During the summer of 2010, I started hearing about Standards Based Grading (SBG) via blogs and twitter. Throughout that summer, our twitter bookclub read two of Marzano's books on the subject. That fall, I was ready to run with Algebra 2, but the thought of doing SBG in AP really scared me. The main reason I was scared was that Algebra 2 is more skills based than AP Stat and I didn't know how to make that turn.
Where do I even start??
Well, obviously, as with any standards based idea, you start with the standards. :) However, most standards documents are pretty scary themselves. If you've ever read some of the research on the standards, you may have seen discussions about unpacking the standards and the idea that if we were to really teach every skill implied in the standards, we would need around 10 more years of primary/secondary schooling. Wowzers!!!
Thankfully, the College Board does a good job of providing us a Course Description with all of the topics we need to teach, but it's still pretty intimidating. As an AP teacher, you've also had to submit a syllabus to the College Board outlining how to you plan to teach said standards. As an aside, please let me say that I would have never felt comfortable doing SBG during my first year in a subject without some major guidance simply because you're learning the curriculum too. Please don't misunderstand me. My first year in Algebra 2, I knew the mathematical material, but I was still learning how to teach it, what was truly important, what my state expected, what my district expected, etc.
Okay, so it's time to start.... I have my course description and my textbook in front of me. I use BVD 3rd edition, but honestly since the course description is the same for all of us, everyone could use pretty close to the same standards list and just reorder them according to your textbook. Some textbooks do have some extra thoughts, like in BVD, Chapter 2 is about the "Ws of the data", so that might be on some people's standards list and not others. That's okay! So I started with the first chapter, which is Chapter 2 in BVD and read through it and asked myself, "Self, what are the big ideas in this chapter that I want the students to know how to do?" The answers to that question for each chapter became my standards list. As I wrote each standard, I cross checked it with the Course Description in order to make sure I had everything covered. When writing your standards, it is important to write them general enough that you can have a variety of questions, but not too broad that everything fits under that umbrella.
To give you an idea, here's my standards for the first two chapters:
2.1 - I can identify the W's of the data in a given scenario
3.1 - I can calculate percentages based on a contingency table
3.2 - I can find the marginal and conditional distributions
3.3 - I can create and use a segmented bar chart to describe the distribution and dependence of two categorical variables
I have the standards... now what?
Now that I know the main topics in each chapter and I've checked them off my course description, I'm ready to write my assessments. If you've taught the course before, then I suggest you take the quiz or test you had for that chapter/unit, cut it apart into individual questions, then sort the questions by objective. More than likely, you will find that some objectives were previously over-assessed, some were under-assessed, and some were just flat out missing. Or maybe that's just what I found when I looked at my tests! :) Anyway, the actual assessment part of SBG isn't that much different, it's the score reporting that is the major change.
So I need to write an assessment for Learning Target (LT) 2.1. I look at the quizzes/tests I used before and my resources (textbook, teachers guide, self-written, etc) and I pull together a mini-quiz just over that learning target. In my case, LT 2.1 had only 1 question that asked the students to identify the Ws and to classify the variables and quantitative and categorical. Note that I did not have a separate LT for quant vs categorical but that was a personal preference - some people may want that separate. Some Learning Targets have more than 1 question, it depends on the complexity of the objective.
Obviously a great source of assessment problems are the AP questions themselves. Now that you have your standards written, I would strongly suggest taking all of the released AP FR and classifying each part (a, b, c) by standard. For example, Question #1 on this year's Operational exam asked students to describe the association of a scatterplot and identify certain points. I will use Q#1a this year as part of my assessment of LT 7.1 - I can identify explanatory and response variables and create/describe a scatterplot. Obviously Q#1a, as written, only addresses the description part of my LT, so there would be other questions on that assessment addressing the other parts. Potentially I could even deconstruct the AP problem into its raw data set and then all of that LT will be covered by the same stem.
I wrote my assessments, how do I grade it??
In previous years, I assigned each problem or part of problem a certain number of points. I added up all of the earned points and that was written at the top of the quiz. Johnny made a 15/20.. Suzy made a 13/20... Billy made a 9/20, etc. The problem with that is that I don't know if Billy knew a little bit about every objective or did he know one objective pretty well and nothing on the others? It doesn't give me any real feedback to help guide my instruction and review. With SBG, you give separate grades for each standard so you can see that Suzy knew Objective A really well, kind of knew Objective B, and had no clue at all on Objective C. Now the teacher, student, and parent all know exactly what topics Johnny, Suzy, and Billy need to work on in order to be successful.
At the top of every quiz is a box with the Learning Targets being assessed on that particular assessment:
When I'm grading, I color code. So anything that pertains to LT 3.1 will be in a certain color and that's the color I will use to write the grade for LT 3.1. When assigning grades, I use a system very similar to the AP rubrics. Each problem or part of a problem for LT 3.1 gets an E/P/I, then I tally them up to assign a 4/3/2/1/0 for each Learning Target.
How do I convert a 4/3/2/1/0 to a grade in my class?
Ask this question of 10 teachers using SBG and you will get 10 different answers. Each of us have constraints placed upon us based on required gradebooks, etc. When I first started SBG, I also had some constraints due to the online gradebook we used. To work around it, I ended up thinking about what grade I thought each level meant. I also have to put in each learning target as an 'assignment' but with my gradebook, if I put a 2 out of 4, it looks like a 50% which flips out the parents. So I had to work around it as well. Here's what I did:
A 4, for me, means that you have this concept down solidly with no mistakes. You know exactly what you are doing and so in the gradebook I assign it a 10/10
A 3.5 means that you have a really solid foundation, but it's not perfect, you had a minor error. This is still A work though, so I assign it a 9/10
A 3 means that you are pretty proficient. You are a solid B, so I assign it an 8.5/10
A 2 means that you are working on it and are almost there. You have a basic knowledge, which to me is a low C, so I assign it a 7/10
A 1 means that you are on the right path but are below basic. AP readers will refer to this as a "glimmer". This is low D, so I assign it a 6/10
A 0.5 means that you attempted the problem but really had no clue really what to do, but you gave it an honest effort. This is F work, I assign it a 5/10
A 0 means that you totally left it blank and didn't even try it. This
is a 0/10 in the computer gradebook
Now recognize that everyone assigns grades differently. Some people really struggle with the idea of a 0.5 or a 0. Sorry :) It's what worked for me, but you'll need to find what works for you.
What's this reassessment junk I keep hearing about?
This is probably the one thing that I hear the most about in opposition to SBG. But honestly, it all comes down to your philosophy. For me, I want the kids to learn the material. I'm assessing their knowledge of the AP Statistics concepts and I recognize that different students learn at different rates. I want my students to keep working on the material until they understand it, not just work on it until some test date that I assign and then ignore it after that. If they don't know how to compare and contrast two distributions, then I want them to continue working on that objective until they can do it. Maybe Student A caught on quickly but Student B took a few days longer. Why should Student B be penalized for not being as quick as Student A on this topic? Anyway... moving off my soapbox...
Prior to a quiz, students do assignments, study, etc, just like they do in a traditional classroom. However, in my classroom, when students actually sit down to take a quiz, they have a pretty good idea most of the time of the Learning Targets they were clueless on. So they can immediately start working to remediate those LTs. In my class, remediation takes several forms. Students could work additional practice problems, watch a video and take notes on it, read their book and take notes, rework their quiz, etc. Ultimately, the kiddos have to show me they have put in some effort to work on their weaknesses. If they can prove to me that they have learned the material they didn't know before, then I allow them to reasses any Learning Target of the semester. Does this sometimes lead to "grade grubbing?" Yes. But since I believe that grades should reflect knowledge, then it really comes down to "If you want to improve your grade, you must improve your knowledge". Don't be fooled though - while my reassessments cover the same Learning Target, they are NOT the same questions nor are they necessarily at the same level of difficulty, so students can do worse on the reassessment than they did on the original. And yes, that reassessment grade does go into the gradebook, even if it's worse. But never fear, you can remediate some more and reassess again! :)
What do kids think of this? Parents? Admin?
Honestly, they love it. The kids love knowing exactly where they stand. They don't ask for Extra Credit because they know I won't give it - but I will give them the opportunity to show me what they know and adjust their grade accordingly. Parents love it for the same reason. They know exactly what their kids need to work on and it has simplified the parent communication process. No child has to fail my class unless they are simply unwilling to work. Conversely, if you earn an A in my class, that indicates you really know the material. My Admin loves it too because student grades really reflect student knowledge, not the ability of the student to turn in things on time or jump through hoops.
What about assignments and tests and that kind of stuff?
I still give assignments, I still give feedback on assignments, but I don't generally grade everything. In fact, one fallacy of teaching that I believe prior to SBG was "If I don't grade it, they won't do it". Sorry, but in my experience this is a lie. My students work hard every day and I rarely take it up. Sometimes I will ask for them to turn it in so I can give feedback, but in general, kids recognize that while they aren't getting a grade on this assignment, it is related to a Learning Target and they will get a grade for that LT eventually. As for tests, it depends. In Alg2, they don't have a formal test until the final exam. In AP, I give cumulative MC tests every 6 weeks. Sometimes in AP, they will have a project instead of a Learning Target quiz.
This sounds like a LOT of work!
It is. It is a change in philosophy, it is a change from the traditional, comfortable style to the unknown. Honestly, most of the "work" was mental. Figuring out how I wanted to tackle it, how I wanted to grade it, how I wanted to report it. The actual writing of the quizzes was no more time consuming than writing traditional quizzes/tests and the grading actually goes faster. Because you are grading on an E/P/I scale, you don't have to stress over the partial credit points in a traditional grading scheme.
It was and still is a learning process. While I tried to simplify it here for you, it's still something that I learn more every day. It has definitely helped my students become more independent learners and for that I'm very grateful. It is something I plan to keep around :)
I tried to answer all of the questions I've been asked lately, but I'm sure I forgot something - please let me know in the comments any other questions you have.
Sorry for such a long post :)