#MTBoS30 Day 9: Grade Replacement vs. Standards Based Grading

So I took the weekend off from #mtbos30 but I did read some pretty good pieces, one of which was reflected on standards based grading being the best option for grading but they still weren’t happy with it. I’ve been doing it for 1.5 years and I’m also not super happy with it for a variety of reasons including:

  • My students are constantly losing their checklists so I constantly have to print off new copies and remind them of what their scores are for different topics
  • I don’t think I hit everything that is on my curriculum standards well enough or evenly enough on the assessments
  • Some students will get their sticker and then that skill/concept seems to disappear from their brains
  • Some students still aren’t even writing down guesses to problems to even attempt improving their grades

But I did like it because:

  • The population of students that I work with in particular often take more time and need to see/do problems in different ways before they get it
  • It gives the students the chance to show me that they’ve learned something

Earlier this semester I was told that I’m not allowed to use the concept-based grading/checklist system that Dan Meyer has used, and that I have to give unit tests; this didn’t sit well with me, because I think that my students are over-assessed and I didn’t want to go back to quiz corrections and test retakes. Then one of the other teachers in our department shared at a meeting what they started doing this year and I think it creates a happy medium.She calls this a grade-replacement policy.

Homework: Students complete homework as you see fit (she assigns problems nightly), you go over any questions students have the day they are due at the beginning of class, and then students take a “homework quiz”, which consists of four problems that are very similar to four problems from the homework. This is graded based on accuracy, but you could also include a completion grade if you wanted students to be able to turn homework in late. Students only get to make these up if they’re absent/tardy that day and there are no homework quiz retakes.

Quizzes: Students take 1-2 quizzes per unit. These can be whatever length and whatever type of problem is deemed necessary for the information they’ve learned so far in that unit. Students only get to make these up if they’re absent and there are no quiz retakes.

Tests: Students take a test at the end of each unit. Students that score higher on the test than they did on the quiz get their quiz grade replaced with their test grade. For instance, if a student scored a 65% on the unit quiz and then an 80% on the unit test, both their quiz and test grades would be an 80% in the gradebook. If you want to make sure you’re only replacing the quiz grade with questions relevant to that quiz, create an answer sheet that highlights which problems relate to the questions on the unit quiz and give students a subscore. Students only get to make up tests if they’re absent and there are no test retakes.

Benchmarks: Our district gives benchmarks around the end of each marking period for year-long SOL classes, so if yours doesn’t you’d have to make a benchmark test. The benchmark will need to have an answer sheet that organizes problems by unit (this seems helpful anyway to make sure your units are evenly covered on a benchmark…) and then students get subscores from each unit. If the student that scored an 80% on their unit test gets a 90% subscore for that unit on the benchmark, their unit test grade goes up to a 90% (the quiz grades do not change at this point).

This allows students to turn in assignments late, ask questions after a quiz/test, and reassess without giving them free range to do it whenever (of even if) they feel like it. It also means you don’t have to go back and do grade-change forms at the end of the year (if your school makes you do that). I still haven’t officially decided how or if I’m doing homework next year, but this gives me a good place to start I think.


A high school math teacher trying to help her students find the world and find math through math.

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