Getting Started with Standards Based Grading, part 3

In the first two parts of this series, I wrote about what to do before instruction in standards based grading and during instruction.  This final post in the series will deal with what to do after instruction, when the teacher has the graded pile of rubrics in hand.  I will discuss the importance of tracking progress and reporting meaningful data to all stakeholders using the 3D Gradebook.

Data Angst

When the subject of data comes up in the world of teaching, it elicits a powerful response, generally negative.  Many teachers feel that data is an administrative gotcha, a way for the powers that be to spy on them and catch them at the slightest misstep.  They will talk at the water cooler about how they know all that they need to know about their students in order to be successful.  They absolutely don’t need to track data.

I believe that much of this negativity toward the concept of data is a result of poor communication when data programs are rolled out.  Teachers believe that data means standards based testing data or premade assessment data, numbers that mean little to the average teacher on the average day.  We need to reframe the discussion to accurately convey what educational data and data-driven instruction really mean.

From Anecdotal to Numerical

I spend a lot of time talking to my colleagues, and one in particular always makes the argument that she knows exactly what her students need and where they currently are in their educational progression.  This statement is, of course, true.  She is a phenomenal teacher with a great grasp of her students’ needs.  However, I will tell her and other teachers that make the same argument that we don’t teach in a bubble.  Teachers answer to many different stakeholders as the graphic below illustrates.

Educational Stakeholders

Each stakeholder in the graphic has a vested interest in the education of our students.  Because of this, they have a right to ask us about student achievement and to receive a data-driven response.  This requires us to quantify the anecdotal data that we have collected in our brains about students in a way that can be shared.

Enter the 3D Gradebook

Because teachers need to be able to explicitly share data with relevant stakeholders, they need a data platform that will do the heavy lifting.  Many data platforms that are on the market today double as assessment platforms, providing teachers and districts with premade, standardized assessments for data collection and making it more difficult for teachers to enter their own assessment data.  I believe that this two-pronged approach has led to many of the misconceptions about data and the feeling of “data gotcha” for teachers.

Teachers don’t feel like they need premade assessments.  We feel like we already create and deliver quality assessments, and we struggle with the notion that an edtech company or assessment company can write a better assessment than we can.  The 3D Gradebook eschews the notion of premade assessments and instead focuses on giving teachers a place to store and retrieve their own assessment data.

The 3D Gradebook platform provides a place for teachers to easily enter student achievement scores on a per assignment/per standard basis and a place to easily retrieve and share that data with relevant stakeholders.  There is an email merge feature that allows sharing with students and their parents, a PLC section that allows for sharing with other teachers, and summary views that make sharing with administrators and others simple and intuitive.  This sharing is exceptionally important in the new age of education for improving student achievement.

Tips for Using SBG after Instruction

  • Make sure that students get accurate and timely feedback on their work.  The feedback should be based on the standards and the rubric for those standards.
  • Talk to students about decisions that you are making based on their achievement data.  If you are changing your pacing, let them know why.  This shows that you care about them and their learning, and it also gives them some goals to work toward.
  • Email parents often.  I aim for once a week.  This also shows caring and helps change the culture from grade grubbing and complaining to collaboration and learning.  This change is important if we’re going to be successful with standards based grading.
  • Understand that cultural change takes time.  Be patient with yourself, your students, your parents, and others as you take this on.  It takes time to make these kinds of changes.  Trust the process.

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