So Monday afternoon (great timing having a half day for students on Valentines Day) we had a professional development centered on Ken O' Connor's 15 Fixes. The book basically argues for standards based grading #sbar (disclaimer: we did not get through all of it yet). I agree with most of it in principal and it was very good to discuss grading policies with my colleagues (refreshing to have conversation focused PD!). Even though I profess to agree with many of the principals I was challenged that in practice I do some things that I say are wrong (for example I sometimes give zeros).
Ultimately I think grades suck and are just for comparing/ ranking students. If I have to give them then sbar is probably the best method in core classes. But there are a few points that I have issues with/ am still sorting out for elective classes. I teach Technology and consider myself part of the fine arts department of my school. I use project based learning with no summative assessments. I use my standards as topics to expose students to with alternative methods rather than formally assess. I also try to make my class a place to "play" where students can experiment and learn without fear of failure.
The big fixes that the fine arts have issues with are #6 " Don’t include group scores in grades; use only
individual achievement evidence" and #1 "Don’t include student behaviors (effort, participation,
adherence to class rules, etc) in grades; include only achievement." In music/band/orchestra class the group is graded in performances together and how one acts on stage affects the group. I also do almost exclusively group projects. I do not always assign members the same score, but then I fall into the grading participation problem. For physical education participation/effort seems to be a very important part of the class and legitimate to grade. The goal is active fitness not just rewarding the best athlete. I can make a similar argument for art class.
So I/we are looking for some feedback. Next Friday we will meet with our principal to discuss our concerns. She is open to us using a credit/non-credit system and not using grades at all (which I think is ideal, but still requires some standard for earning credit).
Is anyone out there using sbar in elective type courses? I would love to hear from you if you are using it in art, music, PE, or technology. My principal is also looking for examples in language arts and social studies to mentor/share with other staff as this is a building wide initiative. If anyone would be willing to share with my fellow staff/ administrators please let me know. Perhaps we could skype some people in? You can contact me via twitter (mikekaechele) or email (concretekax at gmail).