The start of the school year always has me thinking about how I will measure student progress/acheivement and how to share that information in a way that allows students grow as learners. Most years that means I'm re-examining rubrics, re-tooling and preparing to set up student portfolios. For years my district has been looling at Stiggins and how do we assess to promote learning. Accross the state a number of districts are moving to standards based grading. Something Kristin brought up recently.
Philosophically I like standards based grading. I think it offers teachers, students, and families a far more clear and objective picture of learning taking place. Much in the same way TPEP has potential to be a powerful tool for porfessional growth, standards based grading has the potential to be a powerful tool in student learning when accompanied by timely actionable feedback. But there are issues.
This year my district is piloting standards based grading at the secondary level and my school is one of the two pilot sites. As I prepare to set up my grade book and instert grading policy into my syllabus these are the questions I still need answered: Are we prepared within our classes and as a school to move students demonstrating mastery on to more challenging work or the next grade level? Are we prepared to hold back those who are not meeting standard at the end of a grading period? How can my ELL students demonstrate their skill in a subject area while they are still developing English language skills?
My first two questions, while incredibly relevant to how standards based grading can be used as an objective tool for growth, worry me far less than my third in the here and now. To just give ELLs 1s (not meeting standard at this time) until they have the language to demonstrate what they know is a social justice issue. As I look at the common core standards across the K-12 spectrum in any given subject the verbage across the grade bands aligns with the four levels in the state English Language Development Standards. If a new to country, 7th grade non-English speaker was assessed on the k-2 grade band standards they would (theoretically) be able to score 3's and even 4's.
It is demoralizing enough to know you are an intelligent person and be unable to express that in the language of the land you are in. My students do not need to be further demoralized by only seeing 1's. Previously teachers were able to modify their grades so that growth in language if not content could be acknowledged. It wasn't perfect or even right. I just know in order to keep kids engaged there has to be a way to report and honor growth they have made regardless of where they start from.