I wish I’d had standards-based learning training when I started my FIRST teaching job – I would have been a more effective planner and assessor. Now that I work for a school that does SBG at the secondary level I can see how the approach leads to units more closely aligned with learning outcomes and facilitates feedback that is much more descriptive, relevant, and practicable than what I gave as a new teacher. But I also see where the criterion referenced philosophy standards-based grading is still working within the context of the norm referenced framework of college applications – and I’m coming to believe that these can be reconciled if you’re willing to accept the reality of the latter.
In a previous post1 I described in broad strokes the components necessary for implementing standards-based grading. One of these is the elimination of grade averaging; specifically, using the mean of all the scores in the gradebook to determine a student’s final score. At our school we’ve done this to the extent recommended by Marzano but stopped short of giving teachers full discretion to determine the final grade. For us the challenge has been deciding which system should replace mean-based averaging – or whether full discretion should be left to the teacher.
In the roughly seven months since my last real post I’ve moved halfway around the world – literally – to China, where my partner and I now work at Nansha College Preparatory Academy. Of the many, many interesting things about this new experience is the fact that our new school uses standards-based grading (SBG) – at the secondary level. What we’ve found is that although our faculty are committed to it, it’s a challenge to make practices of SBG meet the potential promised by its philosophy.