Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Getting called out by my SBG hero on Twitter

Blogging Challenge Day 8
A professional read.
(repost, because I accidentally deleted the old post)

Last spring I finished my Master's program with a double emphasis in teaching/leading/learning and mathematics (pause for applause).
My action research paper was all about grading.  A couple of years before I started, I had read about Standards Based Grading from a couple of different sources.  Dan Meyer was probably the most influential.  

I then read Ken O'Connor's book How to Grade for Learning.  I used this book prominently in my action research paper and how I designed my grading system for the study.  

Read until the end to see how Ken O'Connor responded to me on Twitter...

It really awoke from my traditional grading practices to start seeing grades as a way to promote learning, not judge students and their academic behaviors.  I started to think about what I wanted out of a grade.  I then started combining the resources I had compiled over the years to get rid of a points based grading system to install a standards-based 1-4 rubric grading system.  

Radical Things I did that first year (and mostly still do)

  • I ditched any kind of unit test
  • Weekly quizzes scored 1-4 sorted by concept
  • Unlimited re-takes on any assessment (with some remediation)
  • No points for homework
  • NO extra credit
  • No participation points
When a student asks how they can raise their grade, I respond well you need to re-take the concept quiz.  They have stopped asking for extra credit because I make a really big deal out it the first week.  I have a slide in my classroom expectations presentation that says at the top "EXTRA CREDIT."  Then using animation the following lines are revealed one by one.  
1. No Extra Credit
2. Never
3. Ever
4. Seriously
5. Don't even ask

The kids usually find it funny and it drives the point home.  If you want a better grade you need to learn something.  

Of course I am the only teacher in my school in 7th-12th grade who does this.  So I do need to use a conversion scale to turn the grade into a percentage to enter in the gradebook.  

Here is that process.  
1.  Each grade entered into the gradebook is a learning target/concept.  (whatever word you like to use).
2. The score is entered, but can change as evidence is gathered.  
3. I enter each concept score in as a score out of 100.  Parents love percentages.
4. I usually wait until I have two assessments on a 1-4 scale to enter a score.  
4,4 = A
3,4 = A-
3,3 = B
3,2 = C+
2,2 = C-
1,2 = D
1,1 = F

I sometimes feel like Neo in the Matrix when I am entering grades. I have this vast spreadsheet of 1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s and all I see are the grades and the story that the numbers create.  

It works well.  My grades really seem to represent what the student learned about math.  I owe this mostly to Dan Meyer and Ken O'Connor.  

By the way,  I was taking part in the standards-based grading twitter chat (one of my first chats) and I was trying to describe my grading system in 140 characters.  It didn't work very well and received the following tweet from my hero Ken O Connor.
So in my first twitter chat, where I dipped 1 toe in the water and posted something, I got called out by my SBG hero.  Awesome right?

It really was all over the terms formative assessment and summative assessment.  Really I don't like either term.  I read somewhere the phrase "assessment for learning."  I like that term.

So anyway, definitely read Ken O'Connor's book "How to Grade for Learning" just don't challenge him on Twitter over it.  :)


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