Saturday, March 25, 2017

The (continuing) Evolution of Grading

Happy End-of-Spring Break!

I've had a great break with some much-needed brain rest. I got a few things done around the house and a nice chunk of National Board Certification renewal work accomplished.

I feel ready to tackle the last nine (YIKES! The school year is almost DONE!) weeks of the school year.

Before the break, I had a mini-breakthrough with grades in my classroom.

I've blogged about grading before. Most of my grading conundrums have continued since that post.

I don't grade everything. Much of what we do in class is practice, and I don't want to put a grade on practice. Many things we do are hard to quantify with a grade. When I give a grade for something, I want that grade to mean something. I want a grade to communicate what a student knows, not how compliant he/she is. As a result, I give relatively (or comparatively) few "effort" grades.

Thanks to my flipped classroom and the amount of time I spend with students as they work, formative assessment is ongoing. I don't necessarily need an end-of-class "exit slip" to know where my students are or what I need to do the next day.

My ideal world would not include grades.

But, unfortunately (or, fortunately), this is not Mickie's world with everyone else getting to live in it.

I have district requirements for the number of grades I must record each grading period. I have requirements for what percentage "tests" and "daily grades" must count.

And so, I grade.

But I continue to struggle with WHAT to grade. Summative tests are easy. But the stuff between the summative tests has confounded me for a few years, given how my classroom has changed.

A few weeks ago, a lightbulb came on.

I need some sort of check after each standard. Something more specific than the intuitive feelings I have after working with my students in class. Something that would give me more information about individual students that I might otherwise miss.

The check doesn't have to be long or hard to grade. It doesn't have to be a worksheet of 25 problems (ugh - for students AND me). It can be a few carefully chosen problems that let me know if students are able to do what they need to be able to do.

So, after every standard - or part of a standard - I give a "quick check." They happen every 2 or 3 days. They're similar to an exit slip, but they can occur at the end of a class period or the beginning of the next class period. They're usually three to five questions. I give them in whatever form works best for the standard, whether that is digital or paper. And they usually count between 10 and 20 points ("daily" points). They're easy to grade.

I like the idea and have no idea why I didn't think of it sooner. I'm getting regular daily grades that reflect students' knowledge.

A couple of things I need to work out:

Turnaround - for these to be effective and result in STUDENTS knowing what they do and don't understand - and take steps to improve their understanding - I will need to have each Quick Check graded and returned before the next Quick Check. They are NOT long or hard to grade; I just need to make immediate feedback on the checks a priority.

Redos - I have a broad retake and redo policy. Typically, for daily grades, students correct what they missed on an assignment and turn the corrections in to be re-graded. With the Quick Checks only being worth a few points and only having a few questions, I'm not sure corrections by themselves are the way to go for a student to improve their score on the checks. I'm thinking students correct the Quick Check and I have a second check ready for them to take, similar to a retest.

This actually moves me a little closer to standards-based grading.

The Quick Checks also work well with self-pacing, which I continue to try to develop in my classroom.

Sometimes I'm slow. But I'm thankful for the eventual "a-ha"s that come after I mentally struggle with an aspect of my classroom I desire to change.

UNRELATED to this post on my grading breakthrough and a shameless self-plug:

I was THRILLED to get to talk with my flipped classroom hero, Crystal Kirch, as a "Flipped Educator Spotlight" for the Flipped Learning Network. I had a hard time not turning into a complete fan-girl.

The interview is 20 minutes, and I completely understand that your time is precious, and 20 minutes is a long time to listen to someone talk about her classroom. But one of my favorite things to do is share my flipped journey, so here is the link if you'd like to see any or all of the interview. I haven't tried it, yet, but the posts says to go to YouTube to click on Time Tags and see only the portions of the interview that might interest you.

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