With the rise of standards-based instruction, districts and schools have been seeking out the best tools to foster it. Standards-Based grade books have been created is response to this need. As with educational changes, there are exciting potentials and pitfalls. First of all, here is what works when using the standards-based grade book:

1)     Ensures targeted Assessment and Rubrics – When the standards are presented and transparent to the teachers on a continuous basis, teachers are bound to be thinking about their assessments and whether or not there are standards based. As a teacher inputting grades, one can be reflective in practice with the question also be present in mind – “Is this assessment/ assignment really targeted toward the standard?”

2)     Continuity across Classes and Teachers – When the same content grade book is being used by all the teachers, then the inconsistencies will fade. Conversations will no longer have to happen about why a certain teacher leverages a certain standard or target more than others. Conversations can instead occur about the targeted instruction and assessment in the classroom.

3)     Leverages Summative Assessment – This is the big one, and the idea that may “upset the apple cart.” When teachers start putting in assignments in the standards-based grade book, teachers will encounter issues in weighting their assignments. All assignments, whether formative or summative may weighted the same, based on the programming of the grade book itself. Teachers will of course bring this concern to life. The response will be, “put in only Summative Assessment,” as that is what the grade should be. Formative assessment is practice, and Summative is the performance. Teachers will then protest “If I don’t count the worksheets and assignments I give out, then they won’t do it.” If I were there, I would answer, “You trying to ‘cattle-prod’ your students into doing work by giving leverage in the grade book instead of focusing on the real problem – Your students aren’t engaged.” The focus should be on creating relevance, inquiry and engagement Summative Assessments.

While the Standards-based grade book is helping to ensure better teaching and instruction, we need to make sure that fosters innovation in education. In general there needs to be some flexibility in the creation and utilization of the grade book between the school and provider. In order to do that, here are some tips for not only those constructing the grade book, but also for the teachers using it.

1)     Make sure the Grade book allows for 21st Century Skills – If we value 21st century skills, then we need to teach and assess them. In order to leverage them as much as content standards, they need to be included in the grade. Collaboration, Technology Literacy and even Presentation Skill should be taught and assessed in a grade just as much as the content standards. They are learning targets and standards.

2)     Make sure there is place for Formative Assessments – In order to be transparent to parents and students, you need to be able to track and monitor ongoing formative assessments, that show work toward that standard. It can be worth nothing, as it should be, but there must be a place to have this data so that effective conversations can be had for all partners in the learning of the student.

3)     Keep Assessments rigorous – One of the pitfalls of standards-based instruction and assessment is that some of the assessments can only be geared toward standards that are lower on the Bloom’s taxonomy. Carol Jago, current NCTE president talks about this in terms of the English class in her book Beyond Standards: Excellence in the High School English Classroom. Make sure you are targeting standards that have higher order thinking skills. Be targeted, but also aim “beyond standards” in the assessments

Standards-Based grade books can help ensure quality instruction and assessments for our students as long as there is a level of flexibility and rigor. Providers need to listen to their clients and clients need to provide good feedback to their providers. Teachers need to make sure they are not only be targeted in their assessment, but also aiming for rigor. They need to use the grade book to leverage their content as well as 21st century skills, and teachers need to be transparent with the work being done in the classroom.

Andrew Miller – [email protected]

For more, see a review of standards-based gradebooks

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