Results for: standards based grading

What is the Difference between Standards-Based Grading (or Reporting) and Competency-Based Education?

November 11, 2014 by
Matt Townsley

Matt Townsley

Here in Iowa, competency-based education is gaining traction at the state and grassroots level. In fact, the Iowa Department of Education has launched a multi-year CBE collaborative. Needless to say, it’s an exciting time to be an educator in the Hawkeye State!

Meanwhile, a core group of Iowa schools have started to implement a standards-based grading philosophy in middle and high schools. Because of these two movements in our state, standards-based grading and competency-based education are often times incorrectly presented as synonymous practices. As a member of Iowa’s CBE task force and through my work as a district administrator in a system that has embraced standards-based grading K-12, I’ve been in a position to think about and discuss these two topics extensively. When area schools hear about our grading and reporting practices, we are often asked how our system relates to those working towards competency-based educational models. While many of the ideas overlap, I felt compelled to tease out these two education terms in order to honor their similarities and differences.

What is standards-based grading? 

Standards-based grading “involves measuring students’ proficiency on well-defined course objectives.” (Tomlinson & McTighe, 2006). (Note: Standards-based reporting involves reporting these course objectives rather than letter grades at the end of each grading/reporting period.)

The visual below compares traditional grading with standards-based grading practices. (more…)

What Does it REALLY Mean to Do Standards-Based Grading? (Part 1)

June 27, 2016 by

2016-04-13 11.11.40

Updated November 1, 2017

I read a lot of clips about how districts are advancing competency education around the country, and it always seems to me that when there are any negative reactions they are in response to new grading practices, usually referred to as standards-based grading. It strikes me that negative reactions pop up when districts either use grading as an entry point (which puts all the focus on the grading and not on why competency education is valuable) or they’ve put some of the pieces of standards-based grading in place but not the entire framework necessary to make it more trustworthy than traditional grading.

How does a district implement high quality standards-based grading, and when is the right time? I’ll do the best I can to synthesize what I’ve been learning from districts, but please do not hesitate to disagree or add more nuance to these thoughts.

Before I dive deep, allow me to once more review the three types of grading systems using standards (at least that I know about): standards-referenced, standards-based, and an emerging concept of competency-based.

What is the difference between standards-referenced and standards-based grading?

In his book, Formative Assessment & Standards-Based Grading, Robert J. Marzano explains the difference. “In a standards-based system, a student does not move to the next level until he or she can demonstrate competence at the current level. In a standards-referenced system, a student’s status is reported (or referenced) relative to the performance standard for each area of knowledge and skill on the report card; however, even if the student does not meet the performance standard for each topic, he or she moves to the next level. Thus, the vast majority of schools and districts that claim to have standards-based systems in fact have standards-referenced systems.”

(more…)

Juarez Community Academy: When Big Schools Become Competency-Based

April 25, 2017 by

Principal Juan Carlos Ocón

This is the seventh post in a series covering my recent trip to Chicago. Begin with CBE in Chicago.

There are always exceptions, and Benito Juarez Community Academy (Juarez) in Chicago is one of them. At CompetencyWorks, we tend to advise against using grading as the entry point into competency-based education. It can create confusion and anxiety, especially in high schools, before the full competency-based infrastructure has been put into place. Yet Juarez successfully moved to standards-based grading, having used the practice for the last seven years, and is now ready to move to a fuller competency-based model. Actually, I think they have already taken the substantial steps to restructure their school as competency-based.

When Juan Carlos Ocón became principal, Juarez had been on the list of the forty worst schools in Illinois. In 2010, it jumped off that list. In 2008-2009, principal Ocon and his team began a deliberate and strategic shift from a content-based curriculum to a standards-based curriculum. This was a necessary shift that allowed the school to focus on what students should know and be able to do. In the spring and summer of 2010, Juarez adopted the College Readiness Standards. In 2011, Juarez continued to develop a schoolwide shift from what teachers teach to what students learn. Ocón explained, “After analysis and research on instructional and grading models, we needed to shift our focus from what teachers teach to what students learn. That is how we were going to improve rigor in the classroom. Benchmarking, therefore, is a system of instruction that is focused on student assessment and skills mastery.

At Juarez, we had a lengthy conversation with about fifteen teachers and administrators. I apologize, as I was unable to put everyone’s names with what they said as I normally try to do. Next time I visit Juarez, I’ll do better so that readers can get to know the leaders, administrators, and teachers there.

Background

Serving 1,600 mostly Hispanic students, Juarez is a neighborhood school offering an IB program and 5 CTE programs. There is a strong college counseling program that includes resources for DREAMers. In 2008, they began to introduce standards-based grading (SBG) with school-wide implementation in 2010.

They are now in a process of preparing for the transition to competency-based education or what they referred to as “resetting.” Principal Juan Carlos Ocón explained, “Moving to competency-based education is forcing us to revisit our core values.” The leadership team, including teacher leaders, organized a retreat with Camille Farrington and members of the UC Consortium on School Research to clarify their philosophy about education and equity.

Juarez is part of the high schools organizing the pilot under the state’s Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program. (See CBE in Chicago for more information.) (more…)

What Does it REALLY Mean to Do Standards-Based Grading? (Part 2)

June 28, 2016 by
SBG

Click Image to Enlarge

Read Part 1 of what it means to do standards-based grading here. This post was updated November 1, 2017.

There is so much written about grading that I’m hesitant to offer my thoughts on what is needed to do it well. And this article is certainly not a “how to” step-by-step plan on implementing standards-based grading. I’m compelled to write about it because I keep hearing about districts trying to use grading changes as the entry point to competency education. If folks are going to do that, then this blog might be helpful. Just be mindful–most in the field will recommend that you do not lead with grading. (Please take the time to check out Part 1, where I do my best to differentiate standards-referenced, standards-based, and competency-based grading.)

What does it really require to implement standards-based grading?

From what I can tell based on my conversations with competency-based schools across the country, the following are the major activities, structures, and practices that need to be in place before you introduce new grading policies and practices.

#1 Provide Additional Time and Instruction to Support Students Who are Not Yet Proficient

If you are going to commit to getting students to proficiency on all the standards for a grade level or a performance level within a course or a school year, you are going to have to be prepared for those students who are going to be “not yet proficient.” One piece of that is to have ways to provide “timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.” (That’s the fourth element of the working definition for competency-based education.)

Many schools in their first year of conversion expect after school or lunch time to suffice for teachers to be able to work with students. However, they quickly figure out that isn’t going to work and begin scheduling for Flex Hours each day. Noble High School has taken this the farthest with fine-tuned operations and multiple opportunities to make sure students are getting exactly the help they need every week. From what I can tell, it is impossible to do standards-based grading if you don’t have really strong mechanisms for providing additional instruction for students who are not yet proficient. (See The Learning Edge: Supporting Student Success in a Competency-Based Learning Environment.) (more…)

Highland Tech Charter School – Putting it All Together

November 24, 2014 by

This is the first post in a series on Highland Tech. Part 2 is Advice From Highland Tech StudentsIMG_0293

Student ownership of learning. Standards-based framework. Personalization. Performance assessments. Standards-based grading aligned with Bloom’s taxonomy. Inquiry-based learning. Project-based learning. New roles for educators.

Highland Tech Charter School (6-12) in Anchorage, AK is putting all these pieces together, but the process is not without its bumps. One staff person wondered, “Is HTC having an identity crisis?”

The pieces don’t all fit together smoothly…yet. The team at HTC is continuing to fine-tune a cohesive, personalized, mastery-based approach, where the size of the school (with 200 students and eleven teachers) is both an advantage and a limitation. They are easily able to work together collaboratively as a school, yet there are limitations in deploying resources to students with a wide range of academic and developmental needs (not to mention a wide range of educational expertise).

It didn’t feel to me like HTC was having an identity crisis. Instead, the different elements of the school are so well-developed they are pushing up against each other, requiring the staff to think strategically about how to integrate the elements as well as keep them in balance. (more…)

Developing a Growth Mindset at Fraser Public Schools

September 2, 2015 by

FraserThe following is a presentation made at Fraser Public Schools on September 2. Fraser has already invested in integrating technology into their classrooms and developing blended approaches to learning. They are now seeking to develop a competency-based infrastructure that will ensure students get the support they need.

This presentation explores what competency education is, examines how districts are developing their models, and takes a deeper dive into the new values and assumptions underlying personalized, competency-based systems and how they shape new practices. For those of you wanting to skip ahead of the definition, the section on districts starts at slide 10 and the section on the new values starts on slide 25.

Slide2

There are many ways to open the door to discussion of competency education. We could talk about why the traditional system doesn’t work or we could start with the classroom and expand into policy. Today, we’ll start with a bird’s-eye view of competency education and then go a bit deeper to visit some of the leading districts to find out what they are learning. We’ll wrap up with a look at the new set of values and assumptions that drive competency education.

Slide 17

Competency education is called different things in different states – ME and OR call it proficiency-based; CT calls it mastery-based; IA and NH call it competency-based. As soon as we update this map, we hear of another state taking a step forward. In June, it was Idaho and Ohio. I just heard that Nevada is starting a study group to learn more about it. It is spreading across the country because educators believe it is the best thing for kids.

I am confident that we are going in the right direction because many districts, without enabling state policy, are converting their schools to competency education. Examples include Lindsay in California, Warren and Springdale in Arkansas, Charleston in South Carolina, Henry and Fulton in Georgia, Freeport in Illinois, and Lake County in Florida.

Competency education has started in smaller districts in rural areas and inner ring suburbs. We think smaller districts are better positioned to make the change because it’s easier to engage community and easier to have more dialogue rather than resorting to memo/email for communication. (more…)

Briefing Papers

their grading systems around competency. More resources on competency-based grading can be found on the Competency-Based Pathways Wiki. Download Executive Summary Download Full Report U.S. State Policy Snapshot (map) Necessary…

New Haven Academy: Pedagogy Comes First

May 16, 2016 by

new haven academyThis is part of a series on mastery-based learning in Connecticut. See posts on New Haven Public Schools,Windsor Locks Public Schools, Naugatuck Public SchoolsSuperintendents Leading the Way in Connecticut, and New Haven Academy. Connecticut uses the term mastery-based learning, so that will be used instead of competency education within the series.

There is no mistaking New Haven Academy’s pedagogy and vision – it hangs from colorful banners above the school: Think Critically. Be Responsible. Get Involved. There is also loving attention to the social-emotional needs of students exemplified by the bulletin board in the main office:

Just remember it’s tough to enjoy life when you don’t like yourself. When you learn to succeed at being yourself, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying life more fully.

Don’t let the way another person treats you determine your worth.

Find something you like to do that you do well, and do it over and over.

Co-founders Greg Baldwin (principal) and Meredith Gavrin (program director) have an interesting story about how they came to the world of mastery-based learning. It’s a story shaped by how they operationalized the pedagogy at the center of the school and eventually came to the point where they had to make a full conversion to mastery-based learning, as grading and traditional practices of how students advance were just too out of sync with the rest of the school to ignore.

The good news – among the juniors who were the first class to use mastery-based grading, there is an increasing number of them achieving mastery in their courses. (more…)

Threshold Concept: Meeting Kids Where They Are

June 23, 2017 by

Courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

This is the twentieth-first article in a series leading up to the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. We are focusing on four key areas: equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy. (Learn more about the Summit here.) We released a series of draft papers in early June to begin addressing these issues. This article is adapted from Fit for Purpose: Taking the Long View on Systems Change and Policy to Support Competency Education. It is important to remember that all of these ideas can be further developed, revised, or combined – the papers are only a starting point for introducing these key issues and driving discussions at the Summit. We would love to hear your comments on which ideas are strong, which are wrong, and what might be missing.

David Hood’s “Paradigm of One” describes how the current model focuses on “one teacher, teaching one subject, to one class of one age, using one [textbook], at one pace, in one classroom, for one hour,” and describes this rut in which the traditional system is stuck.1 In a time-based factory-model education system, students move through grade levels with varying amounts of learning with recorded grades of A-F without ensuring mastery. This all but guarantees that students will have significant gaps in core knowledge when they move from one grade level to the next. These disparities grow over time. When different levels of expectations are held for different students, the disparities grow larger, wider and deeper.

New personalized learning environments that are competency-based and student-centered help teachers identify the strengths of individual students and help meet kids where they are. They include assessments for learning with structured feedback to pupils, setting individual learning targets, planning to support individual needs, using data to dialog and diagnose each student’s learning needs every day.

In our current, traditional educational system, there is a significant focus on old pedagogical models for delivering a one-size-fits-all lesson of grade-level content each day. The retrograde effects of accountability systems are perhaps most apparent in the challenges educators face across the United States to truly try to meet students where they are.

The research on how students learn examines how important it is to meet a student within their zone of proximal development, allow for productive struggle and design progressions effectively where learning hinges on successful prior learning. A student’s zone of proximal development is defined as the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help.2 We know that when students are able to address prior gaps in their learning, they can accelerate their learning dramatically. As such, educators need to be able to scaffold instruction at the appropriate level as well as offering the supports and resources depending on student needs when delivering instruction. If our old pedagogical approaches force content to be traditionally delivered through one-size-fits-all approaches within age-based grade levels, we are not truly meeting students where they are. How do we advance equity in a system that approaches it with sameness in pedagogy? Is it fundamental to create equity through a foundation that is competency-based to ensure every student reaches mastery?

Meeting students where they are requires a true fundamental shift of the learning environment to become learner-centered and to be organized around mastery-based learning progressions across a continuum over time with opportunities for in-depth teaching and learning based on each student’s goals and needs and providing extended learning opportunities and supports with flexibility. And, most importantly, competency-based systems require knowing where every student is academically and holistically and then making sure each student receives the instruction and support they need to build confidence, lifelong learning habits, knowledge, skills and competencies to be successful.

Advancing competency-based systems means meeting students where they are every day and engaging in a cycle of supporting learning academically, socially, emotionally and holistically. There are major challenges when students have moved through a time-based system with decent grades to find out when entering a competency-based educational model that they are several grade levels behind. How do we address these issues in the traditional system that leave students with major gaps in knowledge, skills and abilities, and a lack of preparedness based on the system’s focus on drilling students forward with time-based (not learning-based) progressions? (more…)

Casco Bay High School: The What and HOW of Learning

November 23, 2015 by
From the Casco Bay HS Website

From the Casco Bay HS Website

This post is part of the series Road Trip to Maine. This is the third of a four-part look at Casco Bay High School. Read Tips and Takeaways (Part 1), Learning as Exploration (Part 2), The What and HOW of Learning, and We Will Shape our School by our Learning (Part 4). 

Casco Bay High School in Portland has developed a strong standards-based grading system built upon several principles (below). It seems to me that it would be a good exercise for any and all schools to be able to identify the principles that drive their grading, reporting, and extra support/extra time policies. Can you imagine trying to do that for A-F, time-based systems? (more…)

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