Monday, March 14, 2011

Formative Assessment and Standards-Based Grading

Has anyone read the book, Formative Assessment and Standards-Based Grading: Classroom Strategies That Work, by Robert J. Marzano? If so, would you please share your thoughts on his ideas and whether or not you have successfully implemented any of the strategies he outlines in this book? Any input would be greatly appreciated, as I have just ordered this and was wondering its real-classroom value....


Anonymous said...

(Part 1)

Hello Rick.

Yes, the entire system is sound. We are using this book and its counterpart "Designing & Teaching Learning Goals & Objectives" as the basis of our school's SBG/FA (standards based grading/formative assessment) system. It has tremendous value to teachers and administrators who are considering a change in teaching, assessing, and reporting, but who aren't sure how to go about it.

We especially like how Marzano's plan asks teachers to narrow the scope of what is assessed and to define for students what they need to do to show different levels of understanding. This use of a scale/rubric becomes a method for integrating differentiated instruction in the classroom--something we all know we should do, but don't always know how. Further, we like Marzano's approach to formative assessment, that is, recording scores for each learning goal and using a power law regression to compute a summative score. This approach seems more logical than others I've seen where formative assessments aren't even graded or records of just the most recent summative assessment are maintained.

Anonymous said...

(Part 2)

Teachers, students, and parents love this system because of the clarity it provides. As a 9th grade Algebra 1 teacher here is what my class looks like: At the begining of a typical 2-week long unit I provide rubrics for the 2 or 3 learning goals that might be in the unit. Every couple of days students take an assessment (in my case a fairly traditional looking quiz) that addresses the different cognitive levels that were on the rubrics. The following day when students get their quizzes back, they record on a line graph on the back of their rubric sheet what their score was and then they make/revise an action plan for how they will increase their understanding prior to the next assessment. I plan for four assessments of this nature for each learning goal in Algebra 1 (there are 30 goals total). If after the fourth assessment a student hasn't obtained his personal goal (barely passing, an A+, or whatever it might be), she can come to me with a student-initiated idea for a fifth assessment (doing some even problems from the book or writing her own quiz based upon mine or orally explaining her understanding to me or whatever). I've chosen to not grade homework, though I do assign a bunch of problems each day. This leaves it to students to address in their action plans whether they need to do five problems, ten problems, or forty problems for practice. Maybe the student chooses to do no practice. The point is that homework becomes something the student commits to via the action plans. I like the meta-cognitive and accountability aspects of this homework system.

It's hard to question the logic behind Marzano's ideas, and of course he provides a research basis for each of his decisions. I teach a ton of concepts in Algebra (my state's curriculum document has like a hundred objectives), but I'm basing students' grades on just 30 items. And for these 30 items I'm guaranteeing to the student that multiple assessment opportunities will be given and that I'll use the trend in their learning (as opposed to an average) to compute their score. We'll use graphs and formative action plans following each assessment to decide how to prepare for the next assessment and to deepen learning. Besides limiting the set of objectives used for grading I'm also providing for students clear guidance about what exactly they have to do to earn a 4, or 3, or whatever (think A, B, etc.). Contrast this with a non-SBG system used in so many schools: the only guarantee a teacher makes there is to grade way too much content, to move at too fast of a pace for many students, and to fail any student who doesn't get it at the right time. Don't even get me started on the use of averages that kill a student's grade even when learning occurs (50% on quiz 1 and 100% on quiz 2 and you give the student a 75%! Come on! The kid apparently learned everything you asked of him, why doesn't he get an A? Why punish for not knowing the stuff at the start? You taught, he learned, that's what we want.).

Good luck as you think about SBG and Marzano's system in particular.

Kevin Lade
Math Teacher

Unknown said...

Thanks, Kevin.... I really appreciate your detailed post!

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