In December, NPR put on a podcast talking about Common Core and the shift toward standards-based grading in the US. For states and districts who have adopted the Common Core, standards-based grading is another way to streamline their efforts. This podcast puts the Common Core into context by introducing it as a set of guidelines that educators can use to frame their lessons and feedback. NPR succinctly sums up the national movement and talks about how schools are dealing with aspects of traditional grades—like study skills and homework—forfeited by the standards-based method.
1-4s instead of A-Fs
As we’ve been discussing most of the month, advocates of standards-based grading have moved away from letter grades and the corresponding 100-point scale because it hides where students are strong or weak by averaging their grades. If a third grader gets a C in math, “does that mean that she knows how to add?” asks Jess Potter, a New Hampshire elementary school. “I don’t know that.”
At Ms. Potter’s school, teachers send students home with a series of grades that articulate the students skill set called “I-Can” statements. For example: “I can use words and phrases that I have learned through listening and reading.” Again, standards-based grading is more precise than a numerical grade because each teacher might have different expectations of what a 95 qualifies as. With SBG, students forfeit their average, but can pinpoint skills they know and the ones they don’t.
Behavior and study skills
Though parents get a better picture of exactly what a student knows, they don’t get an idea of how their child is behaving or if she/he is doing their homework. Standards-based grades only reflect how well a student can perform the skill in question.
To accommodate for this, some schools devote sections to the report card that focus on study skills and in-class behavior. So though their core academic grades won’t be lowered, students will still be held accountable for their participation, attendance, homework, etc.
Common Core and the national trend
According to a Washington-DC-based education reform group Achieve, districts around the country are making the move to a standards-based approach—mostly in Massachusetts, some in New York, California, Hawaii and Tennessee. By adopting a standards-based approach, schools can work with a grading system that’s aligned to the national standards.
Switching to standards-based grading for the sake of a national standard is comparable to teaching to the test. Educators are molding their grading practices to fall in line with national expectations. However, the Common Core is better than just a test. It’s a roadmap meant to guide teachers and students to real world success. Teaching and grading to these standards is what the Common Core was designed for.
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