I am going to be grading based on the standards this year in my Language Arts classes. I did some reading at this great blog called Think, Thank, Thunk . It got me really excited because some of the things I’m thinking of are things he wrote about. I really feel this will be cool!
But, the question I keep getting is, “But how are you going to put that in your gradebook?”
I think this is a great question and it’s the one that stopped me from doing this in the past. So, I’m going to try to answer that right now.
I’m not really sure.
I know it’s possible and I know others are doing it, but I haven’t found a concrete example of how to do it yet. Part of the problem is that our district mandates that we use the online Zangle gradebook. Well, it’s not really a problem, exactly. But, Zangle isn’t that flexible.
Let’s start with some basic ideas. First, grades are a representation of student progress toward mastery. An “A” says that the student has achieved an Advanced level of mastery. For a whole class, it would say that the student is proficient on all standards, at least and Advanced on many. A “B” says the student is Proficient, at least, on most, if not all standards. Some might be Advanced and some even Basic. But, overall the student is proficient.
And, so on. I think you get the idea. If not, post a question in the comments below.
So, a grade is not an average of points. We have to use points. Further, my department decided that 70% of the overall grade will be from summative assessments and 30% from formative assessments. I’m not happy about that but I’m going along with it (because I’m not a free agent, I’m paid to work as they tell me to and I don’t think this is particularly awful).
Looking at the Zangle gradebook, I notice that under Class Options setup (under Gradebook setup), there is a choice to calculate using points or percentages. I’m going to try percentages so I can weight the standards separately. The only reason I’m doing this is so I can put homework and quizzes in the formative category and give kids a score on those and thereby follow my district/PLC policy. Most of the homework in my class will be student postings in their blogs. I will allow them to revise their blogs and get better grades, if they want. Same thing with quizzes and informal tests. Students can try again to get better.
(A lot of teachers think this means students will all get A’s since they will all, naturally, re-assess until that happens. Not so, says Think, Thank, Thunk.)
Then, my plan is to put standards in where “assignments” would go. I will assign most to the summative category. Some of the “smaller” or more basic standards will go into formative along with homework.
Now, the rubber meets the road. Follow me for a bit on this one.
The first three weeks of my class are working on a unit on Rhetoric. We have to teach the students to identify rhetorical devices, specifically ethos, pathos, and logos. We have to teach students to identify figurative speech, like analogies. They need to be able to make reasonable assertions about the author’s viewpoint using elements of the text as evidence. They need to know how to critique the power, validity and truthfulness of arguments. Also, there’s some grammar, using knowledge of root words, and so on. So, I am going to take those standards and make them assignments.
When a student turns in a piece of work, I am going to have them write their name, the date, and their class period on the paper. Plus, they will need to put the standard they are submitting their work under and the unit number or name. That would look like:
August 8, 2011
Rhetoric Unit 1
Identifying Figurative Speech
I will “grade” the work and decide if it represents Advanced Mastery, Proficiency, Basic understanding, Below Basic, for Far Below Basic. Having done so, I will put a mark representing such in the gradebook under that standard.
Now, going back to the gradebook, I have some problems/questions. Right now, I’m leaning toward selecting “Assignment Results Displayed and Entered As Grade Values” and “Calculate Student Grades Using Point Calculation Method.” I’m not sure if this is right. I need to check with a math person to find out.
I added Assignment Categories, Formative and Summative. I assigned a weight of 70 to Summative and Formative got 30. I have no idea if this is right. I clicked submit and the percent of grade popped up 70 and 30! Success? Maybe. (If you don’t know, I have a pretty severe problem with numbers. It’s kind of a dyslexia with math. Not kidding. Those that know me will attest that numbers do stupid things when they get between my ears.)
Well, I Facebooked briefly with a math teacher from my school (thanks, Sean!) and he said calculating grades based on percentages was not a good idea, that I should use points instead. So, I switched it back to that.
Basically, I’m going to have to keep an eye on my grades and see that they come out right. Like I said, the goal is to have a grade on the report card that accurately reflects the progress toward the standards in the class. It kinda sucks that we have to boil it all down to a single grade on the report card, but that’s how it is right now. I think that this will, ultimately, be more fair in the long run, though.