Episode #201: How Can I Use Standards Based Grading When Policies Are Limiting – A Math Mentoring Moment

Oct 3, 2022 | Podcast | 0 comments



In this episode we speak with Anna Clark all about how to fit a square peg in a round hole. Yes, we’re talking about standards based grading and rigid gradebook programs and policies.

Anna is just starting her second year and is currently teaching 8th grade. Together we develop a plan for her to take all of her formative assessment data she’s collected and fit it into her district grading program. Stick around so you can learn how too.  

This is another Math Mentoring Moment episode where we talk with a member of the Math Moment Maker Community who is working through problems of practice and together we brainstorm possible next steps and strategies to overcome them. 

You’ll Learn

  • How to blend your assessment and evaluation approach with a rigid district grading system; 
  • What really matters when assessing students; 
  • How you can shift the purpose of your gradebook; and, 
  • How you can calculate the final grade for a reporting system using standards based grading.
Start your school year off right by downloading the guide that you can save and print to share with colleagues during your next staff meeting, professional learning community meeting or just for your own reference!


Anna Clark: I want them to always be risk takers and try and give it their best effort the first time, so that they don't feel like I have to show them what to do, they can make a mistake and it's okay. So, with that, I know that standards-based grading is a really great way of doing this, of just having them focus on let's learn this, let's not just get a grade or get a mark and move on and it's the end of the world. But the struggle that I have is our district is not a standards-based grading district and we have very strict guidelines-

Jon Orr: In this episode, we speak with Anna Clark all about how to fit a square peg in a round hole. Yes, we're talking about standards-based grading and rigid gradebook programs and policies.

Kyle Pearce: Interesting, Jon. Anna is with us, and she's starting just her second year and is currently teaching 8th grade. Together, we develop a plan for her to take all of her formative assessment data she's been collecting and finding a way to fit it into her district grading program and policies, stick around so you can learn how, as well.

Jon Orr: This is another Math Mentoring Moment episode where we speak with a member of the Math Moment Maker community, a person just like you, who is working through problems of practice, and together, we brainstorm possible next steps and strategies to overcome them.

Kyle Pearce: All right, Jon, let's do this. Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I'm Kyle Pierce.

Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr. We are two math teachers from makemathmoments.com, who, together-

Kyle Pearce: With you, the community of Math Moment Makers worldwide who want to build and deliver problem-based math lessons that spark curiosity.

Jon Orr: Fuel sense making.

Kyle Pearce: And ignite those teacher moves. Welcome, my friends, to another Math Mentoring Moment episode. These are some of our favorite episodes, because we get to bring a fellow math educator, just like you, onto the show, and we get to shake that shoe and try to just shake that pebble right out of there. Today, we've got a really great conversation, that may have crossed your mind before, about standards-based grading and the district policies, or maybe even just the gradebook program that you're using. How do I take those two things, bring them together in a way that feels seamless and meaningful for my students and for my daily routine?

Jon Orr: What I loved about our conversation with Anna is just her eagerness to make this work for herself, and reaching out to us and being in her second year of teaching and already realizing that her grading policies had to shift and morph. Kyle, I think we've said it here on the podcast lots of times, but I think it wasn't until at least 10 years in for us where we were like, "Ah, this is just not jiving the way I need it to with the beliefs I've had and the changes I've made in my classroom lessons. I've now got to figure out a way how to morph this into something that is useful for the students and for me." Her doing it in her second year is amazing, so super excited for her, can't wait for her to continue her teaching journey, and really looking forward to checking in with her later.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, I love it, Jon. Something that really resonated with me, this was when she had filled out the application over at makemathmoments.com/mentor to come on and chat with us about this, she was mentioning in there, and this is right from that little blurb she had, she said, "Appreciate y'all and love everything you do. You're the reason I didn't give up on education after my first year." So, that comment right there, obviously, gives us that energy to continue doing this work. This is the work that, and I guess the help, that we wish we had along the way. So, so glad that we have some more new teachers coming out of pre-service, hopping right in there, and really looking to the internet, to podcasts like this one and this community, the Make Math Moments community, to help them along and help them, I guess, really make the changes that took you and I over a decade to make ourselves, or at least to get on that journey, so bravo to Anna and friends. I think you're going to love this conversation, so let's not waste any time, right, Jon? We're going to hop in.

Jon Orr: Let's do it. Hey there, Anna, thanks so much for joining us here on the Make Math Moments That Matter podcast. We are excited to chat with you, so thanks again.

Anna Clark: Hey. I'm so glad y'all could talk to me.

Kyle Pearce: Yes, absolutely. We are super excited to engage in another Math Mentoring Moment episode. I know that this episode's going to be coming out well after everyone's school years have begun, but Jon and I, actually ,are just in our second week of the new school year as we record this, so things are crazy in our world, I'm sure things are crazy in your world. I believe you started a little earlier than we did, but fill us in in and let us know, Anna, where are you coming to us from? Maybe give us a little bit of background on your teaching role, maybe how many years you've been in teaching, that sort of thing, just to give everyone a little bit of context here.

Anna Clark: So, I'm coming from Birmingham, Alabama area. We've been in school for, I guess, about six weeks now. This is only my second year teaching and I am teaching 8th grade math, which for us in Alabama, that's Pre-Algebra, and then I teach one advanced course that's Algebra 1, basically.

Kyle Pearce: Got it. Got it. Awesome.

Anna Clark: So, that's where I am.

Kyle Pearce: Super cool.

Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. Second-year teacher. Remember the-

Kyle Pearce: Congratulations for making it through the first.

Anna Clark: Thanks.

Kyle Pearce: That is the toughest one of all-

Jon Orr: It is.

Kyle Pearce: ... so congratulations to you.

Jon Orr: And to stick it out, to keep coming back, so amazing stuff. Anna, hey, we've got to ask you this, you've listened before to this podcast, so we ask everybody their Math Moment. So, fill us in on your Math Moment. When we say math class, what just pops into your mind as this memory that has just stuck with you all these years? Fill us in on the details, what is your Math Moment?

Anna Clark: So, I think of math class as three different stages in my life. All the way up until about 7th grade, I was always super good at math, made 100 on every test. If somebody saw the nerd in the class, it was me. And then I had some rough stuff go on in my life at home and I hit geometry and made my first C ever in my life. From there, all through the rest of high school, everything just went downhill and I felt like I never really got math ever again, because that memorization part of my brain, I guess, stopped working because of some personal stuff that happened. And then I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to teach yet, but I started in college with elementary education and then I started tutoring. I was like, "Well, I can at least tutor elementary schoolers," because I was good at elementary school math.
And then I realized I was actually better at teaching math than I was learning math, so I kept tutoring higher and higher grades, and I was getting better grades on my own tests by helping other people. So, I made it to college and had my first just introduction to an inquiry-based class and it happened to be geometry, which was the class that I had done horribly the first time I'd taken it. It was a very difficult way to learn math, for me, but it challenged me in the best ways. I went from just being good at math to falling in love with math to being, instead of trying to memorize all the proofs, I was proving them myself and it all stuck so much better. I had a 100 again in that class by the time I finished it. From that moment, I was like, "I'm just going to teach math." I changed my major, I went through all of the other inquiry-based math courses that I could before it became so high-level it was just straight social knowledge, just teaching. But that's my Math Moment, was that geometry class.

Jon Orr: Awesome.

Kyle Pearce: How cool is that? What an interesting story. So, to come from that, oftentimes it's an either/or, someone has either a really negative experience with math or maybe they what they felt was a positive experience. It sounds like yours felt positive, up to a point. I heard my own story in yours a bit there, in that kindergarten through grade seven journey, where the memorization was probably keeping you going. You mentioned something, too, though about how we had some things going on in your home life or in your personal life, some challenges, and then you came full circle and managed to not just walk away and say, "I'm not a math person, I can't do this," and never try it again, but manage to come out on top, which I feel is such a rare situation.
So, for you to come from a place of feeling good about it and then maybe not so great about it, and then revisiting it and looking at it in a different way, I've got to know, how, if you feel, did that impact or influence what you are doing as an educator with your students here in your second year?

Anna Clark: So, I realized just how detrimental just lecturing to people was and how that was only going to get 20 to 30% of my kids. Having started teaching just a year after the pandemic really took a toll everywhere. The kids came back to school, just unwilling to put in any work, because they've had, at least in my district, two free years where they were just given a pass. Nobody failed those two years, because why would we fail kids if we're having to teach them stuff at home? So, they came back with that attitude, "They're not going to fail me, so I'm not going to do anything," so that was difficult.
It became just a challenge of every single day, how am I going to get them to engage with the math themselves so that, one, they have to be engaged in order to learn it and, two, it actually sticks and it's not me just hitting those maybe 20 to 30 people that would get it with memorization and the other people that wouldn't get it immediately, it didn't come to them naturally, weren't putting in the effort anymore. So, I had to go past their lack of effort and spark curiosity.

Jon Orr: Anna, if you think about your classroom and you think about some of the effects, how would you describe how the kids are reacting to the lessons you've described? We might capture 20% if we lectured. Have you seen this change in kids attempting work? When you mentioned COVID, I think we all nodding our heads like, "Yeah, we've been teaching through that." COVID brought out bad habits or a loss of habits. We just lost some habits of things, we have to bring those back. So, I'm wondering when you implemented this style of teaching that you're hooked on to sparking curiosity, as well, what have you seen in the students to react to that style of lesson?

Anna Clark: So, my students that are good at memorizing will leave and say I'm the worst teacher ever, because they're finally being challenged. It's not just let me write something down, study it 500 times, and I'll remember it. But I did catch a few of them who are in my accelerated course, my advanced class. They've been told they're good at math their whole lives. I caught them one day last year, when they complained about why wouldn't I just teach? Well, about five minutes later they were ranting about how they didn't remember anything that they had learned ever in math class, ever. I was like, "Wait, so you're telling me that the way you want me to teach doesn't work?" I've caught them in that.
And then I've got other students that I've given them a hands-on, if you will, approach to algebra for the first time in their life, maybe they've seen a number line before. I realized when I was trying to help some of them with integers that some of them have never seen integers on a number line and that got me very worried. But anyways, so some of them are getting this for the first time and they're like, "Why do I like math now? What's different about your class?" They can't quite put a finger on it, other than they know they work in groups and they talk to each other a whole lot more, but they can't figure out why it just works in their brain now.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. I hope people who are listening who may have run into a similar challenge with the students who have been traditionally strong, because of memorization or because they haven't had to do much of the thinking, they've just done a lot of this mimicking, oftentimes they do push back, because it is harder. The reality is you're creating a productive struggle. As humans, we tend to not having struggle. I don't like struggle, but I know it's good for me, so it's one of those things. I mention it on an episode, I'm sure of it, where when I go to workshops, for example, and I'm participating, where it's not Jon or I leading the workshop and I'm actually the participant, as soon as they ask me to do something, I'm like, "Ugh, I don't want to," but then once I get going, you're drawn into it.
It's such an interesting mindset or maybe habit, it's maybe just a bad habit where we don't want to actually do that thinking, so it's great that you caught them there. It's also great that you didn't second guess, I guess, too badly where you wanted to revert to maybe more of a lecture style. Because I know that there's teachers who have been teaching for 20 years, 30 years, and when they make changes like you're trying to do, when students push back, they tend to go back really quickly. They don't want to get everybody upset and ruffle feathers, so that is huge. So, anyone who's listening, definitely consider those things when students don't necessarily enjoy or they push back and they say things like, "You're not teaching," or, "Why don't you just teach us the way everybody else does?"

Anna Clark: Why don't you just tell us what to do?

Kyle Pearce: Yes, exactly. That can really, really hinder your psychological mindset on where your lessons are going and whether you're doing the right thing for students, so good on you for continuing that journey with your students. So, I think we're getting closer to why we're on the line here today. I'm wondering, do you mind sharing with us what's on your mind lately? What is that pebble in your shoe that we might be able to shake out together as a group here?

Anna Clark: So, I'm trying to foster an environment that making mistakes is okay. I want them to always be risk takers and try and give it their best effort the first time, so that they don't feel like I have to show them what to do, they can make a mistake and it's okay. So, with that, I know that standards-based grading is a really great way of doing this, of just having them focus on let's learn this, let's not just get a grade or get a mark and move on and it's the end of the world. But the struggle that I have is our district is not a standards-based grading district. We have very strict guidelines for... They call them gold, silver, bronze.
Gold grades are 60% of your grade and they are tests and projects, silver grades are homeworks, quizzes, classworks, and then bronze grades are supposed to be what they call soft skills, so they get a grade for bringing their supplies to class and whatever. So, where I struggle is how can I do standards-based grading and really focus on this, other than just letting them retest on things, how can I find a loophole in this prescription to do what I would like to do?

Jon Orr: Have you tried anything yet? You've realized that you want to evaluate and assess with standards as the benchmarks, but you've got this rigid, "Put a mark in here, we've got to have categories that-"

Anna Clark: I have to have three tests, I have to have six... There's numbers I have to get.

Jon Orr: For sure, for sure. Have you dabbled yet, I'm curious to hear what you've done for your dabbling, or are you still just being like, "I haven't tried anything yet, because I'm waiting to see how it all fits together"? Let us know what your dabbling is so far.

Anna Clark: So, I've done one dabble, I guess. I read Building Thinking Classrooms this summer and just jumped all in with that, so I've loved that book and I've loved seeing all the different pieces that I've been able to pull in, even if some stuff isn't 100% what Peter would like. But I tried his walking around with a clipboard, basically, and assessing one student at a time, giving them check marks, and then using a code to say, "They got this in group work," I put a little G by their check mark or I put an X if they're like, "They can't do this, even if it's a group, even if I help them," I put a check mark and put an H if they need help. So, I'm keeping track of all of that, I just can't, I say can't... I haven't yet figured out how to translate that into a number and actually put it in a gradebook that parents are checking weekly and emailing me saying, "Why don't I have any grades in the past two weeks?"

Kyle Pearce: Just to clarify, I'm getting the sense that your gradebook is something that, pretty immediately, parents and students can see, so if you enter it in, they get immediate access to it or the visibility is there, so to speak.

Anna Clark: They get a notification.

Kyle Pearce: Look at that.

Anna Clark: Notifies their phone if I put a grade in.

Kyle Pearce: They're at the dinner table and they get the notification of little Jonny's test performance.

Anna Clark: Yep.

Kyle Pearce: Interesting.

Jon Orr: I'm just thinking about this prescribed system that you have and I'm thinking about the way that we've been doing our grading for assessment, greatly for assessment for growth, for the last few years. I'm curious about the actual mechanics of what you are working with when you're saying the system and you put into the gradebook. For example, could you create, if you wanted, now you're not going to go do this, but could you create 1,000 tests in that gradebook and put a mark for each one for the semester? Why I'm saying 1,000 is because I'm just trying to gauge how much flexibility you have in tests. You said 60% of their grade is calculated by tests and projects, but I'm wondering, could you just pump in a whack of them because there's no limit?

Anna Clark: Oh yeah.

Jon Orr: Every time, it's like, "I want to create a new test," and then, boom, there's a test in there and I can put marks in, that kind of thing? That's what I'm picturing.

Anna Clark: Yes. So, I can create whatever I want to, my principal, however, will say, "Why do you have this many things?" Because lots of teachers, math teachers, figured out the math behind it and realized they could change the percentages if they wanted to by putting stuff in. Because the percentages are automated by our learning system or whatever, so they figured out, "Well, if I just don't put any grades here-"

Jon Orr: Oh, I'll put five of these one things here and-

Anna Clark: Right. Or if I say, "This one is 50 points instead of 100 points." So, they told us, "You have to have this many, you have to make it out of 100 points."

Jon Orr: Yeah, I'm wondering if, and I'm sure since it's unlimited and you can make whatever you want in there, what are your thoughts on having a conversation with your administrator before you start dabbling some more with the system? Because I'm just picturing if you... Something that Kyle and I, we were talking with Tom Schimmer about assessment and standards-based grading. He had this great line that was a wake up call to everybody, but it was almost like, "Everyone's doing this, but you're not calling it, but you are, really." He said, "If you're not grading or assessing by standards, what the heck are we doing?"

Kyle Pearce: What are we grading anyway?

Jon Orr: Is the whole mark you showed up today and you get 10 marks, just because you were on time and you wrote your name? No, you're grading and you're assessing kids by how well they're doing on these standards. So, we are all doing that, it's just I think what happens is how we enter it in the system. So, I guess why I'm asking you questions about your system is because it's possible that you could enter, instead of Test 1 from Unit 1, Quiz 1, you could possibly start to rename these by standard, so you could say, instead of Test 1, you might say, "Look, in Unit 1, I have six overall standards or five overall standards that I'd like to assess for students, and I'd like that to be ongoing."
So, it's possible that while you're using your check marks, you're telling your parents, you're telling your administrators that these numbers I might put in the system, they might change over time, calculations are going to fluctuate because I'm seeing different things and I'm using different evidence. But in your 60%, you could have the overall standards listed out there. Now, that might be, by the end of the course, 25 or 20 or it might be 10. So, think about what are your outcomes that you want to assess, what are the things you want to give feedback on for your students? And then those could be the tests that are currently tests and then those numbers can change, and so, now, when you change them, you seen more evidence. You could do the same thing with quizzes and your classwork. So, you can still fit these things in, it's just how, I think, you look at what those numbers now mean.

Anna Clark: So, we're required to have three tests. I don't know that we're allowed to have a lot more than that. But one thing I realized that PowerSchool does is I can actually select standards when I make an assignment, there's a separate tab. So, I can still make it my 100-point test that it has to be, and then I go over to this next tab and it says, "Standards," then I click all the standards that align with the test, and then when I go to grade the test, I can put a letter grade. I can't put an 88, it could be A, B, C, D, F. So, I'm already using that, a little bit, for the bigger tests and quizzes that do grade multiple standards. I've already had a conversation with my parents and my students and there's a little button that I can push on when I enter the grade that says, "Incomplete," that says, "Look, your kid has a whole lot more potential for growth here. I'm putting incomplete, because I want you to know this is not where the grade is going to stay. We're going to keep working on this."

Kyle Pearce: Great.

Anna Clark: So, I think maybe that's the best I can do right now with the prescribed numbers and percentages and such.

Kyle Pearce: What I'm hearing is that your head is in the right place. So, when you say it's the best you can do, I'm hearing that you're doing a great job already, you already are considering these things and that's amazing. My second year of teaching, I was like, "How do I just grade these things and get them back?" I had no idea that there was another way to of look at it or think about things, so-

Jon Orr: Or use it for a particular purpose. It was just a number to put in a system and get back.

Kyle Pearce: I guess my curiosity is, and you might not have a straight answer for this, but I'm wondering, or maybe a full answer or a complete answer, but I'm wondering, if you were to sit down with your administration and you were to have a conversation, would they be for or against... You had mentioned there's pretty strict guidelines on how many tests you can have and those types of things. What would they say if you were going to, let's say, put in a mark for a test which is related to these standards and a student was to show you later that they are actually in a better place with their understanding related to those standards and that mark was to actually change?

Anna Clark: Well, I don't think they would even notice that would happen.

Kyle Pearce: But I guess if you were to tell them, "Hey, this is what I want to do," would they be okay with that idea, or would they be like, "Well, no, you've already put it in the system"? I guess the question I'm wondering is how dynamic can this gradebook be or how static is this book, how permanent is this book?

Anna Clark: I don't think they mind it changing, because I'm already doing that for students to have IEPs and 504s that get to retest anyways.

Kyle Pearce: Got it.

Anna Clark: Also, with the RTI that we do, they know that a lot of those kids that are on Tier 3 are going to have to retest anyways.

Kyle Pearce: Got it. I think there's two places that you can be, as well. So, you've got this formal grading system, it's going to have to be set up in a pretty particular way, however there's some flexibility, in terms of the grades when they get in there. My biggest concern in the back of my mind was, if you put a grade in there, is that cemented and therefore, nothing can change? It sounds like there is some flexibility. There's also, on the other side, too, that not all of your assessment data has to be reflected in the gradebook. Now, I'm not saying that it won't influence the gradebook, but what I mean is that you could have, let's say, another system more between you and students. That's what a gradebook's supposed to do, but sadly, it sounds like here, you're stuck in a particular system or approach, probably just for consistency's sake at the school or district level.
But over here, you could have things broken down a little bit more deeply, where students could still see, and it might not get recorded in the system, that grade in the system could change based on what's happening here. So, it could be something as simple as a checklist. It could be a digital checklist, whether it's a spreadsheet or Google Slides. I know Jon's been playing with Portfolio since Fresh Grade's being ripped away from him. They're closing down shops, so Jon's experimenting with some other methods. So, keeping your eyes and ears and mind open to the possibility that you could have something that is more standards-based grading in the traditional sense, or I guess in the more recent sense, and then what comes out of there is of your result that you want to put in the gradebook. When there's a big change, you modify the gradebook and then Mom and Dad get the notification at dinner time versus changing things every day, all day long.

Anna Clark: So, having an unofficial and then just altering it when it's a substantial enough change.

Kyle Pearce: To be honest, it's almost more official, in your world, but not in the district's world.

Jon Orr: That's what I was going to say. I'm just spitballing here, but if you had a page and that page, you could go by learning outcome or you could go by student and you could say, "This is so-and-so's page, here's four learning goals and where are they at this point?" You could have anecdotal notes that you've made, you could even just have stars that you're filling in and those stars have success criteria attached for that particular learning goal like, "If I see this, then I know that this person is at this place on the learning journey for that particular outcome," and it's an ongoing track, but sharing that with the student. Remember that the assessment is used for growth in the students. We want to capture evidence and data, like Kyle said, so that it can inform our instruction so that we can help the kid go on.
So, I like what Kyle suggested, it's like we can do all of this informally here and this has all my data. If somebody ever was like, "Well, why is that number like that?" You're like, "Look, this is my markbook that actually makes so much sense. I have my students, I have their outcomes, I have where they are on those outcomes. They can see where there are in their outcomes. Each of them has a page in their own binders that they can self-assess on those same outcomes." You have to do a little bit of setting up in advance. You map those outcomes for each other, but that would be your real gradebook. I think that it gets at the purpose of standards-based grading and assessment for growth, which is helping the students along this journey.

Anna Clark: I'm doing something similar to that. I've been really proud of our textbook because it has a lot of very curious explorations at the beginning and then it comes in later with all the vocab, so I've loved that. But it also, in the teacher edition, has rubrics for self-assessment that breaks down every single learning outcome for me and shows mild, medium, spicy problem that the kids can look at and say, "Can I do this?" So, I don't even have to make that for myself, it's just there. They just don't looking at it, because they don't understand the words, a lot of times-

Kyle Pearce: I love it.

Anna Clark: ... so I can alter that.

Kyle Pearce: It sounds, to me, and we'll turn it back to you to maybe get where your head's at now, but sometimes I find when we have conversations, not just assessment, but in other areas, as well, that educators are doing the important parts of an idea, but because it doesn't feel formal, because maybe it almost feels like you're taking all of this awesome standards-based work that we're doing over here and then we have to spit it out into this number or letter or something over here, that the work is lost, but really, that's the end goal. That's just a summary of what's happened. Is it perfect? It never will be. But really, the important work, in our mind, anyway, with standards-based grading, as Jon mentioned, is it's all about helping you figure out where students are, ensuring that they know where they are, or at least trying, like you said, sometimes they don't fully understand, you're trying to communicate that with them, but imagine if we weren't breaking down the learning goals, how much more difficult that would be.
So, it sounds like you've got a pretty good grasp on the standards-based piece. And then I think, for those at home who are listening, as well, there is never one right way. So, for you, you might choose to break things down into larger chunks, other people like to have really small chunks. You really have to go with what makes sense to you at the time. Just know that next year, five years from now, you're probably going to do it a little differently, because you're going to learn along the way and things will change for you, but ultimately-

Anna Clark: Especially as a second-year teacher.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, exactly. So, you've definitely made huge, huge shifts compared to where I feel so many educators are. Honestly, what a great opportunity for you, or an advantage you have, because you're not getting stuck in habits that maybe aren't as productive, so you're getting yourself into really good habits here. I think for you, it's going to be just continuing to tweak and, again, at the end of the day is constantly reflecting with yourself to go, "Why am I doing standards-based grading anyway?" Because I think sometimes we forget to ask ourself, "Why?"
We know it's good, maybe I read something about it or someone talked about it or you heard someone on the podcast speaking positively about it. But really, when it comes down to it, it's like, "Why am I doing it?" I'm doing it to make sure that I know what I need to teach and so that students know where they are and what they need to do to get better and, of course, we want to have the opportunity for them to show that growth along the way. Really, there's so many different ways that we can do that. Having a system that's set up in your school or your district, that doesn't have to be the thing that makes or breaks a successful standards-based approach to assessment.

Anna Clark: So, I think the biggest pebble is I'm doing all of the work on the one side, so what's the best way to translate that into what parents are used to seeing as a number? I'm keeping track of which standards they know and I'm keeping track, even in our online gradebook that parents can see, which standards from the state level... It won't let me break that into learning outcomes, but I can hit the giant standards and say that's what we're testing on. Is it something that I make every learning outcome a certain number of points or I weight them based on how I important they are?

Jon Orr: You can. What I would do is, first, you're going to want to set up that sex test criteria for those outcomes so you know what to look for. That's important, because that's different than to, say, just taking the test result and converting it into a number. We're looking for consistency on these particular skills. If a student is getting this pegged mark, it's because I've seen them demonstrate these things, which I've just decided that is, here in Ontario, we might call that a Level 4 type of work for that particular learning goal, that means you're towards mastery, you're demonstrating at the standard or above the standard. So, I think you're going to want to create that success criteria and the different levels, so that you can go, "This student is performing around here consistently, so that translates into this grade for that outcome," and then that outcome could then translate on your test, as well.
So, the hardest part is, or I guess not the hardest part, but I think you probably want to do some of that shifting of what the test means in your markbook, you're probably going to want to redesign it to say, "This is an outcome on this," because then you have more flexibility to say, "I'm putting that mark in," because otherwise, the test might capture all of these learning skills. If that's true, then you might be thinking about averaging those learning goals or those outcomes for that test, because that's what you would've done by a modular or a marked system anyway, by giving points or check marks per question and then averaging all of those and that's the test mark, so you could do that by outcome instead.

Kyle Pearce: I was going to say something similar to that, as well, Jon, where I used to have my Unit 1 test on two variable statistics. Really, what I was saying without realizing it was, "All the learning goals related to two variable statistics are under this umbrella." Back then, I never realized it, but I would make my tests out of about the same number of marks, but if one test was out 50 and one was out of 40 and I didn't weight them in the grading system, then that one was actually worth more, the one that had more marks on it. So, the reality is, is when you zoom out on all these learning goals, whether you like having maybe larger or maybe narrowing them down, is really looking at them and maybe even creating yourself almost a couple buckets, it could be three buckets, where there's like, "Hey, bucket number one is really important. These are our spicy learning goals," as you said before, "So I'm going to put these ones there. I want to make sure students really have that."
Here's a bucket that was kind of important, but maybe not so much, and then over here is maybe some of the learning goals that you're always scratching your head going, "Did we really need to do that learning goal? Who wrote the curriculum?" Everybody always has a couple of those in there. You could do something like that where you go, "Is it necessary for a student to be as strong in this learning goal as this one?" So, I think one of the big pieces, though, is earlier than later in a school year, whatever you decide to organize by in terms of waiting, you want to get that done ahead of time, just so you're feeling good about it and marks aren't changing later because you've varied the weight of them, but just figure out whatever that organizational system is going to be. for me, coming from a traditional grading system, I had my old tests, it would be easy for me to go, "Well, I used to have seven tests, so I'm going to keep seven chunks of my learning goals and I'm going to break them up that way."
Or if they say, "There's three tests that have to be in this grading system," you could look at all your learning goals and say, "Well, these learning goals are going to be chunked into Test 1 that I have to put into this grading system and these ones are going to go into Test 2." But ultimately, at the end of the day, as long as you feel comfortable, and really, it's about what matters most to you, what you think matters most in your course, I think you're going to come out ahead. Again, there's going to be no right or wrong way to do it, but at least you can feel good about having a reason for it. There's nothing worse than doing something and going, "I'm not really sure why I'm doing it this way." But if you can go, "Well, I think these ones are more beneficial, so I've weighted them more, whereas these ones are less so, so I've weighted them less," or whatever justification you have, you can feel good about that and be able to articulate it to other people.

Anna Clark: Sounds good.

Jon Orr: Awesome. What are you feeling? What do you think your next steps are going to be?

Anna Clark: So, we actually have open house on Thursday, so this was a very well-timed conversation. I guess it's just making sure my students are very clear on why I'm grading the way that I'm grading, and then Thursday night, especially when I see my parents for the first time in-person, explaining to them why you might get two or three different notifications for the same test if it's been a month since I put that test in. So, I'm glad to know that I'm on the right track and that I'm not unnecessarily banging my head against the wall with the prescribed grading system.

Jon Orr: It's always great to hash out or chat ideas with other educators just to feel where you are, feel what's happening, and get reconfirmation of what you believe.

Anna Clark: I'm the only person at my school that's trying to do it this way, so-

Kyle Pearce: Good on you. That is a hard role to have, is trying to innovate, trying to do things differently. Everybody else is doing something different, am I doing it right? Am I going to mess this up? Lots of weight on your shoulders, but honestly, I think your head's in the right place. One key thing for that conversation with students and parents for that open house is, again, always coming back to, again, "Why do I want standards-based grading for your son or daughter or child is because I want them to do as well as they possibly can in this course and I want to help them help themself succeed." I feel like when people hear you say that, right away, they're going, "This teacher isn't coming in here to try to make this hard or difficult or not give my child a good experience,"
I think right away, people go, "Oh, okay." Let them know, as well, "If you have concerns, if there's a challenge, if you're not sure or uncertain, definitely reach out to me and we can have a conversation." When they know that those communication lines are open, as well, I think it just lets everybody settle a little bit. People don't like change, it's very scary, but if you can help them feel comfortable and they go, "Wow, I can tell, just in this conversation, that this teacher cares about her students," then I think people are just much more open to trying something new.

Anna Clark: I said this to the kids on the very first day I had them, when I was explaining my syllabus and what this grading was going to look like, I said, "You're going to get a second chance to learn a lot of these topics, because if you make an F, that's more I didn't teach you the right stuff and I have more work to do, not you just have an F and that's going to label you for the rest of the school year." So, I told them, "From day one, the goal is we are going to learn as much as we physically can. If you get a bad mark, it's because I need to teach you more stuff and keep working with you on it."

Kyle Pearce: Love it.

Jon Orr: Awesome. Awesome stuff. Anna, we want to thank you for joining us here today and hashing out these ideas, and just remind you of a couple things. Inside the Academy, which we know that you are a member, we have an Assessment For Growth course, we talk about a lot of these ideas in there. Make sure you jump in there, go through a few things. We've got some suggestions, especially, how to use portfolios, as well, to help round things out. But super glad you joined us and I'm excited for your next year and excited to see some of these changes. I'm hoping we can revisit this conversation, maybe June, May, when the school year is ending, we can come back and follow up and see how things are going. What do you say?

Anna Clark: I'd love that.

Jon Orr: Amazing.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome. That's fantastic. Well, listen, being vulnerable is hard. You're in your second year, you're already hopping on the podcast. This is a message for everybody who's listening, if you haven't tried to hop on for a Mentoring Moment episode, head over to makemathmoments.com/mentor. We're totally loving these conversations. So, have yourself an awesome night, Anna, and good luck as you carry on into your second whole year.

Anna Clark: Thanks, guys. Y'all have a great school year.

Kyle Pearce: You too. Chat soon.

Anna Clark: Okay, bye.

Kyle Pearce: Well, Math Moment Makers, there you have it. There's Anna, who's doing some pretty awesome stuff, just going into year number two, as she had mentioned to us earlier, that the podcast and this community has really helped her along, because we know year number one, actually, for me, I remember it being years one through five, were really challenging, as you're just trying to figure so many things out, so it was great to have her come on the podcast. I got the sense, Jon, that she was realizing, and I hope she realizes and maybe when she re-listens to this episode, if she didn't get that sense, she's doing a lot of really great things already in her classroom. Just the way she's thinking about grading and assessing and trying to change things for students, I think is going to go a long way for her building rapport with students and parents, but also, just ensuring that more students realize their fullest math potential.

Jon Orr: You could see it that she had realized that she had been doing standards-based grading, she was using the assessment data, her evidence, what she's witnessed, to change her instruction, to help students grow, to push that forward. So, it was great for her to make that realization and go, "Oh, I can just try to fit that in over here now, because I've already got really the real great book, because I think that's what the great book that matters for kids." For her to make that realization was great in the conversation. What is something right now that you know you're doing well? We all know that we're doing something really great, what is that thing? Say it out loud. You know right now, you're doing something great and share it... I guess you don't have to share it with anyone, you just can say it like, "Hey, I do this pretty good in my classroom." We know you do.
If you want to share it with someone, pull someone aside, just say it, "Jon and Kyle told me to say it," so I'm saying it to you. But I think that's an important thing to say is just reflect, think about some of the things that we are doing well in our classrooms and what we're doing in our jobs on a regular basis. Not thinking that, I've got this and this and this that I'm not doing great at, reflect on some of the things that you are doing well.

Kyle Pearce: I love it. Hey, if you want to share it with the community, we are on social media @MakeMathMoments on all platforms, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. We even have a free private Facebook group, Math Moment Makers K-12, so head on over there. But you know what would really fill our hearts is if you took a moment, left us a line or two as a rating and review on your favorite podcasting platform. I know for me, it's Apple Podcasts. Jon, I think you've done the shift over to Spotify.

Jon Orr: Yeah, I'm all Spotify now.

Kyle Pearce: Well, look at you. We'll have to have a chat about that, I don't know why you've done it, but I'm still hanging out with Apple. But whatever podcast platform you are leveraging in order to listen to this show, maybe it's on YouTube, give us that one liner. A rating and review goes a long way, not only to filling our heart, but also ensuring that the crazy algorithms out there, the Google machine, will share this resource with more educators just like you.

Jon Orr: Hey, and Anna, when she shadowed with us here on this particular episode, she had reached out to us. She went over to make mathmoments.com/mentor, she filled out a form and said, "Hey, guys, I really want to hash this idea out," and we brought her on, we brought her on to have a conversation. We would love to speak with you about what pebble is rocking around in your shoe. If it's rolling in there, it's probably rolling in many other teacher's shoes. All you've got to do is head on over to makemathmoments.com/mentor, fill out a quick form. That sends us an email so that we can reach out to you and have a chat and work out what you're going through. We're here to support.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome stuff. Hey, friends, listen, show notes, links to resources, and complete transcripts to read from the web or download and take with you can be found over on the website. You can access all of the different episodes over on makemathmoments.com in the podcast area. This episode, you can get at makemathmoments.com/episode201, 201 episodes. But remember, on that home base, we've got all kinds of other awesome stuff, the framework, the 3-Part Framework Guidebook. You can grab all kinds of tip sheets, as well as over 50 full units of study that are all problem-based, have math talks, and full teacher guides over on the makemathmoments.com website. Well, my friends, until next time, I'm Kyle Pierce.

Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High fives for us. Oh, you thought I forgot, didn't you? And a high five for you.

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