One of my personal battles is dealing with teachers that are bad. I’ve said it from time to time, my wife is a teacher.

My kids went to the same school system my wife taught in. Each year my wife would evaluate which teacher was the right teacher for each of our children. And every year she would say something like “Such and Such is a bad teacher. We don’t want our kids in her class. They won’t learn anything.”

The fact is that every teacher knows who is a good teacher in their school and who is not. Teachers that can get their kids into the class rooms of the good teachers. Yet whenever I talk about evaluating teachers I get so much push back. The statement is almost always “we don’t want to judge a teacher by how their students do. That means that a good teacher can have a bad group of students and then they are judged as bad.”

I’ve been told that teaching is the only profession where there can be no objective measurements so the only way is to reward teachers by time in grade and what credentials they hold. A teacher with a Masters in Underwater Basket Weaving will be paid more than a teacher with a Bachelors in Math minoring in Education.

The best way I’ve found so far is to evaluate students based on their progression over the time in a teachers class. Thus a student that has a 25 point improvement over the course of the year tells you something about that student. If that student had a 30 point improvement last year and a 35 point improvement next year, that might indicate that this teacher isn’t as good as the other two.

The thing is, that you can track this. If there is a teacher that consistently gets 35 point improvement for every student in their class but other teachers are only getting 25 points per student, this is a strong indication that this teacher is the better teacher.

It turns out that this does work. And it works regardless of the quality of the student. This is because we know the student. A student that normally does 15 points but for this one teacher they get 25 points and then back to 15 points, there is a reason for it. And it it turns out the one teacher consistently gets more points per student, reward her. If instead there is that teacher that consistently gets less out of their students, then it is time to let that student go.

Standards-based grading is a way of determining how a student is progressing. It helps grade teachers as well as the student.

Standards-based grading (SBG) is an intentional way for teachers to track their students’ progress and achievements while focusing on helping students learn and reach their highest potential. It is based on students showing signs of mastery or understanding various lessons and skills. In fact, many districts across the country have embraced the idea for decades. Standards-based grading is a way to view student progress based on proficiency levels for identified standards rather than relying on a holistic representation as the sole measure of achievement—or what Marzano and Heflebower called an “omnibus grade.”
Standards-Based Grading: What To Know for the 2021-2022 School Year

Our kids are on standards-based grading. They have to reach “competency” on every assignment before it counts. If they don’t achieve competency then they have to re-learn the lesson and do more assignments, often with instructor help, until they do reach competency.

This means that a student doesn’t move forward in their lessons until such time as they have the foundation for future lessons.

A few years ago the daughter of a family friend was over and they talked about how much trouble she was having in math at school. She was doing all sorts of things, extra credit, extra instructions with the teacher, making sure she participated in classroom discussions. A huge effort on her part. And she was just squeaking by. She wasn’t actually learning anything, but the teacher saw the effort she was putting in and was giving her a passing grade.

In given my friend’s daughter daughter a passing grade the teacher was making next years class that much more difficult.

I like math, I didn’t understand why she was having such issues so I connected her with MobyMath which became MobyMax. This program did the standards-based assessments and discovered why she was having problems with math. She didn’t know how to do division. She could do simple division but she never mastered, gained competency in division which meant no working knowledge of long division that meant…

Her single gap in knowledge from elementary school doomed her in high school math classes.

The board also discussed the practice of standards-based grading in the district. According to the district’s website, standards-based grading is different from traditional grading because instead of averaging a student’s scores across the term, a standards-based grading system “measures a student’s mastery of content standards by assessing their most recent and consistent level of performance.”

Trustee Tracey Pearson said there have been instances where students who have put in consistent effort throughout the term are earning the same “number” as “students who are not putting in as much effort.” This affects student morale and motivation, and causes stress for parents, she said.

Idaho Press: Standards-based grading, challenge books discussed at Nampa School Board meeting

And there it is. Standards-based grades are unacceptable because some kids have to put in more effort. It hurts morale. So let’s go back to the old system, where a student can get a passing grade for showing up and “putting in an effort.”

In education “putting in the effort” isn’t the goal, the goal is, or should be, learning the material.

So many parents today are more concerned about how hard something is rather than what is accomplished. They want their child to get the “participation award” grade.

Poor little Billy is working on homework 4 hours every night after he comes home, there is too much homework and it isn’t fair. Billy needs time to relax and have fun!

If your school system uses standards-based grading, support them. Don’t let grades become participation awards. If you are a parent, try and attend at least a couple of school board meetings every school year. It makes a difference. Don’t be afraid to step up and ask questions or make a statement.

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By awa

8 thoughts on “Education is hard: Standards-Based Grading”
  1. The one problem with standards based grading is that you aren’t dealing with widgets, you are dealing with people. There are many more variables there than just test scores. The first, and most obvious factor is the test. You are testing the student, not the teacher. Let me explain:
    One of the things that used to frustrate me is that there are so many things happening that I as a teacher had no control over: I had students who would be absent for most of the school year. Studies show that students who are chronically absent are four times more likely to do poorly on standardized tests. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing more than 10 percent of class time. Now considering that there are 180 student days in a school year, that means a student who is absent more than 9 days per semester is considered to be chronically absent. Here is the shocking thing: more than 80 percent of my students were chronically absent. More than half of them were absent at least 25% of the time. I had students who missed more than 60 days in a single semester. How do you think those kids do on standardized tests?
    There are many more points to be made, and I blogged them at length during and shortly after my seven years as a teacher. The point is that judging teachers purely by test score results is not an accurate measure of teacher effectiveness.

    1. I am in total agreement with you Divemedic. Judging student via standardized tests and through those results, judging teachers doesn’t work. A student or a bad set of students can show really bad results in standardized tests.

      Standards-based gradings is not the same as standardized tests. Our state requires standardized tests twice a year for some set of grades. This is to judge the schools for the most part. To make sure the schools are teaching to the standards.

      Standards-based grading is making sure each student has competency in that particular thing. As an example, my kid just finished a module on Human Systems. In order to move forward to the next module she has to demonstrate competency (score > 85%) in her knowledge and understanding of human nervous system, reproductive system, immune system, digestive systems etc. In my opinion this standards-based grading is a good thing.

      My kids have a schedule they have to keep but it is much more flexible than normal schools.

      In your case, where you have a large number of students that are not going to succeed at anything because they just aren’t there. I think I once read you say that you had actual convicted felons in your classroom. Those students are going to under perform against standardized tests. When using standard-based grades those students are evaluated against themselves. If the student showed a 5% improvement last year and a 5% improvement this year the teacher is doing average. If the student did 5% last year and 10% this year, the teacher is doing a better job. (Extend the history as needed). But it isn’t just one student that is being used for this metric.

      The improvement of each student is evaluated against their previous years. Some teachers consistently get better improvements for their students. Some teachers consistently get worse. The studies show that by judging students against their own previous improvements the quality of student doesn’t really matter.

      I wish I could find the article where I read about this. It was enlightening.

  2. 12 years a teacher in High School. I know of what I speak. (no longer doing that, BTW).

    I have said for years I can go into any high school in America and know, within about a week, which teachers are doing a good job, and which are not.

    Ask the students. They know. And they’ll tell you. They’ll tell you that Ms. X will work you hard and you’ll be ready for college, and Mr. Y goofs of and is an easy grade. They certainly tell each other that information. And they’re right.

    BTW – the teachers know it too, but are reluctant to say so.

    1. Teachers, just like lawyers/cops/politicians/assholes, always stick together and cover for each others failures, of any kind/reason.

  3. Similar comments could be applied to colleges; people know full well which are the “party schools” and which are the serious schools. Not to mention the “gut courses” vs. the ones that take actual effort.
    On the notion that “I’ve been told that teaching is the only profession where there can be no objective measurements” — if you can’t measure it, it isn’t science, it’s a cult.

  4. “….there is too much homework and it isn’t fair. Billy needs time to relax and have fun!…” said no Asian parent ever.

Only one rule: Don't be a dick.

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