How Are Standards Met In When This Legislation Is Initiated?
In standards based learning, teachers are focused on making sure all students meet all standards. The simple idea of standards-based learning is to ensure transparency in all elements of the teaching and learning process: curriculum, instruction, assessment, andreporting.
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.”
Teachers are often frustrated by factors at school that are out of their control, from increasing class sizes and difficult parents, to tech bloat and many other important issues. One thing educators can control is how they assess students’ progress and learning. Standards-based grading research shows that a standards-based mindset paired with standards-based grading correlate to higher academic achievement. Therefore, it’s critical that teachers link assessments and reporting to the standards, as well.
In standards based grading, rather than a single grade or percentage, students are measured employing a rubric measuring levels toward mastery. In this legislation, Inquiry Learning and problem based learning provides an opportunity to imbed this practice into ongoing assessment.
At the core of this pathway are standards. For many, there are too many standards and not enough time to address all of them effectively. The only reasonable way to address these challenges is the use of Power Standards (or many variations on the theme, such as Priority Standards, Essential Standards, etc.). In addition, school administrators must acknowledge that if students spent 14 years getting into a literacy mess, they won’t emerge from it with a schedule that continues to depend upon the mythology of one period per day of English and one period per day of math. If they’re years behind – and many are – they need more time. Not after school, not Saturday school, not evening tutoring – they need more time during the school day.
Contemporary academic disengagement has many sources. Students do not arrive at Kindergarten as blank slates, ready to be taught. They already have some knowledge. More essentially, they already have an attitude about knowledge. Educators do not receive a pliable ball of clay from which to build intellectual beings; they receive fully developed sculptures that take a lot of work to modify. Many come into our classrooms with different levels of readiness to learning, different levels of prior learning, and nutritional advantages beyond their peers.
Engaging in Inquiry or Problem base learning allows the inquirer to explore trans-disciplinary topics. Trans-disciplinary teams of teachers, practiced in their unique areas of expertise, could combine efforts in providing clear and knowledgeable feedback on students’ performances, who are demonstrating their learning in those inquiries. .
Employing a rubric that measures performance from Novice to Expert levels, teacher/facilitators can provide clear feedback on multiple measures while keeping track of standards met. Employing the record keeping app, Schoology, each student’s performances are continuously maintained and standards are identified as met at levels from Novice to Expert. Many school districts, employing Schoology or other record keeping apps would enhance teacher/facilitators capacity to award credit for standards mastered by uploading content standards at all levels into the Schoology app.
Multiple inquiries could provide evidence of standards mastery. Credit for Prior Learning is a practice enacted by the MDE to allow students to amass credits early. For some students, keeping track of standards met become a practice for many students interested in graduating early.
Students experienced in the process are consistently comparing their standards performance with their peers. Both students and parents would have access to the accomplishments in learning. Tied together by a unique student number, both the student and their parents would readily access student progress and learn what their own kids were learning.
Given this level of record keeping and transparency, on what basis would anyone oppose standards-based learning? Admittedly, not everyone agrees on what is most important for students to learn and what skills they should develop. Differences in our philosophies of education and what we most value as a society abound. But once these decisions are made, would anyone suggest those things should be kept secret from students and their families? Does anyone think we should not teach students what we consider most important for them to learn or not assess students based on what they were taught? Would anyone advocate a reporting system that fails to accurately inform parents and families about what students have learned?
Occasionally educators make the mistake of not addressing these standards in order. Problems always arise when educators change grading practices and move ahead with standards-based reporting without addressing the critical elements of curriculum, instruction, and assessment. This can lead to frustration, inconsistent implementation, and eventual abandonment. Important issues regarding what we teach, how we teach it, and how we assess learning always must be addressed before we consider how best to grade and report student learning progress.
Standards-based learning is a simple idea. Complexity comes in its implementation. To successfully implement standards-based learning requires that we keep the simple purpose of transparency in mind while adapting to the unique and complicated contextual characteristics of different classrooms and schools. Implementation efforts won’t succeed by making this simple idea more complex but by finding new and better ways to apply the idea in widely varied and highly diverse school settings.