Repair Kit Fix 8: clarity of performance standards

Fix 8: Don’t assign grades using inappropriate or unclear performance standards; provide clear descriptions of achievement expectations.

“Whatever symbols are used to summarize student achievement (e.g., A-F, 4-1, E M N U), each level must be described clearly with the level considered “good enough” (i.e. competent, proficient, mastered) precisely identified.” (page 67)

I have done this on rubrics/scoring guides for individual projects but never for a whole subject.  I think standards based grading would make this easier to do though it still seem like it would be a very time consuming project.

“As long as everyone involved accepts that those who have developed the descriptors and levels are qualified.” (page 67)

This would be the problem with legislation about education, especially NCLB.  While it is a wonderful thought that we can get every child to achieve a certain level but any educator and many parents will tell you it is impossible.  Some children will never go to college let’s be realistic, and the truth is there are many positions that keep the world running that don’t require a college education.

Each time some new piece of education related legislation is being discussed teachers worry and complain because most of those in office don’t have any experience in education other than their own schooling and NO being a student is not enough.  There is a reason we go to college to get our degrees.

This leads me to another concern there are parents that don’t believe teachers are qualified to tell them anything about their child.  I personally have sat through conferences with parents that dismissed what I had to say about their child because at the time I didn’t yet have a child of my own, so I couldn’t possibly understand.  I think we can get a majority of people to accept that those that developed the descriptors and levels defined by districts are qualified but I think everyone accepting it is a pipe dream.

The first paragraph of page 68 talks about who sets the standards, that it should be done at the state level but if not at the district level.

I live in the state of Missouri and before the creation and acceptance of the Common Core State Standards we had Grade Level Expectations (GLEs) that were then broken down further into Essential Learning Objectives (ELOs) by district. (I apologize for the sentence full of acronyms but I’m sure every profession has their own.) The same is happening with the CCSS.  Schools and districts across the country are “Unpacking the Standards” though if they’re doing it simply for teaching or also for grading purposes I don’t know.  I never would have thought of those two purposes being different until I read this book and I’m still not sure I can explain it well but I can try.  From what I understand from this book if you break down standards to teach you use them as your guide for lesson planning this seems to be more of an old fashioned style where you plan the lessons then at the end of a unit create an exam to assess what you’ve taught whereas if you break down standards for grading you look first at what you want students to accomplish and plan units with backward design and your grade book is divided by those standards rather than by units.  I hope that makes some sense if not ask or read the book. 🙂

The author says we should only have two levels: proficient and not proficient in a pure standards based system but most performance criteria have four levels.  Personally I prefer the four levels so long as it is used correctly because as a parent it tells me more about where my child actually is and as a teacher allows me to be more descriptive in where my students are.

My son’s report card has standards on it and he is scored 1-4 on each standard.  This would be the missing part from most systems like this I believe.

The state standardized test in Missouri is called the Missouri Assessment Program better known as the MAP test.  The final report given for each student on the MAP test gives the child a score of Below Basic (BB), Basic (B), Proficient (P), or Advanced (A) but even in all my years of giving the assessment and analyzing the data I’ve never come across a really good clear description of what it takes to get P or A, however there are sample questions online with answers worth 0, 1, or 2 points.

“The challenge is to create clear descriptors of our overall levels so that we have a delineated achievement continuum within which we can consistently judge student achievement to be competent or to deserve a certain grade.” (page 69)

If teachers have this in my district I as a parent have not seen them.  Maybe if I get lucky enough to get a classroom position for next year I’ll be able to find out more about what my district has in the way of an achievement continuum.

“The performance standards, rubrics, and examples need to be published and public for all to see from the beginning of instruction.”

Again I haven’t seen this in my district nor in any of the others I’ve looked at websites for though this may just be because some districts have not adopted the grade fixes yet, they are at the beginning of adopting the fixes, or maybe I just haven’t found the information yet, maybe it’s up to schools or teachers to provide that information to parents and students.

“This means that to be consistent with a standards-based system the use of the percentage system should be eliminated.” (page 72)

My first thought on this is how will schools report grades so colleges can make decisions about potential candidates.

“Knowing 50% of the material taught can hardly be considered proficient.  Nobody wants to fly with a pilot who scored 50 percent on his or her exams in flight training school.” (page 73)

I remember learning in college that to move on to a new unit 90% of students should get at least 80% on the topic, with the idea being that you would continue to work with the other 20% of students in small groups or one-on-one to catch them up.  Yet most grade scales set up 60% as passing.  My husband is a veterinarian and when he was in vet school he and his fellow students often joked that “D is for doctor” as they could get a certain number of hours of D and still graduate, now be assured it wasn’t a whole lot of hours as I recall it equaled to two classes.  Still it seems to fit here.

Student Involvement: Students must understand performance standards and they will be more likely to achieve at a high level.  When I have given students specific scoring guides showing exactly how to get better scores they perform better.

The policy example here gives specifics for grading and progress that are separate.

 

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