Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Designing instruction and remediation for SBG

I use standards based grading in a hybrid classroom.  I will write more about hybrid learning at a later date, but here is the general idea.  Students rotate through 3 stations.  The first station is the independent station.  At this station, students work individually.  About half of the time I have students learning new information via tutorials or videos.  The other half of the time students reflect on their learning through journal writing and practice skills.

The second station is the direct station.  At this station, students work in a small group (about 5-11 students) with the teacher.  This station ends up being differentiated.  The teacher can reteach what was to be learned at the independent station if students are struggling or they can go into more challenging extension.  This station could be used for guided practice and review as well.  I also use this station for administering formal exams.

The last station is the collaborative station.  At this station students work in smaller groups made from their larger rotation group (2-4 students).  This station should be for higher level thinking.  It is a place for projects and applications.  The station could also be used for mixed practice or targeted practice if needed.

The way that this learning environment relates to SBG is that the various stations allow for focus on general and individual areas of weakness.  Students could be assigned different assignments from their classmates if they need to make progress towards mastery of different objectives.

When I choose the assignments for practice sessions at each of the stations I can use my gradebook to decide who needs to work on what.  For example if I have a large number of students missing one objective, I can put them in a group and reteach this content at the direct station.  Then I could focus on a different objective for the other groups at direct station.  I could look for smaller groups with a common missing objective and assign different collaborative station assignments for those groups.  I can even give individual assignments at the independent station.

You can certainly implement SBG in a traditional classroom, but the grouping and regrouping in a hybrid classroom really makes targeted instruction and remediation very doable.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Setting up your gradebook

In this post I'll describe how I set up my gradebook.  I  used a blend between standards based grading and traditional grading.  If you were to use a 100% SBG approach, your gradebook set-up would be a little easier because you would only assess student progress towards mastery of standards.  Therefore, you would have fewer categories (if any).   I use an 80%-20% split between SBG and traditional grading.  Although I love SBG, I feel like I could not measure complex tasks via SBG.  Therefore, I wanted to have a way to incorporate projects and group work into students' grades.  I also wanted to track traditional things like assignment completion, participation, and preparedness.  Each of these things ends up being a very small portion of the grade, but it is still helpful to have access to this data when looking back at student progress to identify areas for improvement.

My school uses Sapphire but I also used PowerSchool , Sasi, and LearnBoost  and I could have done the same thing with those programs.  I started by choosing the categories that I wanted to use in the gradebook (each individual 'assignment' would need a caetgory to determine its weight in the grade calculation).  Here is what I use:

u  80% - Objectives – This portion of your grade communicates the level of mastery that has been demonstrated on the important course topics.
u  0% - Evidence – This portion of your grade communicates your progress towards mastery for course topics that are in progress and have not yet been fully assessed.  This is a temporary category.  Once a topic is completed, it will become an objective (see above).
u  5% - Independent work – This portion of your grade is graded for accuracy, but in a traditional way (point earned ÷ points possible · 100).  These assignments are completed individually.
u  5% - Collaborative work - This portion of your grade is graded for accuracy, but in a traditional way .  These assignments are completed in groups of 2-4 students.
u  5% Non-routine problems and projects - This portion of your grade is graded for accuracy, but in a traditional way.  These assignments might be completed individually or in groups.  These assignments measure  the mastery of complex skills in novel situations.
u  5% - Warm-ups, homework, participation, preparedness, progress reports, and exit tickets - This portion of your grade is graded for completion, in a traditional way.  These assignments are completed individually.

To set up categories in Sapphire you first need to open any class then choose 'categories' from the "My Class" drop down menu.

One at a time, enter each category.  This is the same as you would do for a traditional grading system except that you can see that I instructed Sapphire to use the 'Objectives' category as 80% of the overall grade.  

Next, for the SBG portion of the grade, I chose my levels of mastery.  In an earlier post, I described these levels of mastery in greater detail.  I came up with the following shorter descriptions that I used for grade mapping.  These descriptions show up at the bottom of my students' progress reports as a quick way to help students and parents to interpret the meaning of grades.

u  E= Exceeds Expectations (translates to a grade of 100%):  Demonstrates an in-depth understanding of the material by completing advanced applications consistently and independently
u  M = Meets Expectations (translates to a grade of 80%): Demonstrates a adequate understanding of the material by completing grade-level tasks consistently and independently
u  N = Nearly Meets Expectations (translates to a grade of 60%): Demonstrates a partial understanding of the fundamental material, by completing basic tasks, but is still working to master the complex material on a consistent basis
u  Y = Does Not Yet Meet Expectations (translates to a grade of 40%): Demonstrates minimal understanding of the fundamental material, by completing basic tasks with inconsistent success
u  U = Unrated (translates to a grade of 0%): Demonstrates no understanding of the fundamental material, even at the most basic level

If you want to be able to enter E, M, N, Y, and U as grades rather than numerical values, you just need to use the grade mapping feature in Sapphire.  This can be found under the 'options' drop down menu.

Enter each level of mastery in the description section and include the character (letter) you will be typing into the gradebook as well as the numerical value you want it to be mapped to.

That's it!  Not as complicated as it seemed :)  I also set up the progress reports so that these weights, descriptions, and grade mapping print out so that students and parents can come to understand what it means to earn an E vs an M as a grade.  I'll address that in a later post.

Here is one final comment.  I had a teacher ask me about using state standards rather than my own objectives.  I wrote about my rational for using my own objectives once before, but this teacher wanted to use the PA English standards.  What she decided to do was to basically keep a traditional grading system, but instead of having traditional categories such as homework, classwork, and tests, she had categories based on the state anchors such as informative, revision, conventions, argumentative, fiction, analyzing and interpreting.  She then recorded individual assignments in the gradebook but only grading them for one category at a time.  For example, maybe her students would be asked to write a paper about racism in Othello.  Then she would grade the essays only on information and record that grade in the informative category.  Maybe she would re-grade the essay for grammar and mechanics and then record a second grade under the conventions category.  I think this would certainly be another way to use SBG.  It may be more realistic in a school that wants to move to a standards based report card and transcript as it would be more difficult to report on 100+ objectives per course.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Creating an objectives list

Here is where things start to get interesting, especially if you are working with other teachers.  For each class you teach, you will need to make a list of objectives.  I made a list this past year for algebra 1 and algebra 2 that I have linked here.  I already have plans to make changes to both of these lists.  I will post those updated lists when they are complete as well as a geometry list.

To make your list, you can simply use your current pacing guide and determine what you feel to be the most important topics in the course.  I typically had 2-3 objectives per section.  It would be worth your time to check this list against your states eligible content to be sure that you are not missing anything.  I teach on a year round traditional schedule where I meet with my students for 50 minutes each day.  The algebra 1 course had 110 objectives and I felt that the pacing was perfect.  The algebra 2 course had 153 objectives and it was too much.  I plan on eliminating many of the beginning objectives that are review from algebra 1 and 8th grade math to make the list more manageable.   

I mentioned once before that I worked with one other teacher in my building.  We wrote our lists separately and then compared.  They were very similar and we both adjusted our lists to be more like each others.  We ended up using lists that were slightly different because we had slightly different opinions on the importance of some content.

If you are being to asked to implement a strictly SBG system and would not be allowed to have a traditional grade category for complex tasks, you may want to consider using the 8 mathematical practices as objectives.  That was the only way that I could think of to include non-routine problems as part of the assessments for students in a true SBG system.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Communicating about SBG with Stakeholders

One of the most difficult parts of implementing SBG is communicating with stakeholders.  This was especially true for me because I chose to use SBG on my own.  One of my co-workers worked with me, but every other teacher in our building used traditional grading.  My coworker and I worked together sometimes, but we also had the freedom to do what we felt was best for our kids. 
To educated my students' parent and my administrators, I started by doing research about other schools.  I found this FAQ document from Excelsior Springs and borrowed very heavily.  
I shared my objectives lists, my own FAQ sheet, my rubrics, my plan for weighting various portions of my students grades, and my plan for teaching, assessing  & remediating with my administrators.  They all thought is was awesome and agreed to back me up if I had parent complaints.  Luckily, I had none.  In retrospect, I guess it is hard to argue with basing a student's grade on what they can do.

About a week before classes started I emailed all of my parents a welcome letter.  I explained that I would be emailing every few days for the first week or so with important information about my class because I did not want to overwhelm them with one gigantic email.  I sent them the FAQs  and the rubrics.  I also sent them info on hybrid learning, tutoring, online resources, how to sign up for access to the gradebook and everything else you could imagine.

I followed up with a paper copy of a gradesheet and how the grade was being calculated after the first quiz.  I sent this info home every week for the entire year.  I also showed a sample gradesheet and discussed the rubric during parent's night.  I also explained SBG one-on-one at parent conferences.   If they still had questions I tried to answer them via phone when possible.
I have attached my FAQ and rubric.  The rubric came from exemplars 

Happy reading :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My first ever conference presentation & more on SBG

Today was the first time that I presented at a conference.  I love conferences; I usually spend a good chunk of my summer break to attend them.  This year, I thought I'd get a little more involved.  It is certainly different presenting to adults than to teenagers.  Especially because many of the adults are more experienced and higher ranking than I am.  I don't think I did a great job, but it could have been worse.  The best part is that I presenting on the same topic in August, so I'll have time to revamp, just like I do with classroom lessons.  In a later post, I'll share some of what I learned at the sessions I attended.  For now, here is my next post about SBG.

How is objectives-based grading different from traditional grading?  In a traditional classroom students’ grades based on all of the work assigned.  This includes classwork, homework, projects, quizzes, tests, effort, attitude, etc.  The teacher records a score for each assignment.  When a student, parent, or educator looks at the grades they may see something like: Chapter 3 test = 75%.  But what does that mean?  Does it mean that the student answered 75 % of the questions perfectly and knew nothing about the other questions?  Does it mean that a student was able to get a good start on every question, but was unable to fully solve any individual question?  In SBG, the 'grades' are much more meaningful. 
In a SBG classroom, I would still give a chapter 3 test, but it would show up in the gradebook as a list of skills.  Each skill would get its own 'grade.'  This way, anyone reading the gradebook would have a list of skills and a score that reflects how well the student could do each of those skills.  When the same skill is reassessed, there would not be a new entry in the gradebook, but the old grade might be replaced by a higher grade if the student performed better.  The hardcore SBGers would allow a student's grade to drop of they do worse on a new assessment.  I always keep the higher grade.  Mainly because I know I can get those kids back to mastery with a little review. 

Also, a true SBG classroom would only track student progress on standards.  I still track some traditional things.  The main reason for this is that I feel SBG can not accurately measure complex tasks that combine multiple skills.  So, I have my gradebook weighted 80% SBG and 20% traditional assignments.    In the traditional section, I include projects, non-routine problems, homework completion and other typical assignments.  I'm fortunate in that I don't work in a SBG school and I can do whatever I want, like use a blended version of SBG.

One final thought for today:  Here is why your should use SBG if you are not already doing so.  SBG grades are accurate.  A student’s grade is based on academic factors.  Factors such as effort and attitude are communicated separately.  SBG is consistent.  Using rubrics & objectives establishes clear expectations for mastery.  SBG is meaningful.  Grades clearly communicates what learning has taken place.  Objectives make it easier to identify areas of strength and to address areas of concern.  SBG is supportive of learning.  It allows the teacher focuses on material that has or has not been learned.  There is no more accumulating points to reach a certain total.  That means teachers don't need to argue with honors kids over fractions of points :).  Finally, reassessment allows new levels of mastery to replace the lower ones when a student shows improvement, so students are motivated to keep working.  This is the growth mindset in full effect!

I had some questions today about how to use weighted grades, so I'll be sure to follow up with that in a later post.  My school uses Sapphire.  I'll share some screenshots and walk you through the weighting and grade mapping.  If your not using Sapphire, I'm sure your gradebook has similar capabilities too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer Fun and an Introduction to Standards Based Grading.

This summer I decided to apply to speak at several conferences.  Since I don’t have any classroom action happening this summer, I am planning to start my blog by organizing my thoughts for these presentations.  I’ll be giving 6 presentations on 3 topics at 4 conferences.  The topics are standards based grading, hybrid learning and utilizing the MTBoS.

I’m going to start with my philosophy for using standards based grading in this first post.  There are certainly other ways to implement standards based grading; this is just how I did it.
First, standards based grading has other names.  I use objectives based grading.  I’ve also heard proficiency based grading, concepts based grading and target based grading.  They are all the same concept.  I chose objectives based grading because my state standards (PA) are very broad.  Our state broke each standard into 2-3 pieces of eligible content.  Those were still very broad.  For example, there is a standard in algebra 1 about solving equations.  I broke this into: solving one step equations, solving two-step equations, solving equations with like terms, solving equations using the distributive property, and solving equations with variables on both sides.

Whatever you call it, the goal of standards based grading is to measure a student’s mastery of essential standards.  There is a cycle of teaching, assessing, reteaching, and reassessing that continues until students have mastered concepts.  Frequent tests serve as the primary assessment, but other evidence may be considered such as projects, discussions, and classwork.

Another aim of standards based grading is to provide an accurate representation of learning  and to promote a dialogue about how a student can master material.  The big idea is that learning takes place over time.  Students are allowed to reassess to earn full credit for mastering a topic.  The mastery is more important than the timing.

Most importantly, standards based grading turns into standards based instruction.  Assessments provide feedback about what to focus on next.  I have never been so aware of my exactly what my students can and can not do.  In the past, I might have noticed that my students has trouble solving equations, but now I know that is really just in cases where distribution is involved.  This allows me to make much better lessons plans.

I’ll be posting more later.  I plan on following up with a compare/contrast of standards based grading to traditional grading, communicating with stakeholders, creating rubrics for levels of mastery, creating an objectives list, setting up your gradebook, designing instruction, creating assessments, tracking progress, designing remediation, and creating reassessments.

Monday, June 22, 2015

My first post :)

After about a year of lurking in the MTBoS background, I've decided that it is time to start by own blog.  I'm hoping to use this as a platform to reflect on my lessons and to share resources that I create or borrow and use in my own classroom.

Joining twitter last summer has provided me with the best professional development that I have ever had.  Many of the people that I follow have blogs and those blogs have helped me grow during this past year.  I'm hoping that having my own blog will give me a way to chronicle my personal adventures in teaching.

Here goes nothing ...