Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Goal: Standards-Based Grading in an English Class

While I am not new to the SBG mentality, I am new to the SBG gradebook.  I suppose I began this journey about 12 years ago when my team of amazing English teachers at SEED in Washington, D.C decided to switch our gradebook "categories" from the age-old HOMEWORK, CLASSWORK, TESTS/QUIZZES, etc. to the more standards-based WRITING, READING, SPEAKING, LISTENING.  This way, we believed, our students would see their grades by skill category and be able to recognize the areas in which they needed the most improvement.

We were right and wrong.  The overall grade made more sense to students because they could see how they were doing in each major category, but the gradebook still left them without specific knowledge of their specific strengths and areas of need.  Of course it is not the gradebook's job to communicate this; it is our job--the teachers--to TEACH kids, guide them, talk with them about their progress.  But still, I was sure there was a more effective system.

A number of years ago, teachers at Flint Hill began talking about standards-based gradebooks.  Our fifth and sixth grade teams redesigned their report card to reflect students' progress by skill.  Teachers in the math and science departments began using SBG systems to evaluate their students.  I remained, at best, on the periphery of these discussions and experiments, mostly because I was busy with other reforms in our school.

That brings me to right now...Literally.   I'm headed back into the classroom on Thursday after two years away, back into the place I feel most comfortable and the most willing to implement change.  And what would a new year be without a challenge?  So I've decided to join a small band of math and science teachers who use Active Grade, a system that allows me to show students' progress in each standard.  I'm excited, but I'm also sad.

I'm excited because students will be able to see how they are doing in each area of our class even if I haven't had a chance to conference with them.  And the green-yellow-red system is a quick way for them to follow their progress.

I'm sad because at the end of the day, their progress in each standard still has to be wrangled into one overall grade that can be put in the gradebook for transcript purposes.  I have to create a grading system that will distill all of their work across 40 standards and countless attempts into one letter grade.  As Andrew Carle tweeted in response to my request for Humanities people to share their SBG calculations, I will try my best to "create a humane pastoral setting for the majority of the term."
But still, Active Grade wants me to do this:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Recommittment to Reflection (Farewell Summer)

It has been 2 months since my last blog.

I think that sounds like some sort of confession.

It was a conscious decision to step away from my blog and from Twitter, even from my Feedly reader for the summer, so I shouldn't feel the need to apologize.  I lived my summer--at the beach, in the mountains, in the gym, in a book--but I didn't reflect on my summer, at least not in writing.  It was just how I wanted it.

And yet...

I've spent the past three days with our new faculty, and I've asked them all to blog each day this week, to reflect publicly about their new Flint Hill lives.  So it's time to sit myself back down at the computer and recommit to my blog and to public reflection.

Check out our new teachers' blog posts, which have reminded me to get back in the game.