Standards based grading in a traditional world

It is the elephant in the room at times… I really want to change to Standards Based Grading, I understand the thinking behind it, I know it will be better for my students and the culture of my classroom, but…

How do I accomplish this when the rest of my school is traditional?

This is a question I get asked often, as I am one of very few in my school district that are standards based. I work in a large district, so many times my students are only standards based for my class, and then spend the rest of their day in a more traditional setting.

I feel that the first step in this transitional feat is to genuinely make the paradigm shift to Standards Based Learning and Grading. Make the commitment to change the culture of your classroom. Once you have made the shift, it seems impossible to go back. I cannot imagine returning to a traditional grading system. I am driven to provide my students the best learning experience possible and I refuse to let a traditional system get in the way. Once you believe learning is paramount over assigning points, scores, and letters – you are probably past the point of no return. You will not sacrifice student learning because of the system in place.

After you make the paradigm shift, it is time for some creativity. I have had to create my own system within a system. I am required to give letter grades at progress report time and semester. I made my computerized grade book work for me, not against my beliefs. I designed learning experiences and aligned assessments to my standards and values as an educator.

Another concern I hear frequently is regarding pushback. Won’t my parents, students, colleagues, even administration push back against something so different? The short answer is yes. You will get feedback both positive and negative about making the change. The key is to take all of it and grow and learn yourself. Communicate with all your stakeholders as much as possible about why you chose to transition. Explain that you made the shift in the interest of student learning, growth, and improvement. Help them make progress along with you.

If this still feels daunting, know you are not alone. I implore you to stay the Standards Based journey no matter how difficult. We stand together for our students. We need to create cultures that support our students, not ones that encourage compliance and fear. Reach out for support when you need it, there are plenty of people who believe in this structure and are willing to help you, myself included.

2 Replies to “Standards based grading in a traditional world”

  1. It’s really hard to be the only SBG teacher in a traditional grading school. Part of my struggle is getting my students to understand that they aren’t being coddled. They don’t understand that the reason I give multiple chances to show proficiency is that I expect much more learning of them than the rest of their teachers do.

    It was disheartening the other day to overhear two of my AP Chem students discussing whether to study for my test or their calculus test. One said to the other, “Obviously you study for calc. because that’s a legit test. It doesn’t matter if you f*** up in here, you just make up the standards later.” Not what I had in mind.

  2. I’m very interested in the system you devised to function in both the traditional and standards-based worlds. I am in the same exact situation: large district, traditional based, grades are numeric. I haven’t been able to wrap my head around how to move to a standards based while meeting the requirements of my district. Would you share your system? Thanks!

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