9.20.2014

Should Grades Be Tests Only?


Currently, my grade book consists of only quizzes and tests. I believe grades should reflect what knowledge of the content that students can show, not on behaviors such as turning things in on time or being prepared for class, etc.

I pretend to do SBG but really, my students do not reassess so I just have an SBG grade book.

So far this school year, I have only given quizzes. I'm teaching so slowly and I don't really know how to fix that.

This week I gave a quiz over reflections in Geometry. Out of 27 students, about 8 did well. I was unhappy with this. So I gave students a practice sheet to work through in class. Engagement was high since so many students wanted to improve their grades. Even students who only missed two wanted to retake it. After practicing, I gave a new version of the quiz. 100% of the students improved and quite a few made perfect scores.

At first, I was happy with this. I just did a whole class demonstration of SBG! Hooray! Improved scores! Learning! Yay!

But the more I thought about it...the unhappier I became. We practiced problems exactly like what was on the quiz....which I handed to them immediately afterward. That wasn't learning, it was memorization.

I started to think about quizzes. What am I measuring? Is it fair to work on a concept for a day or two and then score them on it? Do sports teams practice one or two days and then have a game?  Are quizzes fair?

So then I started to think about not grading quizzes. I've been wanting to try some different methods anyway. 1) Student feedback quizzes. 2) Feedback only quizzes. 3) Stoplight stickers.

But what would happen to my grade book? I've been teaching for over a month and still have not given a test. If I did not give quizzes, my students would have no scores in the grade book at all. How could I compensate?

Maybe it is just my teaching to blame and quizzes are completely fine. Maybe I should let students used their INB for all assessments. Maybe I need to find a way to work with students one on one. Maybe I need to do a better job of formative assessment.

Maybe I need to do a better job with assessment, period.

15 comments:

  1. We are doing SBG for the first time this year. My report card/rubric standards are problem solving, justification, and precision. Grades will be based entirely on summative assessments. We have been giving students formative assessments and then we assess them on a 4 pt scale. I confer with individual students and give small group targeted mini lessons for anyone scoring below a 3. This feedback is necessary so my students know what they need to do on the summative to score advanced or proficient (the goal for all). I have not given a summative yet.

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    1. Are students and parents freaking out with no grades in the grade book yet?

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    2. Nope and we just drafted an email last week to parents explaining that the formatives will not count toward to the final grade and that we use that data to drive instruction.

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    3. Wow, sounds awesome.How are you liking it? How many students score less than 3?

      Do you feel like this system is sustainable?

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  2. I am in the same boat as you with trying SBG this year. I am finding the re-assessing to be tough at times. One thing I have liked about SBG though is that I am forcing myself to ask more how and why questions to get at their understanding. I am learning a lot about how my students are processing what I am teaching from those questions. If you're not already asking the how/why questions on your test or as an exit ticket, consider it. It is helping me adjust to my students and isn't taking more time to correct or write a quiz. I understand what you are saying about the kids not scoring well on the tests and feeling like you are teaching so slowly. I felt that way this year too. Good luck!

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    1. I just can't get students to care about re-assessing.

      I feel like if I put a lot of effort into writing a really good assessment, then it's hard to create another one.

      Whereas if I just generate normal, solve for x assessments, I can create extras all day along. Why do they have to contradict?

      I try to ask how and why questions as much as possible but maybe I should start doing exit tickets more regularly.

      Thanks

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  3. I feel your pain...teaching in a world of SBG and a world of traditional gradebooks makes for lots of frustration. I'd love to be able to assess at a decent pace (and have enough class time to reassess old skills with new ones anyway). Our school is discussing grading that incorporates growth with IB rubrics, but that will probably take about seven years to get going as a school (one full cohort of 6th graders getting it every year until 12th grade).

    I'm trying to figure out how to get my kids used to SBG and my ways of teaching (11th graders had the same teacher for two years before me, and 12th graders had him for three--we are a very small school). The reassessment process will be a steep learning curve for them (and me in figuring out when to do it between coaching Running Club and the various team leader / IB coordinator meetings after school). Will just have to keep explaining SBG in different ways to reinforce it so that I don't get the "what's this out of?" or "I got a 3.75 out of 100?" questions.

    I'm interested to see what you do with stoplight stickers or feedback quizzes.

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    1. How would you assess growth? In theory, I'd love to do something like that. But I can't even assess old standards so I don't know how well I would do with that. Talking about very small school, I am THE math teacher. So I have no one to collaborate, discuss, or share the workload with. And students still can't get used to me because I keep changing. :)

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  4. I just want to point out that just because the students could have gotten through the worksheet and quiz through memorization doesn't mean that they did. I'm sure some of them made connections through doing a variety of problems - just as proficient students always have.

    I any event, if your students don't think meta cognitively yet, what you're doing is a great start down that path. You just showed that quizzes are used to determine if students have learned something or not. Maybe the next step is building in some of those metacognition questions into classwork exercises. "Was this enough practice for you to understand what you are doing on a quiz?"

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I do need to look at things through more than one perspective.

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  5. I just make my formative points tiny compared with my summative stuff (a 6 point quiz versus a 50 point test). I tell them doing badly on a quiz is more of a warning than an active hurt on their grade (but the slight grade sliver gives them enough reason to care).

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  6. What works for me with SBG is to give a weekly quiz that takes about half the period. I usually assess about 3 standards per quiz with 10-12 problems. Then the next week, I include those standards again and add new ones. After a standard has been quizzed 2 or 3 times, it cycles out as new ones are added. This gives a chance for reassessment and also gives me an idea of how they are doing on the new standards. This means that each quiz could potentially have 3 or 4 separate grades depending on how many standards are on it. I update the grade for each standard as necessary (if they didn't do well last week, but do better this week, I improve the grade for that standard).

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    1. What kind of grading scale do you?

      What's the most amount of standards you would have on one quiz? Do you do any tests or just quizzes? Are students interested in coming in to retake quizzes or they just wait until the next week?

      Sounds like an awesome system. Do their grades also go down if they do worse the next week?

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  7. I just cam across this post. I have similar issues with SBG. I currently do just quizzes & reassessments as 70% of their grade with 30% being synthesis projects because students were treating learning targets like a checklist of skills & the synthesis & problem solving is where real application of SMP's come in.
    My concern with bringing back previous learning targets on each assessment is that feeling that I'm just trying to "get them." I don't want students to feel like they are getting tricked. But then the dilemma becomes how do I support student retention of content? Only using summative assessments does not allow for students to learn more & re-take the assessment. It also is more high stakes so anxiety will be increased. I know I need to grade less, feedback more, but I'm not sure how to fairly & transparently approach this. I also have these thoughts heavily weighting on me as I try to devise a better system: http://crazymathteacherlady.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/grades-are-killing-student-perplexity-creativity/
    The way I set up & use grades deeply affects the culture of my class. I know its important, so I want to think through this before proceeding, but I too have changes coming.

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  8. Could you do cumulative bell ringers at the start of class to help build retention without grading them? Or give a weekly homework assignment that is from past learning targets?

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