Episode #273: Navigating the Blend: Unifying Grades in Standards-Based Grading – A Math Mentoring Moment

Feb 19, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



Episode Summary:

Explore the often unspoken struggles that even seasoned math teachers encounter when grappling with concepts in middle and high school grades. Gain insights into the power of anecdotal assessments for both understanding students and refining your own assessment practices. Discover practical approaches to implementing standards-based grading without getting lost in individual grades, and unravel the true purpose behind assigning grades. In this Mentoring Moment episode we bring back Nicholas Rhodes to continue exploring his pebbles in Standards Based Grading. 

This is another Math Mentoring Moment episode where we chat with a teacher like you who is working through some problems of practice and together we brainstorm ways to overcome them. 

What You’ll Learn:

  • How even math teachers can still struggle to conceptually understand some of the mathematics we commonly share in middle and high school grades;
  • Why anecdotally assessing where you believe students might be can be helpful to assess your own assessment practices;
  • What is the best approach to attempting standards based grading without getting mixed up in all of the individual “grades”
  • The true purpose of assigning grades; 
  • How we can redesign evaluations and assessments;

Attention District Math Leaders:

How are you ensuring that you support those educators who need a nudge to spark a focus on growing their pedagogical-content knowledge? 

What about opportunities for those who are eager and willing to elevate their practice, but do not have the support? 

Book a call with our District Improvement Program Team to learn how we can not only help you craft, refine and implement your district math learning goals, but also provide all of the professional learning supports your educators need to grow at the speed of their learning. 

Book a short conversation with our team now


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00;00;00;06 – 00;00;22;17
Nicholas Rhodes
And then next to each name, quickly put down a grade. You look at the kids name, put the grade down. Do it very quickly for all your students. Go look at your grade book and see what their overall grades are for your course. And he said, if your scores are nowhere near the scores you gave them when you quickly went down that list.

00;00;22;19 – 00;00;51;11
Kyle Pearce
Hey, hey. Their math moment makers in this, where are they now? Math Mentoring moment episode. We bring back an oldie but goodie. No, he’s not old. He’s a goodie, though. It’s Nicholas Rhodes coming back. He was with us a couple of years ago from Pittsburgh. He was teaching in an online school, and when he came to us last time, he had some challenges around different problems in his online school.

00;00;51;11 – 00;01;17;09
Kyle Pearce
But this time he’s back to shake out another pebble. And he’s talking about standard space grading. And in particular, what he’d like to know is how do I blend all of my grades together? Like now that I’m grading by the standard, by individual standards, how do I take all of those grades and then blend them together when I’m using those standards based grading practices?

00;01;17;11 – 00;01;36;06
Jon Orr
Yeah. Stick around, cause we’re gonna answer that question by the end of the episode. We’re also going to talk about why, anecdotally, assessing students and where you believe they are on their journey can actually strengthen your own practices. We’re going to talk about the true purpose of assessment and why we need to find that for ourselves so that students can grow.

00;01;36;07 – 00;01;43;17
Jon Orr
And we’re also going to look at how you can redesign your evaluations so that their assessments. Let’s go.

00;01;43;19 – 00;02;01;27
Kyle Pearce
Oh, welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pierce.

00;02;01;27 – 00;02;04;20
Jon Orr
And I’m John or we are from make math moments dot com.

00;02;04;22 – 00;02;14;13
Kyle Pearce
This is the only podcast that coaches you through a six step plan to grow your mathematics program whether at the classroom level or at the district level.

00;02;14;13 – 00;02;29;28
Jon Orr
And we do that by helping you cultivate and foster your mathematics program a strong, healthy and balanced tree. So if you master those six parts of an effective math program, the impact that you’re going to be doing with your teachers or with the district leaders you serve will grow and reach far and wide.

00;02;30;01 – 00;02;45;00
Kyle Pearce
Every week you’ll get the insight you need to stop feeling overwhelmed, gain back your confidence and get back to enjoying the planning and facilitating of your mathematics program for the students or educators that you serve.

00;02;45;02 – 00;03;05;29
Jon Orr
All right, let’s go. Hey there, Nick. Welcome back to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. We were just chatting before we hit record. It’s been a couple of years. We had you back on episode 138. Oh, I think we recorded that in 2020. We’ve Got You Back is now December 2023. So that’s like I think officially about three years ago now.

00;03;05;29 – 00;03;25;12
Jon Orr
But back then, Nick, we talked all about, I think like assessment practices, we talked about digital learning and that was also probably in the forefront of everyone’s, I think you were and maybe your fill us in. You were working at one of the largest cyber schools in America down in Pittsburgh. So welcome back, Nick. We are glad to have you back.

00;03;25;12 – 00;03;31;00
Jon Orr
And fill us in a little bit. What’s different? What’s new? Why are you still in Pittsburgh? Fill us in on the details, Nick.

00;03;31;02 – 00;03;42;01
Nicholas Rhodes
Yeah, so thanks for having me back for round two. I know the last time we spoke, I still think I hold the title for the longest podcast episode to date.

00;03;42;03 – 00;03;42;08
Kyle Pearce

00;03;42;09 – 00;03;42;26
Jon Orr
It’s awesome.

00;03;42;26 – 00;03;48;05
Nicholas Rhodes
Hour and 34 minutes, I think it was. And so today I’ll be kind.

00;03;48;08 – 00;03;49;26
Kyle Pearce
And you’ll only go 2 hours this time.

00;03;50;03 – 00;03;53;02
Nicholas Rhodes
Oh, no, Let’s see that. So. So yeah, I.

00;03;53;07 – 00;03;53;17
Kyle Pearce
Got them.

00;03;53;17 – 00;04;23;04
Nicholas Rhodes
Off. Yeah, yeah, right. So in Pittsburgh I am still teaching at the same cyber school and actually last time we spoke I was teaching algebra one and business math, and now I’m strictly just teaching Algebra one A and one B, So our school about two years ago decided to split up the algebra course into two years just to be able to deep take more a deep dive into the concepts, which I was a huge fan of.

00;04;23;04 – 00;04;43;11
Nicholas Rhodes
So when they offered me to teach those 181b sections, I was really, really excited. So I felt like I could really take my time with the kids and we could do pretty much everything that I want to do with problem based lessons. So that was a huge change for me from last time we spoke and I do have a good story to share.

00;04;43;11 – 00;05;06;09
Nicholas Rhodes
I know last time I spoke with you, I was sharing a moment that was not so good from my experiences, but I did have a win recently with my own child. She is ten years old and she dislikes math. People would think, Well, you’re a math teacher. You should read a lot of things. How you think So? And she is the type of student that if she doesn’t get it right away, she gives up.

00;05;06;11 – 00;05;34;15
Nicholas Rhodes
And especially being in a brick and mortar setting that she’s in, seeing her friends, being able to answer math questions correctly, quickly, she feels like she can’t do it, that she’s not good enough to be a good math student. So she came home and I got a whiteboard behind me and we use it a lot, the whiteboards. And I think what changed for her is I started to show her visually how math works with some of the concepts that she was learning.

00;05;34;15 – 00;05;57;27
Nicholas Rhodes
I think she was trying to memorize the algorithms and was not understanding why they were working. And to be honest with you, I am still struggling as a math teacher of what now 13 years, trying to figure out why these algorithms work. I haven’t seen any books that say like this works because of that and it was very difficult for me to help her.

00;05;57;27 – 00;06;29;07
Nicholas Rhodes
But I did come across one topic that we were working on, and it was something that she started working on this year in fourth grade, which is long Division Divisor. A single digit dividend is double digit. So I explored James tangents, exploding dots, and we did it in the Math Icon website. And by doing that, I was able to show her how regrouping relates to the algorithm of dividing, bringing the carrying this and the remainder at the end.

00;06;29;08 – 00;06;51;14
Nicholas Rhodes
She had no idea what the remainder actually meant. And so I told her, Listen, there’s one dot that we cannot put in a group. It’s like left out. And she didn’t see that until we’re using those exploding dots, just being able to go, Oh my gosh, 110 is equal to ten ones. She already knew that with ten blocks, but she never saw it explode with dots so big for her.

00;06;51;14 – 00;07;12;15
Nicholas Rhodes
She was mesmerized by that. And I was able to help her visually be able to divide and then relate it to the algorithm. And she felt so much better. And then recently we were working on prime factor circles and math again, because she didn’t know what a factor was. So we are playing around with the factor circles and the colors and all that, and it wound up being a really good lesson.

00;07;12;16 – 00;07;34;00
Nicholas Rhodes
She really enjoyed it. I saw her on my computer clicking around, exploring, and I’m thinking to myself, Wow, actually this exploring stuff is so important for development and for enjoyment of mathematics. And for the first time I felt like her and I were clicking and she left the room a couple of hours ago and she told me, Dad, thank you for helping me.

00;07;34;00 – 00;07;38;19
Nicholas Rhodes
I feel really good about this. And it was a super cool, a really good story. Yeah. Like you just.

00;07;38;19 – 00;07;39;06
Kyle Pearce
Had us.

00;07;39;06 – 00;07;39;19
Nicholas Rhodes

00;07;39;24 – 00;08;11;00
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, for sure. That’s a massive win. And you said a few things there that I think is worth sort of just kind of rubberstamping here is just this idea around, especially in high school. There are so many things that we routinely teach in high school mathematics in the high school math curriculum that we all learn through procedure, and that the vast majority, including those who taught us, probably didn’t really understand sort of how they came to be, how some of these algorithms came to be, the steps, the procedures.

00;08;11;03 – 00;08;29;05
Kyle Pearce
And if you can roll all the way back into the middle grades and even into some of the upper elementary grades, and there’s some things that we’ve just always done. And the easy one I bring up all the time is dividing fractions. It’s one of those things that some people can explain it one way conceptually, but that’s not even that’s not true conceptual understanding.

00;08;29;05 – 00;08;48;02
Kyle Pearce
You had mentioned that your daughter understood with base ten blocks, but it was almost like needed this other model, this other mental model to sort of click for her. And it, it could be simply that now she’s seeing it in another view. Not that the other way didn’t help. Maybe that did help, but it was like putting them together.

00;08;48;10 – 00;09;12;23
Kyle Pearce
They’re building off of each other. They’re connecting, right? So when we talk about multiple representations, it’s not about kids having all these different representations just so that they know them for the sake of knowing them. It’s that it actually helps them to build the logical sort of schema in their mind to understand why things are working right. And sometimes for certain kids, certain things are going to sort of click or they’ll have that epiphany.

00;09;12;23 – 00;09;33;14
Kyle Pearce
And for other students it might be something different. And then there’s other students still that were like me that I never asked why, and I just memorized it and I didn’t really ever understand. So you brought up a lot of things there, and it’s really awesome that you have this opportunity to kind of share with your child. I know with my daughter in particular, she’s capable in mathematics.

00;09;33;14 – 00;09;51;26
Kyle Pearce
It’s not something that I think she feels super confident in. And we have some similar experiences like you’ve described. And I think as math teachers, we sort of put this pressure on ourselves like they should. It’s like on us if they don’t enjoy it, then it’s like we did something wrong, right? And sometimes it just means, hey, we’ve got to empathize with them.

00;09;51;26 – 00;10;09;24
Kyle Pearce
We’ve got to find different ways that might work for them, just like we need to with our students. So awesome. Awesome moment to share with us here. I want to dig right in. I know last time we were talking about all kinds of things were talking about DES modes and technology, and we’re talking about observations, conversations and products.

00;10;09;24 – 00;10;26;22
Kyle Pearce
I’m curious, how’s things going right now? And I guess most importantly, I think what’s always most interesting for those who are listening is what are you working on right now? What’s that pebble in your shoe that’s kind of kicking around that you’re going, Geez, I just want to shake this thing out?

00;10;26;24 – 00;11;03;11
Nicholas Rhodes
Yeah, for sure. So we talked about last time, I still have that pebble. The difference is, it’s that it’s not between my toes anymore. It was really annoying. It’s kind of like moved to the side of my foot. It’s like, still there, but it’s not the biggest problem. I think I’ve been working through a couple of different things and one of the things I thought about after we had chatted and it was around that about a month after we talked, I did this little exercise and this idea came from Tom Shimmer, which I know you guys have spoken to many times.

00;11;03;18 – 00;11;27;14
Nicholas Rhodes
And on his podcast I listened to, he mentioned a quick little exercise that you could do that would gauge how well your assessment practices are. And it was basically take a roster of students and then next to each name, quickly put down a grade. You look at the kid’s name, put the grade down, do it very quickly for all your students.

00;11;27;16 – 00;11;42;23
Nicholas Rhodes
Go look at your grade book and see what their overall grades are for your course. And he said, if your scores are nowhere near the scores you gave them when you went down that list, you need to rethink your assessment practices.

00;11;42;23 – 00;11;47;17
Jon Orr
Yeah, there’s a disconnect there, right? This is what I think they are from my observations. But this is what they’re getting on paper.

00;11;47;20 – 00;12;08;20
Nicholas Rhodes
Yes. So it was like a quick little thing I could do and I’d be like, Oh my gosh, I just realized that most of my kids, when I put the grade down, actually the initial score I gave them quickly, those were a lot higher than what they actually scored in the grade book. And I was concerned and it really came down to a couple of things.

00;12;08;20 – 00;12;34;01
Nicholas Rhodes
Number one, students weren’t turning in their assignments, so that was one thing. And they realized, okay, well, that’s getting their assignments and what am I going to do to gauge their understanding? And it was difficult because there were so many kids that weren’t turning assignments. And so it became very, very challenging for me to find time to talk to each kid individually, either during teacher office hours or during class while everybody else is working on something else.

00;12;34;01 – 00;13;01;23
Nicholas Rhodes
It was just very, very difficult. So I started thinking on like, how am I going to do this in the future? And we talked about how I can use decimals to assess the students using their progress, seeing where they’re at, maybe using their scores on practice, set questions, whatever it might have been, it became overwhelming. So I kind of like just put it on the back burner temporarily and just really wanted to take the summer to think about for this upcoming year what I was going to do differently.

00;13;01;26 – 00;13;24;29
Nicholas Rhodes
And as you all know, I’m fans of decimals and I decided to actually purchase licenses to get the curriculum. That includes all of the assessments and the rubrics that go with them, just so I could use something to get me started over again. I feel like I needs a restart and just start from somewhere else and then kind of maybe morph into something later on.

00;13;24;29 – 00;13;47;11
Nicholas Rhodes
So currently I’m using the DES most curriculum and their assessments to be able to give scores on unit assessments by using a rubric out of it’s called stairs based grading. It’s more like going through the questions, giving a score from 0 to 4 and then averaging out somehow using the most appropriate measure of center to record as their overall grade.

00;13;47;13 – 00;14;12;08
Nicholas Rhodes
So that’s kind of like where I’m at. But I think the issue that I’m having right now is that the unit assessments, they’re covering multiple concepts so kids can solve equations and they’re getting fours on those types of problems. But when it comes to constructing an equation or writing an algebraic equation to represent a scenario, they’re not scoring fours, they’re getting ones and twos.

00;14;12;11 – 00;14;28;29
Nicholas Rhodes
So when you go to average them out, it could be a three. And then I feel like, well, they shouldn’t get a three out of four overall because they didn’t master this piece, but they mastered that piece. And I think that’s kind of where I’m at right now, and I don’t know how to separate the two.

00;14;29;02 – 00;14;54;04
Jon Orr
Gotcha. So let me state what I think. And I’ve been in your situation. I think so. Let me state what I what I think is it’s almost like when you think about a progression of skills that live inside a unit or live inside a concept or web, they’re all connected skills or connected ideas. You’re thinking right now it looks like you’re averaging you’re getting a grade per skill, which lots of folks are going to say That’s standards based grading.

00;14;54;04 – 00;15;12;15
Jon Orr
You’re giving a grade per skill. We’re assessing. We’re evaluating and assessing based off the standard. And so these standards are very itemized. They’re very detailed in saying this and this one and this one. I can do this, I can do this, I can do this. And then you’re saying, I’m looking at all of those and I’m averaging all of those together.

00;15;12;15 – 00;15;47;19
Jon Orr
But what I’m hearing you say is some are weighted differently than others right now. You’re weighting them all the same and you’re now saying, hey, wait a minute, should I wait them all the same? Or should I decide there are benchmarks or, hey, if I got past this benchmark on like these skills are kind of here and then these skills are here, If I get past this benchmark that allows us to have this type of grade, but we haven’t got past this benchmark consistently, so that average might not play out anymore.

00;15;47;19 – 00;15;57;24
Jon Orr
So I’m hearing your struggle is like the average, or do I have to set up some other system that says headway benchmarks or do I have this hierarchy inside the unit?

00;15;57;27 – 00;16;32;16
Nicholas Rhodes
It’s not by standards. I guess it’s more like of a learning objective, which there could be several under a learning goal. So last time we spoke, we talked about possibly having sat the great book up for learning goals like Running Go one and they’d be main learning goals not specific, but like general goals to achieve. So that has been still a struggle, is trying to figure out in your web what all these ideas fit within that learning goal and how to record that one grade for that learning goal has been still kind of because there’s most is doing it differently.

00;16;32;16 – 00;16;53;20
Nicholas Rhodes
But they have their own system and it’s a brand new the assessment tool that they have and their assessments are kind of a new thing. And I think as being a DES most educator, we are still trying to figure out how to best assess students with their system, with other educators, like we’re talking about it, trying to work through some of the problems of practice there.

00;16;53;22 – 00;17;16;01
Nicholas Rhodes
But right now in all of it, you see my grade book, I have it open over here to what I’m struggling with, but it’s got multiple questions in there, all hitting different assessments for Unit one and unit one. It’s about algebraic expressions, solving equations, writing equations, all that’s lumped into one unit. So when you’re looking at the rubric and you’re scoring them, you have all these scores.

00;17;16;04 – 00;17;18;17
Nicholas Rhodes
But now what do you do with them? That’s the challenge.

00;17;18;19 – 00;17;48;22
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, definitely. And there is no, as John had mentioned, there is no say one way or right way. But I do think if we look back to what you had referenced regarding Tom Shimmers work. Right. And in terms of this idea of where do you peg students at, I think you can almost do this on a we’ll call it a smaller scale because like he’s saying, hey, look at what grade is in the grade book and then just sort of pick a grade like that’s at a high level, right?

00;17;48;22 – 00;18;16;19
Kyle Pearce
That’s like across everything that you’ve observed and that you understand and know to be true about that. Student We can do that at a on a smaller scale on that assessment by each individual question, really trying to get to which learning goal or learning target or standard or however you choose to kind of chop up the standards in your particular course, be it algebra one, whatever it is.

00;18;16;21 – 00;18;45;14
Kyle Pearce
And as you do that and you go on this particular assessment, there’s X number of problems that are related to this standard. There’s X number of problems related to this one. And really what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to sort of figure out where they’re at. And then also what is important for us to do as educators is to look at the different standards and sort of get a sense of which ones are more important and which ones are kind of like pushing the ceiling up a little bit.

00;18;45;14 – 00;19;09;26
Kyle Pearce
Right. So the example you gave is great because solving equations is important. Creating equations is also important, but I would argue that it requires a lot more understanding, it requires a lot more conceptual understanding. You really have to master and understand what is going on here in order to be able to create an equation and actually make sense of it.

00;19;09;26 – 00;19;31;03
Kyle Pearce
Like typically what you’re doing is you’re taking some sort of context or a scenario, and now you’re trying to symbolize it. Now you’re trying to bring it into the abstract, solving an equation. I could do it by memorizing some steps and still managed to get an answer. So the question then becomes as, what’s the weight of that? How important is that standard for the work that we’re doing now?

00;19;31;06 – 00;19;53;06
Kyle Pearce
How important is that standard for, say, this particular course as a whole? And where they need to go next? And how do I want to sort of quote unquote weight that? So it’s not necessarily that you’re just taking all the scores and averaging them all out. I mean, you could do that. That’s what some people would do because it feels like the right thing to do.

00;19;53;08 – 00;20;20;02
Kyle Pearce
But in reality, it really comes down to am I picking this question? Does this question really push the ceiling up here? And is that actually not the most important thing? And now that’s the hard part for us as educators. We have to make that judgment, right? We have to come in there and go what really matters here and if it does really matter in a students really struggling with it, then I have to go, what am I going to do about it now?

00;20;20;03 – 00;20;35;08
Kyle Pearce
Because that’s probably the more important question than, say, what the average is or whatever the score is on the assessment as a whole. But more or less, what’s it tell me as the educator, if it’s important and I want to wait it a lot, then maybe the grade has to come down a little further or maybe the opposite.

00;20;35;08 – 00;20;58;25
Kyle Pearce
It’s not weighted is important. The grade might go up a little bit and you’re okay to move on, even though maybe there’s not 100% clarity with that idea. I think it really hinges on how important is that idea and how much weight do I want to give that thing in sort of shifting the overall grade for that assessment or that unit or maybe even that grade for the report card?

00;20;58;25 – 00;20;59;11
Kyle Pearce

00;20;59;13 – 00;21;25;09
Jon Orr
I want to add one thing there, Kyle, is also when you’re kind of thinking about how to structure that, think about what is the purpose of throwing the grade down at that particular point. And I like to think about like, what is the true purpose of the assessments that we’re giving our students? Because if you think about it and go like, if I put this number down here, what am I helping the students know and do about that particular group of whatever?

00;21;25;09 – 00;21;43;26
Jon Orr
If you’ve averaged it, if I put a number here, do they know? Does it tell them a piece of feedback that they can actually go? That’s why I have that and this is what I get to do next, because that’s really the true purpose of standards based grading, right, is to go, I’m here on this skill where do I go next?

00;21;43;29 – 00;22;03;22
Jon Orr
We want them to have that information. So sometimes you want to think about what Kyle is saying is this thing about that hierarchy, but also think about success criteria. What does it mean to get this high, this set of skills or on this objective or on this learning goal? And if I do score a student on that learning goal for now, right.

00;22;03;22 – 00;22;21;05
Jon Orr
It’s like a snapshot of where they are right now. Does it convey information to them so that they know how to improve and what they can do next? So that’s what I always kind of resort back into. Sometimes when you’re assigning a grade, when you’re trying to average, you think of Tom Shimmer. It’s like, okay, I’m going out.

00;22;21;06 – 00;22;36;29
Jon Orr
Where have I observed where they should be? What have I seen on paper? What that they should be If I give them this grade, does it mean that they don’t need to improve on this, this in this? Or if I think they need to improve on this, this and this, I should give them this grade because now I’m telling them they should improve on this.

00;22;36;29 – 00;22;37;22
Jon Orr
Listen, this.

00;22;37;25 – 00;23;12;16
Nicholas Rhodes
It’s funny you said that because actually I’ve been leaving feedback for students on their assessment questions. And like Kyle mentioned, I have kind of looked through and decided which questions I think are most important as a whole compared to the entire assessment. And before the kids get their scores, I would hold them and I provide that feedback. First, I say, Hey kids, before you, unless they get 100%, if they get a perfect score, I tell them, like I said, a note in class or a present note in the grade book or something, but they don’t get a perfect score.

00;23;12;19 – 00;23;34;11
Nicholas Rhodes
I don’t tell them what they got until they’ve addressed the feedback I left. So I think you mentioned them wrong that if students see their score, they’re are most likely not to address feedback. If they’ve just passed, they got that 60%. They’re like, Well, I did what I had to do to get to that 60%. So it doesn’t matter what Mr. Rhodes says.

00;23;34;13 – 00;23;54;09
Nicholas Rhodes
If I don’t say that, if I just say, Hey, I addressed the feedback and then I’ll let you know what your score is. The kids are probably more than likely to do it. It’s been working so far last couple of weeks and withholding their scores and getting a lot more kids to address. The feedback may not be right, but at least I can update my individual scores on my rubric and go, okay.

00;23;54;09 – 00;24;11;17
Nicholas Rhodes
The kid went from a one on this question to a three. We went from beginning to approaching just by addressing that feedback. Now it’s my choice. Do I want them to go to level four or am I comfortable with them being at the approaching stage? Because ideally I want all my kids to be at the meeting or exceeding stage.

00;24;11;19 – 00;24;26;07
Nicholas Rhodes
But realistically, do I have the time to even feedback all those kids to get to that point? And I think I need to figure out what’s most important and just trying to get the kids to grow. If I can get the kids to grow that success. I think your.

00;24;26;07 – 00;24;27;24
Jon Orr
Last success, fabulous.

00;24;28;00 – 00;24;35;21
Nicholas Rhodes
Guest on here, was about talking about what success means and mentioning that growth, any growth can absolutely be.

00;24;35;21 – 00;24;57;04
Kyle Pearce
Success. And you said so many things that I think are really important to kind of highlight here. So first of all, yeah, showing the grade and the feedback, typically what happens is students kind of look at the grade, especially if there isn’t an incentive, right? If there’s no incentive to improve it, students may not even read the feedback by giving them the feedback.

00;24;57;04 – 00;25;16;05
Kyle Pearce
What you’re kind of doing, like what they’re doing is they’re kind of going like, Well, I better read the feedback so I can kind of guess about where I’m at. So there’s like a little bit of work there. Now, the other piece, though, getting them to address it I think is really key. And also deciding what’s important is really key because you just nailed it.

00;25;16;05 – 00;25;35;12
Kyle Pearce
It’s like if it’s a lot of work for you to feedback all the stuff on all the kids tests. The other part we have to also think about is how likely is it for a student? Let’s pick a student who did poorly on the assessment. If I feedback everything right. Sometimes we do that because we’re like, Well, it’s my job.

00;25;35;12 – 00;25;52;18
Kyle Pearce
I need to help them and I’m going to feedback everything. But it could be more beneficial for you to feedback one idea, right? Not only is it going to save you time, but you pick the lowest hanging fruit. You address one idea when they submit it, then you feedback another, right? And now it’s like, Here’s the next one I want you to look at.

00;25;52;18 – 00;26;12;17
Kyle Pearce
So if you think about that, we talk about breadcrumbs a lot, especially with our district partners that we work with, about slowly kind of releasing information out to the teachers you’re working with, for example, in trying to get them on board this breadcrumb idea is really helpful for students too, because if I’m a student, I’m already know that I did poorly, right?

00;26;12;17 – 00;26;31;16
Kyle Pearce
So they probably knew that when they handed the test in, let alone without seeing the score they already knew and didn’t feel confident. They get it back. And let’s say they get a poor grade. Let’s say it’s a 60, right? 60. Hey, they pass, but it’s still not a great mark. That means like 40% of this test is something that I’m going to have to improve.

00;26;31;18 – 00;26;48;18
Kyle Pearce
Well, if I give it all at once, there’s more chance that they’re going to be like, you know, what am I ever going to get there? Whereas if I give them one piece of feedback and I say one, it could be two or like, whatever you think’s reasonable, you start there, they do that improving, you hand it back in, you give them a little more.

00;26;48;18 – 00;27;10;28
Kyle Pearce
And now mind you, there’s a little bit more back and forth here. But I think we both agree that at least in one seat you can do it quickly, right? Instead of you sitting there for 10 minutes trying to feedback the whole thing and all of those types of things. But then the other benefit that I was thinking about or the other idea that you could potentially throw in here is you could give them the feedback.

00;27;11;00 – 00;27;27;18
Kyle Pearce
They then do some sort of correcting or some sort of improvement. They hand it back to you and then what you could do and say to them is, Hey, listen, in the next couple of days I’m going to provide you with two problems like these ones you struggled with. I’d like you to work on those and then resubmit those.

00;27;27;18 – 00;27;51;06
Kyle Pearce
So it’s not necessarily just the part that I think people get stuck in. Is this test correct world that we’ve kind of found ourselves in, in math. And it’s like we don’t just want them to correct it because that doesn’t necessarily mean they understand it. We want them to correct it, do some learning and then feel confident to solve other problems that are maybe similar in nature or related to that topic.

00;27;51;08 – 00;28;24;10
Kyle Pearce
So I’m wondering about if you were to take whatever time that you’re normally spending feedback in and you were to be more selective in the feedback that you’re giving and you’re kind of encouraging students to kind of do this process, Not only will it save you time, maybe in the short term, but it might also encourage more students to take that small step because they can see that the end is there, they can see the finish line and it’s like, Hey, I’m going to put that little extra effort in, hand it back in, and that continuous growth process can start.

00;28;24;12 – 00;28;43;15
Nicholas Rhodes
I feel like the more feedback you give, I think the students know that they probably didn’t do well on the assessment to begin with. So if you breadcrumb it in a little bit at time they would never know. So go piece here and there. Yeah, just to show growth because they might say well I’m like right here, I’m getting this.

00;28;43;17 – 00;28;55;25
Nicholas Rhodes
I’m addressing the feedback, I’m improving every time it gives me something. I’m getting better and better and better. That means getting close to my A. I keep telling me give them praise too. I was praise them and say, Great job. You did awesome work here. Let’s try this next.

00;28;56;00 – 00;28;56;29
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, totally.

00;28;56;29 – 00;29;18;18
Jon Orr
It’s also a good reason to keep your assessment short. If you’re going to breadcrumb, give them three questions. Kaitlyn I am. We were in the classroom and in perfecting our assessment policies, we move from longer form of assessments to shorter form of assessments. Give them four questions to work on. We feedback them on the four questions. We improve on those, we move on to the next every, but we are more frequent.

00;29;18;18 – 00;29;34;11
Jon Orr
So it was like shorter but more frequent, sort of waiting till the end of a two week period before you throw a long assessment or a long test at a group of students that aren’t going to. And then everyone complains that I don’t have time to do a feedback because I waited until all this before I gave any feedback.

00;29;34;14 – 00;29;56;16
Jon Orr
So of course you’re going to sit back and wait for this golden test to come back in. You don’t have time to market and give feedback to every single person. So Nick, I’m curious here. We’ve chatted about some kind of possible next steps for you, but I’m curious to know what you think your immediate next step is to kind of like shove or push that little pebble to the side a little bit more.

00;29;56;19 – 00;30;22;26
Nicholas Rhodes
Will more hopefully knock it out. Okay. Keep going with, I guess, looking at the assessments ahead of time, spending more time, looking at the questions, making sure that none of them are redundant or, you know, the same, that there are different types of questions that hit, I guess, the learning goals that the assessment is going to assess, making sure it’s shorter and making sure I am picking out the ones I think are most important to me.

00;30;22;26 – 00;30;56;03
Nicholas Rhodes
Feedback on and not to overwhelm students with all the feedback but breadcrumb them in here and there. Just they can see they’re growing and not being. So I guess by the book as it pertains to using the average to record their grade on their assessment, maybe keep doing what I’m doing with looking at their does most work in the activities, keep thinking about that at the same time and then making a determination at that moment what they should be getting, but also making sure students know that they’re always able to improve and get better by doing different things to show me that.

00;30;56;03 – 00;31;17;04
Nicholas Rhodes
So I think that definitely helps in having the rubric also to know what a for looks like, what a three looks like a two, looks like a one. I think that’s super helpful for me right now using what’s already been given to me so that if I tend to move away from this and do my own thing, I now know what these scores should look like for different topics throughout the year.

00;31;17;04 – 00;31;23;28
Nicholas Rhodes
It’s just a nice way to start to kind of like, Oh, this is what a three looks like, or two looks like. Yeah, you know, starting somewhere.

00;31;24;01 – 00;31;57;05
Kyle Pearce
You know what it sounds like? Yeah, you’ve got some great ideas here to kind of not only do as a next step, but it sounds like a lot of things that you were doing and now it’s like, okay, how do I refine those things? So I think that’s great. And I think maybe a key takeaway, the epiphany I’m having and I want to leave with you and the audience that’s thinking about their own assessment practices is like when I am giving some sort of assessment and remembering math moment maker community remembering that assessment is essentially trying to figure out where students are and where we go next.

00;31;57;05 – 00;32;20;12
Kyle Pearce
And to me it’s always assessment until the final day of a course. That’s when it becomes the evaluation, right? Where it’s like that’s when I have to shut the door because the course is over. Right? But everything else is assessment. So if everything else is assessment, then the question I think we want to always ask ourselves is, what do I want to know today about these kids and where they are?

00;32;20;14 – 00;32;50;14
Kyle Pearce
Right. So I think if we always think about that and go, what do I want to know? And then. John Yeah, that’s awesome as well. It’s like, What am I going to do with it? Because I think sometimes we do assessments. I mean, oftentimes we treat them as evaluations because we feel like we’re supposed to, but it’s like if we really pause for a second and go like, this is an opportunity for me to learn about where kids are strong, where they are struggling.

00;32;50;17 – 00;33;11;01
Kyle Pearce
And then from that information, if that information, if I’m asking for that information and I’m not doing anything with it, then that was really not an assessment. It wasn’t really worthwhile. So I like how you said looking at it and making sure that whatever I’m asking them to do is so that they know where they are. I know where they are.

00;33;11;08 – 00;33;36;20
Kyle Pearce
And then we as a community know where we go next. And I think all the other nuances there that we’ve been discussing, they’re all things that can work in various ways, in different ways, depending on the situation. But if we keep that general idea in mind, I think will constant Lea be guiding towards a better, more routine and I think just generally successful assessment and evaluation practice.

00;33;36;20 – 00;33;53;27
Kyle Pearce
So Nick, it’s been awesome to have you back on the show. I can’t believe that it was over two years ago when we actually spoke with you last. That to me is just blows my mind. And John, you were saying I think it might have been December 2020 or something like that when we actually recorded it. Holy smokes, that’s insanity.

00;33;53;29 – 00;34;06;15
Kyle Pearce
You’re doing awesome things, my friend. It’s awesome to hear your voice again and hear your progress. And I’m hopeful that you’ll be willing to come back on and say a year’s time or so to see how things are going.

00;34;06;17 – 00;34;07;20
Nicholas Rhodes
That’s great.

00;34;07;22 – 00;34;08;05
Jon Orr

00;34;08;05 – 00;34;09;26
Nicholas Rhodes
Appreciate it, guys, very much for your help.

00;34;09;29 – 00;34;19;04
Jon Orr
Thanks, Nick. We appreciate you and we appreciate the conversation we have here today. So look for us to reach out. We’ll have you back in a year or so and we won’t let it go that long this time.

00;34;19;07 – 00;34;21;10
Nicholas Rhodes
Take care. That was great. Thanks, guys, so much for your time.

00;34;21;12 – 00;34;22;23
Kyle Pearce
See you. Take care.

00;34;22;25 – 00;34;24;22
Nicholas Rhodes
Have a great one.

00;34;24;25 – 00;35;01;27
Kyle Pearce
Well, now, John, that was great to get caught up there with Nicholas Rhodes. Sounds like he’s doing a lot of awesome things and really continuing to be reflective as our all of you out there listening on the podcast. I mean, you’re listening to a mass podcast, whether you’re on a walk, a run in the car, doing the dishes wherever you’re listening from, you’re clearly reflecting on your practice and you’re constantly thinking of ways that you can do things more effectively, maybe more efficiently, and ultimately in a way that’s going to allow more students to see themselves as the true mathematicians that they really are.

00;35;01;29 – 00;35;41;23
Kyle Pearce
Today in our episode, we’re talking about a number of different things, but I’m going to be bold here, and I’m going to say that in Nicholas’s situation, when we’re talking about assessment and evaluation, of course there is a pedagogical aspect to this work. But something that I think is really important here is that when we look to shift our assessment and evaluation practices, to be more intentional, to be more accurate as to what students actually know, understanding can do in our math classes, what we’re actually doing is we’re actually strengthening the pillars are classroom pillars.

00;35;41;26 – 00;36;10;09
Kyle Pearce
That’s like a leadership move because all of that work is really around helping students to achieve at the highest level. So we look at that and I look at that as a conversation around the trunk of our tree. If we have weak assessment and evaluation practices, we can try all we want, all the other areas of the tree, we can try growth mindset, we can try different pedagogical moves, we can try to teach conceptually.

00;36;10;11 – 00;36;30;21
Kyle Pearce
But the reality is, is that if at the end of the day, our assessment and evaluation practices are not up to standard, see what I did there. If they’re not up to snuff, then what we’re doing is we really have a weak trunk, a weak sort of support structure for all the work that we’re doing, all of that heavy lifting.

00;36;30;27 – 00;36;36;15
Kyle Pearce
So, John, when you’re looking at this conversation and reflecting on it, what part of the tree is sort of jumping out at?

00;36;36;15 – 00;36;58;15
Jon Orr
You know, I think you nailed it. I think that’s exactly what I was thinking, is that the pillars are classroom pillars and sets the culture of our classrooms. And what better way to share your assessment, beliefs and structure with your students so that they know that you have their best interests at heart and you’re only concerned about their growth in mathematics.

00;36;58;15 – 00;37;25;07
Jon Orr
You have to show them that. And that means you have to outline how your assessment practices help their growth and that your right count strengthens the trunk of your tree because you’re building the classroom pillars and strengthening that culture of your classroom so that students are coming into class. They know they can feel it that you have. This is a place where learning takes place, and I feel safe here, but I also feel like I can grow and I’m not restricted.

00;37;25;12 – 00;37;44;24
Jon Orr
We’ve said this before. We’ve heard Dan Meyer say it in a different way. It wasn’t really about assessment, but it was assessment is for power, not punishment. When I think too often we used it for punishment. And I think if you clearly articulate why you’re doing what you’re doing in assessment, it’s use for power in empowering your students.

00;37;44;24 – 00;38;13;21
Jon Orr
So it is definitely a trunk issue there. Kyle Folks, again, we want you to reflect on how this conversation shapes your classroom tree and what pieces do you resonate most with. And if you’re not sure, all the pieces are six key pieces of your classroom tree, six key pieces, an effective mathematics program, whether in the classroom level or at the district level, head on over to make performance Scheme for Access report, you will watch our video on the six parts of an effective classroom.

00;38;13;21 – 00;38;32;16
Jon Orr
You can take our assessment which will tell you which of those six parts are strong at or which of those six parts you need. Some need some next steps. And we actually send you a report that shows you where you stand, but also gives you those next steps. You can make those changes and strengthen your tree up. Kyle That was a great one.

00;38;32;18 – 00;38;47;20
Kyle Pearce
It definitely was. Friends. Hey, listen, if you would love on and chat about a pebble, head over to the Make math moments icon website. Make math moments dot com forward slash mentor and friends until next time. I’m Kyle Pierce.

00;38;47;20 – 00;38;48;18
Jon Orr
And I’m John work.

00;38;48;24 – 00;38;51;08
Kyle Pearce
High fives for us.

00;38;51;10 – 00;38;54;21
Jon Orr
And a big.

00;38;54;24 – 00;38;58;06
Kyle Pearce
High five oh yeah oh.

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The Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast with Kyle Pearce & Jon Orr
Weekly interviews, strategy, and advice for building a math classroom that you wish you were in.


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3 Act Math Tip Sheet


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Make Math Moments Problem Based Lessons and Day 1 Teacher Guides are openly available for you to leverage and use with your students without becoming a Make Math Moments Academy Member.

MMM Unit - Snack Time Fractions Unit


Partitive Division Resulting in a Fraction

Shot Put Multi Day Problem Based Unit - Algebraic Substitution


Equivalence and Algebraic Substitution

Wooly Worm Race - Representing and Adding Fractions


Fractions and Metric Units


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Represent Categorical Data & Explore Mean

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