I’m starting my 3rd year of Standards-Based Grading (SBG), and in short, I freaking love it. SBG has allowed me to increase the rigor of my assessments and increase student accountability at the same time. My parent-teacher conferences have laser-like focus, my feedback is more timely and effective, and my students demonstrate more of a growth mentality.
For the purposes of transparency to students/parents and ease of calculation, I use a 10-point scale, but I don’t write any numbers on the student’s paper the first time around, just qualitative feedback, and if on the second time, their score is lower than a 6, I just write an “R” (the actual numbers are viewable through our online grade report). It’s great, but students aren’t used to it, and some of their strategies that have made them “successful” in other classes no longer work in mine.
So to get them on board and change their mindsets, on our REAL first day of school (not freshman first day), while other teachers hammer away at syllabus, rules, expectations, consequences, etc., I have my kids break into groups of three and talk their way through four grading scenarios. I preface this by explicitly telling them not to give the answer they think I want, but to really think about what grades would be fair. After their small-group discussions, I bring them together as a class and we compare notes. It’s a great opportunity for me to practice their names (I walk around and introduce myself to everyone when they are in groups, then call on them flawlessly by name during the discussion — thanks, seating chart!), to introduce the norms for discussion without getting them lost in the syllabus OVERLOAD, and for kids to realize that talking in math class doesn’t have to be scary. And of course, I make sure to slot Futurama characters in as the protagonists.
There is a lot of disagreement usually, as well as the opportunity to dig deep into some interesting questions — “Does it matter that Fry didn’t learn the material in the same time-frame as Amy?”; “Who would you rather have as your financial advisor, Hermes or Zoidberg?”, “Why might Scruffy’s 92% be artificially high? Why might the 70% be artificially low?”, “For what classes might Hubert’s strategy be more effective than Leela’s?”
So if you’re looking for a way to introduce SBG, here’s a first-day discussion I have found to be effective. I hand the .doc out to students and then summarize the class results on the board using the notebook file (the last page is to show how each situation would actually be graded under my system). Feel free to take and modify for your own purposes.