Why I Love Standards-Based Grading

There are many different ways to do standards-based grading (also known as proficiency-based grading), and this is the model I landed on:

4 (A) – Mastery  (can do & extend)
3 (B) – Proficient  (can do)
2 (C) – Approaching Proficiency  (can do with help)       
1 (D) – Beginning Stage  (cannot do)
0 (I/F) – Not turned in

So, if my student gets a C, it means they can do the math if someone’s there to give them hints. It says nothing about their effort, their behavior, or how many assignments they didn’t finish- just how competent they are at what I’ve taught them. Here are some of my favorite aspects in my classroom:

  • The responsibility for learning is squarely on the student’s shoulders. I didn’t “give” them that grade. There is evidence for everything in the gradebook, and usually ample opportunity to fix it, when it finally sinks in a little later.  Such a hopeful model!
  • Grades are no longer a judgement on how smart (or compliant) a student is, but just indicate how well they know a topic. A glance at the grade book shows that Exponents are  mastered, but Transformations need a little work.
  • It revolutionized the way I test. Standards-Based Grading led me to think in terms of topics: What are the most basic elements that all of my students- literally anyone present in my class that day- should be able to do (C grade)? What do I want most of my students to be able to do to be “proficient” (B grade)? What kind of extension problems do I want my top students to be able to do (A grade)?  When I looked at my tests I realized that over half of my questions were A & B level problems. That meant that my level 2 students (“can do it with help”), who should’ve received a C, were instead getting less than 50% ~ an F! I had to think a lot more about what I wanted my tests to do, and my grades became much more meaningful as a result.

This is an example of a Practice Check Sheet in my class. Students get a stamp when they finish each set of practice/homework problems, but my absolute favorite part is the “Mastery Score.” That’s where a student rates their own knowledge of this particular topic. If their page is full of 3’s and 4’s they should get a 3 or a 4 on the test. (If they don’t, they need to reevaluate what “proficient” feels like. That itself is valuable learning!) If they feel like they’re at a 1 or a 2 on a topic, they need more practice. And they know it! In fact, they are the only ones who can judge that. It alters the whole purpose of practice work (which I always have at the ready) and removes the shroud of mystery from the dreaded math test. It’s just a whole different game and it feels respectful, approachable and hopeful. I love it!

Math is Figureoutable!

The very idea that we already know what we need to solve a tough problem can instill confidence right from the start!

Attitudes (Mistakes are our friends II)

If we want to change how our students feel about mistakes, our classroom has to be a safe place to make them.

Is Math Class a Bully?

What’s it like to have a bully in your life?
Being repeatedly shamed and humiliated. Feeling powerless to make it better. Dreading school…  

Mistakes are our friends!

Making mistakes is the very process of learning! It doesn’t make us stupid, it makes us smart!