Continuing Progress Toward Going Gradeless in a Score-Obsessed Environment

Today’s issue concerns how to fit a standards-based system into a grade book and district policy that demands a numerical score.

(Day 21 of my 30-Day Writing Challenge)

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

Tracking the Discrete Skills

Hours were spent yesterday setting up the units recommended by the College Board for AP Lit. I decided to follow the recommended curriculum this year after a lackluster performance on my part last year. It will work, but as it is a spiraling curriculum, only certain skills are taught each unit. I knew that already, but was hoping to track progress by skill category to keep the mastery reports from becoming monsters.

Well, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m planning a different rubric that accounts for the skills we have worked on until the end of a marking period.

Here is the good news. I can export the mastery sheet to a csv (comma-separated values) file, do some calculations, and import the scores into a final assessment for the marking period. In a nutshell, I will need to do the following.

  1. Create an assignment in the LMS for the quarterly progress assessment.
  2. Export the mastery data to a csv file and save it as an Excel spreadsheet, so I can work some magic.
  3. Export the gradebook to a csv file.
  4. Modify the csv file to include the scores for the quarterly progress assessment by copying and pasting the scores from the spreadsheet to the csv file.
  5. Double check everything.
  6. Import the gradebook csv into the LMS.

I’m so glad I know how to use Excel at an intermediate-advanced level. Technically, I’m not breaking my rule about entering things twice. I’m using Excel to overcome some challenges in a score-based system.

As I Write This, I’m Already Thinking of a Different Way

Yee-Haw! 🤠

I had the presence of mind yesterday to create rubrics for each unit assessment. They were aligned to the discrete skills. What if I change the rubric to show the skill category instead, and modify the rubric to align proficiency to the skill for the unit? In the comments for each criterion, I can note which skill the student should work on.

I think that will work well, actually, and help us when I conference with students about their progress. The rubric will remind us of the skills assessed at the end of each unit, because I have stated as much within the rubric itself.

Heather Edick

For the quarterly assessment, I can revisit the first section, but it should be much easier to determine proficiency by skill category. I’m going to work on that.

Students and Families Still Want the Numbers

I need to work with the system I have. I also need to work within the comfort zone of students and families.

Points, grades… numbers. They want the numbers. I’ll give them numbers. But each number will have a clearly articulated backstory. These are the student’s strengths, and these are the challenges. Here are the resources the student can use to advance.

That Sounds Like a Lot of Work, Doesn’t It?

Yes, but this year I will use formative assessment as intended, and that means not assigning a score to formative assessment. In other words, I’m not scoring every little thing they do. I will provide real-time feedback, and students will learn to track that feedback to become more knowledgeable.

I see one issue with this change, but it’s surmountable: often, students are reluctant to do an assignment if it won’t be graded. That is something I want to change. To become a self-directed learner and advocate for one’s education, one must accept that some work is done for the sake of learning, period.

Our LMS allows us to set up assignments and mark them as “Ungraded.” I will use ungraded assignments for some formative assessment and conferences, so there is a record of completion.

I’m also going to teach students how to build a portfolio of their work. Our LMS has a portfolio feature, actually. They can upload their work to their portfolio and share it with whomever they like. To the portfolio, they can add assignments, files, links to web pages, and other things. They can also export the portfolio to a zip file to share with others.

Ah, this seems to be coming together. I’m off to do more tweaking!

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Thank you for reading this, my twenty-first post in my 30-Day Writing Challenge, and for letting me be part of the conversation. I would love your feedback.

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