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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wormeli on Gradebooks

This is the last post of this series.  There is more, if you want to see it search for Rick Wormeli on YouTube, but this one gets down to where the rubber meets the road.  Reporting grades in a standards based system.  There is also a good idea for handling summative and formative assessments that make a lot of sense.

Perhaps the biggest cultural shift in the standards based gradebook is not what you think it would be.  I think the biggest change we need to face is the lack of an average.  An average is a sports statistic, tells us the likelihood of the next free throw being successful, of the next hitter driving in that guy on second base, or compares this running back with all others.  As Wormeli proposes, it is not sufficient if we are standards based, to report one grade for a course.  Grades are not for ranking students, they are for reporting achievement, the mastery of a concept.

The typical report card with maybe 6-8 grades, one for each content area is now obsolete.    You can't reduce a students knowledge of the math standards to one number or letter in a grade book.  Instead we'll need to look at the preponderance of evidence for each standard, maybe the median or the mode, and decide if that is mastery.  Our grade books and report cards will look significantly different.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wormeli on Re-dos - Provide Hope!

This is part one of two,  Re-dos and re-takes are a big time sucker, for both teachers and students,  but we need to find a way to do it.  Providing the opportunity to recover form a bad grade is essential to keeping the students engaged.  Give them hope to succeed!

In real life all kinds of high stakes tests (driver's license, bar exams, nursing boards, etc) can be re-done.  "How pompous is it for a teacher to say MY TEST is so important you only get one chance at it!"

Think about it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Wormeli on Zeros and "Degrees of F-ttitude"

 This weekend (March 16) I started inserting a series of videos by assessment expert Rick Wormeli on Standards Based Grading.  Here is the second in this series of posts.

In this Video, Rick Wormeli discusses the impact of 0's on a 100 point scale.  Most of us use 100 points as that magical percent of answers correct.  Currently NFV uses a 90-80-70-60 point grading scale, meaning a 59 is an F, 60 is a D, 70 is a C, and so on.  The question we need to ask is then when we average scores that contain 0's will we come up with a true reflection of student learning?  As Wormeli says  "GRADES MUST BE ACCURATE."  If the 0 makes the grade an inaccurate picture of what the student has learned, then it and your averaging system must go!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wormeli on Standards based grading

Rick Wormeli is a well know expert and author in assessment practices.  He has a series of YouTube shorts describing his philosophies on Standards Based Grading.  I hope to share several of these with you through this medium so that we can seriously reform grading practices at NFV next year.

In this 7 minute clip he explains how much homework grades should count towards "an academic report of academic standards mastered."  After all, if a report card is a measure of what students have learned, then that is what it is.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Implementation Dip

An Implementation Dip is a well documented phenomena when new policy or programs are implemented, not just in school, but also business and industry.  How many of you don't buy the first version of a new smart phone or vehicle, so you can let others "work the bugs out?"  These bugs as we call them are unintended consequences of the policy or program shift that can largely be ascribed to three impacts of change:

1.  The lack of new skills that are needed to be successful within the change.

2.  Staff have a determined desire to continue doing the same things, therefore staying in our comfort zone.
3.  Push back from those opposed to the policy, or challenge by those favoring the status quo.

The third quarter has been unusual to say the least, four late starts and six snow/cold days have disrupted school and extended our school year into June 5th (so far).  Our implementation dip has occurred in this quarter when it comes to eligibility policy for co-curricular activities. Our new eligibility policy, approved by both boards last summer, applies to students in all performance activities, not just athletics and drama. We have a large number of students ineligible for activities this quarter.

The policy says that we don't start enforcing eligibility for the first 20 days of the semester so that grading can be a reliable reflection of student work.  It would be unfair to make an eligibility decision based on one grade in one week, so we give them 4 weeks to establish their level of work.  When 20 actual days days of attendance occurred (Jan 24) office personnel ran the eligibility report and there were a high number of students ineligible for that week.  This week, many of those students were also ineligible again only now is the week of a concert and an FFA contest.

Seeing the spike of ineligibilities, parents and staff started questioning if this is a fair policy to enforce at this time, they attribute it to unfair enforcement of the policy, or extenuating circumstances that unfairly impacted grades.  We had full days of school on 16 of those 20 days of attendance, and with a school issued laptop in every student's possession, is this really an excuse not to have maintained passing grades?

This policy is new and unpopular.  There is always an implementation dip somewhere in the beginnings of new things.  I see this occurrence as just that, a lack of skills or motivation to get work done, a fall back into old habits, which replaced higher effort that probably sustained eligibility in the first semester, and the dreary third quarter when academic productivity was difficult.  We need to set high expectations for students, if we cannot continue to expect work completion through weather disruptions, then how can we expect it when the thermometer hits 70 degrees for the first time this spring?

Students will rise to the expectations we set.  It is their responsibility to get their academic work completed. That is the reason for the policy, we will continue to support the policy and the students will rise up to the expectations and meet them.