Monday, June 24, 2013

Mastery/Standards Based Grading

Mastery based grading, what is it exactly? It's the idea that a students performance and level of proficiency is more than just a one time snapshot. Currently, the public school system follows a straightforward grading scale, where students earn points for homework, quizzes, tests, and tissue boxes. Tissue boxes? Did she just tissue boxes? Unfortunately, I did. Too often students grades are inflated through various extra credit opportunities--including donating a box of tissues--and do not accurately give a picture of what content a student has been able to master, or at what level.

In mastery based grading, content areas teachers and teams break down their subject matter into Big Ideas, also called Essential Ideas, or Competencies a my school. These ideas are founded on current state standards and CCSS, if applicable. Once the agreed upon Big Ideas have been created, teacher teams agree upon a mastery scale, which is typically a 0.0-4.0 grading scale indicating a students' level of mastery for that particular Big Idea. Inherently, mastery scales typically follow Bloom's taxonomy: knowledge and comprehension skills representing the low end, and synthesis, evaluation and creation representing the higher end. 

This month, all of the teachers at my school are working on refining both their competencies and their scales, as we are getting ready to expand our horizons and open a second campus. We only accept mastery starting at the 2.0 level of define, recall, identify, describe, etc... So our scales look a bit different than traditional Mastery Based Learning Scales
Template shown here from the Marzano Research Laboratory
Also, the way in which we run our math program, causes the math mastery scale to start at a 3.0 mastery level, which following a math taxonomy comes from procedures with connections. There is no point in being able to solve for x, if you have no idea what context you would be able to use it in. But I digress...

Once the abig a ideas and Scales have been out into place, it is time to implement a Mastery Based Grading inside of your classroom. Under this method of grading, each entry in a grade book is linked to a specific competency that the students are working on. Teacher gather these of formative assessments (writings, homework, discussions, quizzes, etc) and each one is given an individual grade based on the mastery scale. Students are then given feedback on their work (feedback is THE most important thing you can give we student to help them grow... But we will talk about that more another day) and can work to improve their overall mastery score for that Big Idea. After the formative assessments are collected and graded, teachers give a student an overall grade for that Big Idea. (Note: This is where we have some discrepancies, as some teachers average out the various formative assessments and some teachers take the highest and best. Again, is a topic for another day.) Students view their mastery scores and have the opportunity to work on them until they achieve the level of mastery that they want. Tat doesn't mean that students keep retaking the same test or rewriting the same papers or redoing the same projects, those things have already been assessed. Students, with teacher support, can come up with a different way to demonstrate their mastery.

So I am currently in the process of writing and revising scales for the competencies that I have come up with for my school. Using a combination of CCSS, the Michigan HSCE's, information from the myriad of books that I have in my room (many from Wiggins-McTighe, the Marzano Research Laboratory and NCTM), my colleagues and I have written competencies that best represent what our students need to be able to do in order to be successful in their current and post-secondary work. Speaking of which, I should get back to work.
Formated courtesy of a Coworker