiz and the test score in the grade book.  I want to have only one score for each LT next year, based on multiple data points over time that demonstrate a student's learning.  (I'm not sure if I'll do one score per standard or LT yet, but that isn't a huge difference.)

With this change I know quizzes still have a use, but it is likely much more formative.  I would still like to score them myself so that students have feedback from me, but I'm wondering how else I could use them as a learning experience...I might have students use their IN to reflect after taking the assessment and then again after receiving my feedback.  I'd also like to have students do corrections on their quizzes.  Might be fun to have the class collect and organize common mistakes.  Could lead to good analysis...

Not sure what to do with students who then demonstrate proficiency...or how much instruction time would be needed between quiz and summative assessment (do I need to do more instruction?).  However, I think I'm getting ahead of myself.  I can't plan everything out ahead of time, because I need to meet my students where they are at.  So I guess I will have to play it by ear...however I don't think I'm going to less proficient quizzes "test" out of the summative.  I want to summative to ensure some sort of retention.

Even with a pre-assessment and a quiz as formative assessment, I want more formative assessment to gauge where students are and to record as data to support the learning I feel students have (that then get included in their grades).  So I was asking some tweeps for ideas and these are some of their comments:

  • Scott Hills:  my favorite no (I've never heard of this before, so I'll have to look into it a little more), twitter, exit ticket, navigator, conversations
  • Summer Sartain:  3-2-1s, exit tickets, clickers, muddiest point, journaling, wiki
Of these the ones I can see working in my classroom (not even evaluating the actual effectiveness of each) are: my favorite no/muddiest point/exit tickets, clickers, and conversations.  I'm not sure that my favorite no/muddiest point/exit tickets would give me enough information to actually score a student on a level of proficiency, which is a downside, because I want to know where students are at.  I think clickers can be limited and you have to ask really good questions to get good information from students...which I can't always do well...but I think I'm going to give it a try.  I will also work to incorporate more conferences with students where I can analyze their learning effectively.

Wow that was a lot and not sure it's any good, but those are my thoughts on formative assessment for now...wait I forgot portfolios!  Just a quick sentence or two.  I also want to try portfolios at some point (not sure every LT is necessary), but tried last year and wasn't very effective.  Perhaps a photo portfolio would be better...students could take pictures of their interactive notebooks and use it as well as other assessments to demonstrate their learning.  Ok.  I'm done.  Those are my current thoughts on assessments.  Perhaps as I continue my read I will have more thoughts, but I'm done for now!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Links to Things

As I become more popular on twittter, people have shown some interest in this project (as they very well should because it is amazing).  I promised them some links and such, so I will work to compile things we have done/seen.  I will organize it by the three main parts of our project.  Then if you are not an Algebra teacher, you don't have to worry about all the Algebra stuff.

Standards Based Grading

Common Core State Standards

Tiered Instruction

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Day 4 (For Real)

The first thing we discussed today was progress monitoring.  We had been emailed some probes to give to our students in May, so we were all eager to hear more about it.  The probes have come from AAIMS (not to be confused with aimsweb) and our AEA is going to receive training on how to score the probes and use them to progress monitor our Algebra students.  The exciting thing is that it will be at no cost to our district!  My principal was pretty much doing cartwheels when she found that out.

The rest of our morning was spent delving into standards based grading.  As a table we investigated SBG from Daniel Schneider's blog post on The Collateral Damage of SBG, which included following some of the links to other blogs.  Due to my intense twitter addiction I had already read this blog, but was excited to discuss it with my collegues.

We continued our SBG chat with a guest speaker.  Nathan Wear, principal of Solon High School, drove 4 hours each way to visit us SW Iowa teachers!  His school has been implementing SBG and so he shared their experiences and resources with us.  The principals got to spend a little bit more time with him, but for all of us it was very valuable.  It is obvious that he is passionate about SBG and good assessment, and that helped increase our passion, too.

In the afternoon we participated in a lesson originally from Dan Meyer (Stacking Cups) and student work provided by Andrew Stadel.  Us math teachers had a blast with it.  Aside from the huge environment issues with buying hundreds of styrofoam cups, it is for sure a Unit 1 go-to lesson.  Cannot wait to try with my students.  We discussed similar situations and tried to figure out what our RtI classes (mine will be called Algebra Topics) would look like to support this lesson.  That's the hardest thing for most of us to wrap our brains around what are we going to provide for these students to get them to be successful in a subject they have not been successful in previously.

That conversation about what our support/topics/RtI classes will look like wrapped up our day.  Overall I got the energy, motivation, and ideas to jump-start all of my summer projects.  I hope that I don't lose it!