NEW BOOK! Standards-Based Learning in Action

SBLVery excited to announce that my new book (co-authored with Garnet Hillman and Mandy Stalets) Standards-Based Learning in Action: Moving from Theory to Practice (Solution Tree) is now available!

Standards-based Learning in Action flips the usual script in that it’s heavy on practical implementation strategies, supplemented by a synthesis of the research. Most books tend to go heavy on research, but this book is designed for practitioners looking for ways to bring standards-based learning to life in their classrooms. As well, this book is comprehensive in that it spans the breadth and depth of both formative and summative assessment; from teaching to grading and reporting. Finally, this book uniquely features sections on both directly talking to learners and parents so that teachers can effectively communicate to all stakeholders the necessary shifts to modernize assessment and grading.

With Standards Based Learning in Action, educators will understand the full scope of what standards-based learning can and will look like in their classrooms and schools. There is no one right way to implement all that encompasses standards-based learning, so it can be contextually adjusted and nuanced to effectively and efficiently put into practice. Other than grades based on the achievement of standards, teachers have the opportunity to create a learner-responsive classroom that accelerates growth toward proficiency. This book emphasizes the fact that this work is important, necessary, and feasible for those looking to create a more learning centered culture in their classrooms.

For more information, please visit the Solution Tree website (here)

NEW BOOK! Instructional Agility

IA PhotoVery excited to announce that my new book (co-authored with Cassandra Erkens and Nicole Vagle) Instructional Agility: Responding to assessment with real-time decisions  (Solution Tree) has now been released!

Being instructionally agile is about making seamless instructional adjustments at a moment’s notice. This book takes readers back to the core fundamentals of classroom assessment. Rather than creating assessment events that require teachers to stop teaching in order to conduct their formative assessments, the focus is on the more organic process of infusing assessment experiences into any activity or strategy. The over-quantification of learning can distract teachers from fully utilizing the most powerful  aspect of formative assessment, which is to inform instruction.

Whether through engineering conversations, questioning, observing, practice, or mobilizing students, teachers can transform any activity into a formative assessment that reveals what comes next for each learner.

For more information, please visit the Solution Tree website (here).

 

NEW BOOK! Grading from the Inside Out

GFIO_FrontCover_10.20.15I’m very excited to announce that my new book, Grading from the Inside Out: Bringing Accuracy to Student Assessment through a Standards-Based Mindset (Solution Tree), has just been released!

Long-term grading reform begins on the inside and works its way out; it begins with a complete rethink of the purpose of grades within the summative assessment paradigm. Developing a standards-based mindset allows teachers to begin reshaping the grading experience in their classrooms without the premature pressure of a new grading program, a new grading policy, or a new report card template. Once we shift how we think about grading we are poised to move toward more overt changes to the processes and practices of sound grading and reporting.

For more information, please visit the Solution Tree website (here).

All Things Assessment (Solution Tree)

I’m very excited to announce that all of my assessment blogs are moving to the newly updated and relaunched Solution Tree All Things Assessment website. You can find the blog  here. You can find the homepage for the website here.

This website is part of a much larger assessment center at Solution Tree. The center itself is still in development so more information will be shared as it unfolds later this year, but for now, the All Things Assessment site is live, active, and full of great assessment information shared by an array of assessment experts.

For now, this website will remain active as an information page and a way of connecting with me.

Thanks!
Tom

 

Accurate Grading with a Standards-Based Mindset (WEBINAR)

On Monday, December 16, 2013 I conducted a webinar entitled Accurate Grading with a Standards-Based Mindset. The archived copy of the webinar can be viewed here. (It’s just under 80 min, including questions at the end.)

Please note: This webinar was presented by Pearson Education. When you click on the link above you will first be asked to provide contact information before the webinar will play. While it says “the author has requested the information” please know that it is Pearson (not me) who requires this…just wanted you to know.

Below is a brief blog post that encapsulates (but by no means covers) the essence of the webinar:

While the standards-based grading movement is in full swing, not every school, district, or state is in exactly the same place. The difference is attributable to a variety of factors including the level of the school within which a standards-based approach to grading is being implemented. Elementary school standards-based report cards often look very different from middle or even high school standards-based report cards; that’s not a bad thing as the application of standards-based reporting at each level needs to be suitable for that level. The point is that schools and districts across the country are at various places along the standards-based grading continuum. While some have implemented fully, others are still exploring.

Despite this variation, the common link for all along the standards-based grading continuum is how we think about grading; what I call the standards-based mindset. This mindset represents the heavy lifting of the grading conversation. Once we shift how we think about grading, the implementation of standards-based reporting is easy, or at least easier, since the way we think about grades, how we organize evidence, and what is most heavily emphasized is different. We become more thoughtful about ensuring that a student’s grade represents their full level of proficiency and not just the average of where they were and where they are now.

Adults are rarely mean averaged and certainly, it is irrelevant to an adult that they used to not know how to do something. Yet for a student, these two factors are dominant in their school experience. A student’s grade (at least traditionally) is almost always a function of the mean average and a failed quiz or assignment early in the learning almost always counts against them; remember, every 40 needs an 80 just to get a 60.

The standards-based mindset shifts this conversation to a more accurate way of reporting a student’s level of proficiency. Like any idea, there are always detractors who’ll try to hijack the conversation by suggesting that standards-based grading is about lowering standards, making it easier for students, and letting them off-the-hook; none of that is true. Standards-based grading is about accurately reporting a student’s true level of proficiency. As students learn and grow through the curriculum they should be given full credit for their achievement. When they don’t receive full credit we are sending the not so subtle message that you should have learned faster!

A standards-based mindset is separate from how we report grades. With a standards-based mindset you can still report traditional grades, it’s just that how you determine grades is significantly different. Teachers with a standards-based mindset eliminate the influence of non-learning factors from their gradebooks. Whether it’s extra credit or late penalties, a standards-based mindset is about accurately reporting a student’s level of proficiency. Another misrule about standards-based grading is that meeting deadlines, completing work, etc. are not important; they are, however, they’re different. A student isn’t less proficient in math because the work was handed in two days late. Attributes, habits, and college/career skills are important and with a standards-based approach they remain important, but separate.

The standards-based mindset is about emphasizing the most recent evidence of learning by allowing students to receive full credit for their accomplishments. Reassessment is not about hitting the reset button or developing a do-over generation; it’s about recognizing that students have surpassed their previous levels of proficiency and giving students the opportunity to demonstrate those higher levels…and then giving them full credit for their learning. Students are still held accountable – for the learning – and not punished when they fall short of expectations. We don’t need to use the gradebook to teach students to be responsible; when we do it leads to grades that are inaccurate.

Standards-based grading and reporting is about levels of proficiency, accurate information, and a reorganization of evidence. Before we can fully implement standards-based reporting we need to develop a new way of thinking about grading; we need a standards-based mindset. Whether you still report traditional letter grades derived from predetermined percentage scales or are somewhere in the midst of developing a standards-based way of reporting, the standards-based mindset is the necessary first step toward more thoughtful and meaningful ways of reporting. With a standards-based mindset, if a student used to be a 40, but now is an 80, she should get an 80, not a 60!

Points over Practice?

This post is written as a precursor to my session on homework at next week’s Pearson-ATI Summer Conference

practiceYou’d think by now we’d have the whole homework thing figured out. Should it be assigned? What is the purpose of homework? How much is too much? How much is too little? Should it be graded? Is it formative? What if my students don’t do it? What if only half of my students do it? Why do we continue to act surprised by the fact that some students don’t master the intended learning the first time they practice it? These (and so many other questions) fuel a continual debate over where the actual sweet spot of our homework routines is.

Is homework the means or the end? In other words, does homework present students with an opportunity to further advance their proficiency with regards to specific curricular standards or is it an event all unto itself? While some might be tempted to answer both, it is challenging to come up the middle on the means vs end discussion.

As a means, homework tends to be about practice. Inherent in this practice paradigm is the elimination of points and their contribution to an overall grade. In other words, as practice, homework is formative. As an end, homework is just the opposite; it tends to be an event that independently contributes (even in a small way) to a report grade. While subsequent new evidence of learning may emerge, homework as an end remains a contributor to what could eventually be an inaccurate grade. And that is the bigger point. Whatever we report about student learning – and however we determine the substance of what we report – must be as accurate as possible. Previous evidence (homework) that no longer reflects a student’s current level of proficiency has the potential to misinform parents and others. When homework counts, we are emphasizing points over practice.

“…but it only counts for a small percentage of a student’s final grade,” some might argue, “so it doesn’t really matter.” I suppose on one level that might be true, however, consider a scenario where someone steals a five dollars from you and then asks you to dismiss it since they didn’t steal a lot of money. Now, I do understand that making the connection between stealing and counting homework is a stretch, but my point is that if learning (and the accurate reporting of a student’s achievement) is our priority, then emphasizing points clearly misses the mark. It’s not how much the inclusion of homework impacts the student’s final grade; it’s that it does in the first-place.

Still, others may proclaim (and wholeheartedly believe) that, “…if I don’t grade it, they won’t do it.” Again, while that might be the paradigm in a classroom, we have to ask ourselves who is responsible for creating that paradigm. We must recognize that students don’t enter school in Kindergarten with a point accumulation mindset; the K student never asks her teacher if the painting is for points! So where do they learn that? Somewhere in their experience points (and grades) become a priority for the adults…so they become a priority for students. Parents and students also contribute to this mindset, but we have to acknowledge our role as well. Also, if the only thing motivating students to complete any assignment is the promise of points then we really have to consider whether the assignment is truly worth completing in the first place. Again, is homework a means or an end?

I am looking forward to sharing more on the topic of homework, practice, and assessment at Pearson-ATI’s 20th Annual Summer Conference next week (July 8-10, 2013) in Portland, OR. The session on homework entitled Practice without Points will explore the biggest hurdles that prevent some teachers from eliminating the points attached to practice work, the reasons we assign homework and how those reasons fit within a balanced assessment system, and how teachers can thoughtfully respond to the trends they see between initial homework results and subsequent assessment data. You can read more on why I believe homework should be for practice and used formatively (here) rather than being used as part of a summative reporting process.

I will also be leading a session on Effective Leadership in Assessment specifically suited for those responsible for taking assessment literacy to scale and a session entitled Infused Assessment that takes participants back to the core fundamentals of formative assessment by infusing it into already existing instructional practices rather than creating  summative-events-that-don’t-count. 

If you’re unable to attend the conference, please take some time to follow the hashtag #ATIcon on Twitter.